The issue of whether it is proper for Christians to drink alcoholic beverages has often generated heated debate within the church. You cannot visit an average supermarket or shop in any part of the world where you would not find an array of wines, brandy, rum, beers, and other alcoholic beverages in stock. Parties and all kinds of celebrations are seemingly incomplete without these beverages which have permeated every facet of our socio-cultural lives. Certainly, there is evidence of widespread abuse of alcoholic beverages today. The Bible clearly condemns all forms of alcohol abuse, by binding precept and notorious examples of drunkenness listed in the Bible.
Yet the ethical issue before us is: Does the Bible allow for what we may term “righteous” consumption of alcoholic beverages? This fundamental question is ethical (not sociocultural or geographical). It requires a direct answer from the Bible and medicine; else we shall miss the point. Among evangelicals, the basic approaches to the use of alcohol may be shelved into three basic viewpoints.
- The Prohibitionist Viewpoint universally decries all consumption of the beverage alcohol. Adherents to this position do not find any Scriptural warrant for alcohol consumption, even in Biblical times.
- The Abstentionist Perspective discourages alcohol use in our modern context, although they acknowledge its use during the Biblical days. They point to modern cultural differences as justification for the distinction. This school points out that in Bible times; they did not have distilled whiskey as we have it now (with 33% alcohol content) However, they did have several kinds of wine. That wine in the New Testament very often means simply grape juice. That in fact, there was not in Bible times a different word for wine and for grape juice as we have today. That when the juice was first squeezed out of the grapes, it was called wine, as you see from Proverbs 3:10: “So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” So grape juice is wine, in the Bible sense. Later when the grape juice ferments, it is still wine in the Bible sense. That there is no reason to suppose that the wine which Jesus made at the wedding in John, Chapter 2, was intoxicating wine. That there is no reason to suppose that the wine which was used at the last supper and which New Testament churches used for the Lord’s Supper was intoxicating wine. In fact, the Scripture takes particular pains not to call it wine, but instead calls it “the cup,” and “the fruit of the vine.” So the Lord seems to have specially guarded against being misunderstood on this point. However, that if He had used the word wine it might have meant unfermented wine, that is simply grape juice.
- The Moderationist Position allows for the righteous consumption of alcoholic beverages. This position, while acknowledging, deploring, and condemning all forms of alcohol abuse and dependency, argues that Scripture allows the partaking of alcoholic beverages in moderation and with circumspection. I fell into this category of thinkers before the Lord rescued me from the toxic grip of binge drinking.
I will list hereunder ten reasons why as a Christian, you should not drink alcoholic beverages at all.
(1) Addiction: The Apostle Paul states: “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything (1 Corinthians 6: 12). Drinking alcohol (even in moderations) is the pathway to alcohol dependence. It often begins with a glass of wine with dinner, a beer after work, a cocktail with friends or colleagues. The truth is that if you never drink in the first place, you will never be dependent. Alcohol makes an appearance in so many parts of our social and private lives that it can be easy to forget that, like drugs, it can become addictive, both physically and psychologically. Alcohol dependency or alcoholism silently creeps on the individual gradually and slowly, the way a snake stalks its prey. The big mistake many people make is that they think that are not slipping into addiction as far as they’re never drunk. However, when alcohol has become a regular feature of our menu, it is an indicator that we are heading to alcohol dependency. There are varying degrees of alcohol dependence and they don’t always involve excessive levels of drinking. If you find that you “crave” to consume a bottle of wine most nights of the week, or that you always go for a few cans of beer after work for the sake of unwinding after a hard day, you’re are already likely to be drinking at a level that may affect your long-term health. If you find it very difficult to enjoy yourself or relax without having a drink, you may have become unknowingly psychologically dependent on alcohol.
(2) Priest of God: The first example of the evil effects of alcohol in the Old Testament is the story of Noah in Genesis 9: 20-27. Noah planted a vineyard and made wine from the grapes and drank it. That led to drunkenness, shame, and the family tragedy of a curse placed upon Canaan. During the time of Abraham, wine was also a factor in the incest that led to the pregnancies of Lot’s daughters (See Genesis 19: 31-38). Against this history of the nexus between the corrupting influence of alcohol and sin, God commanded all priests to abstain from strong drinks during their ministry. Total abstinence was required of all priests when performing religious duties. Through their example, they were expected to teach sobriety as being God’s way (See Leviticus 10:9-11). Today, every believer is a priest of God (See 1 Peter 2:9). Furthermore, Solomon also cautions on the effect of alcohol consumption. Solomon writes, “Wine is a mockery, strong drink is raging; and whoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1). “Do not look on wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly” (See Proverbs 23:31). In fact, the effect of strong drink can be as deadly as the poison of a snake (Proverbs 23:32). Wine may be attractive to look at, but an unsuspecting person may be deceived by this snake-like substance. As Solomon goes on to say, alcohol blurs the vision and confuses the mind (v. 33).
