Is it a sin to drink alcohol?

Let me start out by saying that I very rarely drink alcohol. I dislike the taste of beer, wine, champagne, and hard liquor. I also find alcohol to be too expensive, especially considering I like the taste of non-alcoholic drinks better. Most importantly, I take the biblical warnings about alcohol very seriously. The Bible warns against drunkenness and addiction, which are the two primary risks with alcohol. But, to the question at hand: is it a sin to drink alcohol? The best answer I can give is: it depends.

The question would be so much easier if it were: is it a sin to get drunk on alcohol? To that question, the answer is a resounding yes (Proverbs 23:29-35; Ephesians 5:18). Drunkenness results in a diminished ability to think clearly and make wise decisions. The Bible teaches that we be the exact opposite of what drunkenness causes (Titus 2:6; 1 Peter 1:13). This makes it extremely questionable whether hard liquor should ever be consumed. While beer and wine can be consumed in small quantities with no ill effects, hard liquor can have an impact with as little as one shot.

The question would also be much easier if it were: is it a sin to be addicted to alcohol? It is a sin to be addicted to anything (1 Corinthians 6:12; 2 Peter 2:19). We are not to allow ourselves to be enslaved to anything. God is to be our only master. Alcoholism is a cruel taskmaster. It destroys marriages, families, friendships, businesses, and ultimately, the life of the alcoholic. Obviously, avoiding alcohol entirely is the easiest way to avoid alcoholism.

However, the abuse of alcohol, in the forms of drunkenness and addiction, do not necessarily make alcohol itself sinful. The abuse of alcohol is the cause of much of the legalism many Christians employ when approaching the question of alcohol. People see alcohol lead to drunkenness and addiction, which are definitely sins, and apply the "sin" tag to alcohol itself. The problem with this is that it is not biblical. Some Bible verses speak about alcohol in positive terms (Psalm 104:14-16; Ecclesiastes 9:7; Isaiah 55:1; Amos 9:14; 1 Timothy 5:23). Jesus changed water into wine (yes, it was wine, not grape juice). So, alcohol itself is not the sin. It is the abuse of alcohol that is the sin.

There is also the issue of "not causing anyone to stumble" (1 Corinthians 8:13; 10:32). You may have the conviction that it is allowable to drink alcohol in moderation. But, if other people see you drinking or purchasing alcohol, and by that are led to go against their convictions and/or drink alcohol in excess, you have violated the biblical principle of not causing anyone to stumble. We should not do anything that could encourage someone else to sin. We should always sacrifice our Christian freedom if exercising it may result in someone else stumbling.

With the sins of addiction and drunkenness in mind, and with the need to not stumble others in view, for many people, it just makes sense to abstain from alcohol entirely. Can you drink alcohol without it being a sin? Yes. Does the drinking of alcohol very easily lead to sin? Yes. Is alcohol inherently sinful? No. While my answer to the question "is it a sin to drink alcohol?" is still "it depends," my personal conviction on the question is that, for most people and in most instances, it is best to not drink alcohol at all, to avoid the temptation to sin and the appearance of sin.

S. Michael Houdmann

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Is it a sin to drink alcohol?