The Evils of Alcohol

Alcoholic

Many have questions about the use of alcohol – whether or not a Christian can or should drink and whether we should condone (or even advocate for) the practice. While many might have different opinions about this, we need to know what the Bible says about it. So in this article, we are going to consider what the Bible says about the evils of alcohol.

The Negative Effects of Alcohol

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine” (Proverbs 23:29-30).

Whether one lingers long over wine (becomes drunk) or simply goes to taste wine (drinking without becoming drunk), there are negative effects of alcohol consumption. The wise man listed six of these effects:

  • Emotional – “Who has woe?” This is an indication of lamentation or emotional distress. Ironically, many turn to alcohol as a way to deal with emotional distress. But alcohol does not fix anything. Instead, it only helps one to ignore the problem temporarily and often makes the problem worse. Rather than turning to alcohol during these times, we should turn to God – “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7; cf. Philippians 4:6-7).
  • Financial – “Who has sorrow?” The word translated sorrow is from a word that suggests want. It indicates that one comes to be in need. The wise man warned that the use of alcohol leads to poverty: “For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty” (Proverbs 23:21). One study that has been done indicated that the average beer-drinker in the United States spends $1,270 a year on beer, though some spend thousands. This is not compatible with the practice of good stewardship we are to have in which we “honor the Lord from [our] wealth” (Proverbs 3:9).
  • Social – “Who has contentions?” This is about strife and discord. Solomon said, “Strong drink [is] a brawler” (Proverbs 20:1). Alcohol causes one to be argumentative and violent. In contrast, God expects His people to be peaceful (Romans 12:18).
  • Verbal – “Who has complaining [babbling, KJV]?” This refers to the inability to communicate effectively. The wise man also said that alcohol will cause “your mind to utter perverse things” (Proverbs 23:33). Alcohol removes the “filter” from one’s speech and causes him to say things that should not be said. We are to be “sound in speech which is beyond reproach” (Titus 2:8). Alcohol prevents us from guarding our speech as we should.
  • Mental – “Who has wounds without cause?” Yet these wounds do have a cause: “They struck me, but I did not become ill; they beat me, but I did not know it” (Proverbs 23:35). Alcohol affects our memory such that we can become hurt in some way (or have other things happen) and we do not remember what happened. The Scriptures teach that our minds are important in our service to God. Paul said, “I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:19). Alcohol, because it damages our mind, damages our ability to serve God fully.
  • Physical – “Who has redness of eyes?” Alcohol affects our physical state/condition. We must remember what Paul told the Corinthians: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Alcohol does not help us glorify God in our bodies.

The Dangers of Alcohol

In addition to the negative effects of alcohol we just considered, there are also certain dangers that the wise man warned about:

  • Alcohol endangers one’s life – “And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, or like one who lies down on the top of a mast. ‘They struck me, but I did not become ill; they beat me, but I did not know it’” (Proverbs 23:35). Because alcohol makes people less aware of their surroundings, they are more vulnerable to dangerous situations or accidents that could have been avoided. It is certainly true that we should be ready for death at anytime (cf. Philippians 1:21), but that does not mean we should be reckless. Consuming alcohol recklessly puts one’s life in danger.
  • Alcohol is addictive – “When shall I awake? I will seek another drink” (Proverbs 23:35). This phrase came at the end of a long list of negative effects and dangers of alcohol (Proverbs 23:29-35). But despite the trouble caused by alcohol, many remain enslaved to it because of its addictive nature.
  • Alcohol causes one to forget the law – “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink, for they will drink and forget what is decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted” (Proverbs 31:4-5). In Lemuel’s case, since he was a king, it could cause serious harm to others if he forgot the law. However, it is dangerous for all of us to forget the law – either man’s law or God’s law. If we forget man’s law and commit a crime, we stand to be punished by the civil authorities (Romans 13:3-4). If we forget God’s law and sin, we put our souls in jeopardy (Hosea 4:6; Romans 6:23).
  • Alcohol mocks the user – “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1). Many believe that when they drink, they are still in control. Yet this is often an illusion. Drinking alcohol often leads to embarrassing situations that should have been avoided. This happened with Noah when he became drunk, uncovered himself in his tent, and was humiliated by his son Ham (Genesis 9:20-22).

Alcohol and the Christian

Many today wonder if Christians can consume alcohol. Is it alright as long as we do not get drunk? No. The New Testament teaches that the casual use of alcohol is incompatible with the life of a Christian. Consider the following points:

  • We are called to be sober-minded – “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit” (1 Peter 1:13). The call for soberness prohibits alcohol and anything else that affects our thinking (such as drugs). The admonition to “keep sober in spirit” is not to be taken lightly because of the spiritual threat posed by the devil: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
  • We are to be filled with the Spirit – “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Paul contrasted being filled with the Spirit with being drunk – these were the two extremes. However, this was not a permission for the recreational use of alcohol as long as it did not proceed to drunkenness. We are to be filled with the Spirit, yet this cannot happen if we are partially filled with alcohol.
  • We are to leave our old lives of sin – “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:3). Regarding alcohol, leaving our old lives of sin involves more than just avoiding drunkenness. The old life of sin also includes carousing and drinking parties – wild parties and “social drinking” (casual drinking that does not result in drunkenness).
  • We are not to be mastered by anything – “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). It should be noted that in this passage, Paul was discussing things that were lawful in themselves. Yet he said that even if something was lawful (permissible), it became wrong if he allowed himself to be mastered by it. As we have seen, the casual use of alcohol does not fit into the category of things that are lawful (by God’s law). But in addition to all of that, the addictive nature of alcohol should cause us to avoid it.

Even after considering these points, some still look for a reason to justify the casual use of alcohol. Occasionally, Paul’s instruction to Timothy is used on this point: “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Timothy 5:23). The argument that is made is that since Paul told Timothy to drink wine then Christians can drink alcohol (in moderation) today. Yet there are serious problems with that argument. Consider some points from this passage:

  • Paul told Timothy to use wine for medicinal purposes – He was not talking about the destructive or casual use of alcohol; therefore, he was not giving permission for alcohol to be used in these other ways.
  • Paul told Timothy to use little wine – This is an indication that he was to be very careful with how he used it. Though the medicinal use of alcohol was permitted, one’s use of it could become wrong if he was not careful.
  • Timothy had to be told to use it – We can infer from this that it was not normal for Christians to be drinking alcohol. Otherwise, Timothy likely would have already been using it without having to be told to do so.

Conclusion

Many today want to justify the casual use of alcohol – even some Christians (or so-called Christians). But those who respect God’s word cannot condone even the casual use of alcohol. Whether alcohol is “legal” or “illegal” does not change what the Bible says about it. Even if the laws of men permit a practice, that does not mean that God permits it. We must conform our lives to His word and teach others to do the same.


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Comments

  1. Wayne D. Teel says

    Very good article on the dangers and sin of drinking alcohol even for social events. Why would anyone, especially a Christian, want to be involved with anything that would detract from his character of being a good influence on others?

  2. How about Our Lord turning water into wine at the wedding and weren’t they drinking wine during a celebration to which Christ had been invited ?

  3. Maria, the word “wine” in the Bible can refer to either alcoholic wine or non-alcoholic (grape juice). If the wine was alcoholic at the wedding feast in which Jesus turned water into wine, then Jesus condoned much more than just “social drinking.” I wrote more about that in this article – Did Jesus Condone Social Drinking? The fact of the matter is that Jesus did not condone “social drinking” on that or any other occasion.