(3) Need to Raise Godly Children: Proverbs 22:6 instructs parents to train up a child in the way he should go, and when the child is old he will not depart from it. By following God’s word we can raise children who avoid evil and serve God faithfully. Bible principles about raising children are so critical that we often regard them as the “keys” that open the door to success. It has been medically proven that alcohol dependence can run in families. In general, if parents are dependent on alcohol, their children are four times more likely to develop dependence too. Many scientific reports attribute this to our genes, but I respectfully disagree. I believe alcoholism is also influenced by our family’s attitudes to alcohol and the environment we grow up in. My son is always watching me as if he was paid to be my bodyguard. At three, he has already picked up most of my mannerisms. He regurgitates most of my vocabularies and even laughs the way I do. I regret all the times I drank and smoked before him. Although I do not recall being drunk before him, I believe my actions could possibly influence my little one to conclude that beer drinking is a masculine form of relaxation. On my part, I started drinking because I saw my father drink. I know that as a little boy, I had watched my father sip the golden foamy drink from wine glasses. Unconsciously, I wanted to be like “Daddy.” The very first time I took a sip of beer from Daddy’s glass, I had been astonished at how bitter the drink was. I was never a fan of anything bitter. That first sip of beer had almost reminded me of the Nivaquine syrups Mother gave me anytime I was down with a fever. Yet, I went on to drink beer regularly because I taught it was okay. I had seen my father drink, and I had unconsciously taken up the habit.
(4) Alcohol Tries to Replace God: We all have to admit that the world is plagued by troubles. Each continent on this earth is saddled by its own peculiar challenges, calamities and disasters. A continent like Africa is plagued by disease ecology, wars, famines and rising unemployment. People exposed to these looming crisis are pushed into worrying about whether they would survive the menace. And for the Christian, worrying is absolutely contrary to our profession of faith in Christ. Jesus expressly prohibited worry in a familiar portion of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-34). Thrice in that short passage, He commanded his hearers not to be worried. Stressful events, such as bereavement or losing a job, often trigger heavy drinking, which can then lead to alcohol dependence. I know of a woman who started drinking shortly after she realised her baby was born deaf and dumb. However, if you worry, what kind of faith do you manifest? “Little faith,” according to Jesus in Matthew 6:30. A child of God by definition has a Heavenly Father. To depend on alcohol to brave afflictions is to act like you don’t have a father. It’s a shame to seek to numb pain with alcohol. It’s akin to trying to replace God. Think about it this way: If you believe you are saved through the finished work of the Cross, why do you have to succumb to alcohol over the problems of life? Don’t you realise that the greatest miracle on earth today is the salvation of your soul? If God can save your soul, what else will He not do for you? Alcohol does not take away the problems. It rather adds more to your worry cart. It is pretty ridiculous that we can believe God for the greater gift and then stumble and not believe Him for the lesser one. It reveals an embarrassing lack of faith! People who are alcohol dependent have higher rates of other psychiatric disorders than people in the general population; particularly depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, psychosis, and drug misuse. Often, people drink to try and reduce the symptoms (sometimes known as “self-medicating”), but in the long term, alcohol makes these disorders worse because it interferes with the chemical balance in our brains. Some people believe that there’s such thing as an “addictive personality” which leads to alcohol dependence. However, I disagree as there’s not much strong evidence to support this view.
