Does the Bible prohibit drinking alcoholic beverages? It is a question sure to stir the hearts of people on both sides of the issue. The question is one that has haunted the church for many years.
Those whose churches or experiences stem from the Holiness Movement of the 18th and 19th centuries will give a resounding "No!" Those from other traditions will say, "What's the deal?"
Two principles from the Bible come through clearly: Excess and Behavior.
Consider the following:
- The Bible indicates wine 'cheers' both man and God (Judges 9.13)
- Wine is a gift of God (Psalms 104.15).
- Jesus' first miracle was to turn water into wine and not any fine, but the finest quality wine (John 2.10).
- Lack of wine is considered a punishment or judgement (Jer. 48:43)
Being drunken brings abandonment of restraint, poor choices, risky behaviors, and stupid mistakes. Prov. 20:1 "Wine is a mocker and strong drink is a brawler; whoever goes astray by them is not wise". How does one go astray? By following the path of no restraint. Gluttony, anger, and other excesses are also to be avoided but somehow we have not been consistent with those.
Romans 14 and 1 Thessalonian 5:22 are both used to insure that no one ever does anything that might offend a weaker Christian or give the appearance of behaviors leading to assumptions. Yet, in both of those elements are the seeds of problems for all - the drinker and the non-drinker.
The non-drinker, who may be weak or who may have a temptation to drink to excess, may be encouraged to participate in self-destructive behaviors. The liberty or ease at which someone else does an act which may cause them to not develop in their spiritual life so that they are made more Christ like and strengthened.
The drinker, or the person who has no problem or is not subject to abuse or excess, is then restrained from an action. Because of the weaker person, the church often stresses, we should avoid all that gives the appearance of evil.
It is that term "evil" that begs questions. If wine is a gift of God - is it really "evil"? Would it not serve to be a better witness to be able to say, "No, I have had enough?" To buck the trend of "drink till you puke"? To show that restraint brings joy without excess and that excess is not a necessity to enjoying a glass of wine.
In a world filled with "Spring Break" madness, documentaries covering the 'World's Sexiest Bars", and similar glorifications of excess, it might be good to reexamine the concepts of excess and behaviors. This would redefine the entire subject of personal righteousness from choices about dress, hair, and other non-essentials to actions of justice, love, peace, kindness, and sacrifice.
We can stand around with high and tight hair, long dresses, no makeup, never attend any 'questionable' activities, never use a swear word, and never taste wine. We can attend church five days a week, sing in the choir, teach classes and serve in leadership. We can also be a grave inside with no true transformation of the heart, filled with secret sins, and all manner of corrupt behaviors and motives.
How we look on the outside and the minor things we might do can never be used to determine spirituality, holiness, or relationship with God.