(5) Alcohol Leads to Health Implications: If you’re dependent on alcohol, you increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, stroke, coronary heart disease and liver disease. Prolonged heavy drinking damages your liver. My doctor told me that an estimated 7 out of 10 people with alcoholic liver disease (when the liver is damaged by alcohol misuse) have an alcohol dependency problem. The most serious form of the alcoholic liver disease, cirrhosis, means the liver has been scarred from continuous, long-term damage. Scar tissue replaces healthy tissue in the liver and prevents the liver from working properly. If you develop cirrhosis, cutting out alcohol completely is essential to prevent you from dying from liver failure. In the most serious cases of cirrhosis, you will only be considered for a liver transplant if you do not drink alcohol for at least three months. But think of a liver transplant! Writing about health implications of alcohol dependency, I wish to use myself as a subject of reference. The very first health implication I noticed in my body during my years of alcohol consumption was weak body immunity. I noticed that whenever I drank beer consistently, I was more prone to becoming sick. I was treating malaria almost on a monthly basis. As I grew older, I also noticed that continuous drinking promoted calcium and other mineral deficiency in my body. The more I drank, the more I needed supplements to sustain my body. Calcium deficiency comes with all sorts of nasty pains in the bones. It was as if the alcoholic beverages I was consuming were eroding all the essential nutrients in my body. There is this particular incident that made me decide to finally stop drinking. I finished a bottle of rum within a week. It was a gift from a business associate and I drank it often on ice to “weaken” its scorching effect in my throat. I noticed that a week thereafter, I had this gnawing pain in my back region. I initially could not tell whether it emanated from my spine or stomach. When I visited my doctor and he ran a necessary test on me, he found that I was suffering from a disease called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). My doctor informed me that excessive drinking, amongst other habits, was a reason for the disease. Now, that’s talking about self-induced diseases manufactured from the Pit of Hell and watered to germinate by alcoholic beverages. A drug called Nexium Esomeprazole was prescribed for me. It cost me almost N4, 000 for a pack of 14 tablets (almost US $ 80). If my church had asked me for that amount during a Sunday service, I may have struggled to give it. But I hurriedly spent it on the medication because I was desperate to free myself from the gnawing pain.
(6) Alcoholic Beverages Are Income Thieves: Many people do not even realise how much they spend on alcoholic beverages in a month. Do you know how much money you’re spending on alcohol each week, month, or year? Over time, costs can add up quickly! In computing your expenses, add the fallouts, like drugs you buy to check hangovers. Alcohol use has devastating impacts on individuals, families, communities and the economy. In addition to injury, illness, disease, it cost countries millions of valuable currency through reduced work productivity, increased criminal justice expenses and higher healthcare cost.
(7) Alcohol Dependency will lead to Mental Health and Psychological Problems: Anxiety, depression, and suicidal feelings can all develop when you’re alcohol dependent. This is because regular, heavy drinking interferes with neurotransmitters in our brains that are needed for good mental health. Being dependent on alcohol can affect your relationships with your wife, family, and friends. It might mean you don’t perform so well at work and if that continues for any length of time you could face losing your job, leading to financial problems as well. These issues can also contribute to depression and anxiety. If you use alcohol to try and improve your mood, you may be starting a vicious cycle. If you think your mental health is suffering because of your drinking, but you feel you’re not able to stop, ask for professional help. Start with a visit to your GP.
(8) Alcohol dependency can lead to Withdrawal Symptoms: If you’re dependent on alcohol, you can experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop drinking. Physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- hand tremors (“the shakes”)
- visual hallucinations (seeing things that are not actually real)
- seizures (fits) in the most serious cases
Psychological alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- insomnia (difficulty sleeping)
Severely dependent drinkers usually experience very strong alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes people drink to avoid these symptoms, a pattern known as “relief drinking.” From experience, I can tell you that it can take between three months to a year to fully recover from the effects of alcohol withdrawal. Even then, the brain remains abnormally sensitive to alcohol. So if you start drinking again, your high tolerance to alcohol and withdrawal symptoms can come back within a few days. That is why doctors usually recommend that you don’t start drinking again, even in moderation. Little wonder Galatians 5: 19-21 list drunkenness as one of the works of the flesh.
(9) Alcohol Weakens Resistance to Sin: The easiest time for wo(man) to fall into temptation and sin is when s(he) drinks, because under the influence of alcohol, a person does not have full control of his emotional and mental faculties and loses the ability to make rational and moral decisions. Why would any child of God handicap his or herself in this fashion? The implication is that when we are under the influence alcohol, we cannot hear the voice of our spirits, talk less of the Holy Spirit.
“Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him,
and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!
Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered:
the cup of the LORD’S right hand shall be turned unto thee,
and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory.” Habakkuk 2:15-16.
Do you know that the above Bible passage is very true even in this age? Carnal men are most guilty of employing alcohol to lure reluctant women to go to bed with them. I heard this story about a woman who was so drunk during an all-night party that she did not even know when she was led into a nearby house and raped by a gang of three young men. Incidentally, the man who lured her into drinking the brandy that eventually intoxicated her was a man whose overtures she had shunned for over a period of three years!
(10) God Hates the Sin of Drunkenness:
- “Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!” Isaiah 28:1
- “The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet.” Isaiah 28:3
- “But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of their way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean.” Isaiah 28:7, 8
Notice the woe to the crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim. Woe to the drunkard! A curse is on the drunkard, says the Word of God. There is a curse on the man who drinks, on the woman who drinks. That’s indeed horrifying.
IT ALWAYS STARTS WITH A SIP OF THE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE! PLEASE DON’T DRINK IN THE FIRST PLACE!!