Wisdom and Alcohol: A Proverbial Perspective

A Little Background

One of the most controversial topics among some Christians is the subject of beverage alcohol. For some, there is nothing worse than taking a sip, while for others there’s nothing wrong with having a drink with every meal, including breakfast.

I was brought up to believe that drinking any form of alcohol (unless it was in Nyquil cold medicine) was a downright sin, and those who did drink, even rarely and in moderation, were either “backslidden” or probably not true followers of Christ.

Well, a lot of grape juice has flowed under the bridge since then, and my views about alcohol have modified over time. After a considerable amount of study, my understanding of the subject must be discussed within the context of wisdom and grace, not license or law. I simply cannot find a clear, biblical mandate for total abstinence; yet, neither can I find justification for uninhibited consumption.

To put it another way, I’m not going to tell you what to do – it’s between God and you.

“Proverbial” Thinking

The whole reason for bringing up the subject of drinking alcohol is that on my other blog, ProverbialThought.com, the natural rotation of posts has now fallen on Proverbs 31. It is in this chapter that we read not only of the “perfect” woman (we all know there’s not one, of course – except my wife), but also of a mother’s concern for what her royal son should drink.

Therefore, I will ask you to read the following posts for which I am going to provide links. We may not all agree on the topic, but hopefully what I wrote in my commentary on Proverbs will provide some helpful insight.

“The King’s Beverage”: a commentary on Proverbs 31:4-7

 “Give Them Wine”: a commentary on Proverbs 31:6-7

But do remember this: Don’t do anything – drink, abstain, or whatever – without being fully convinced in your own heart. A very important lesson to remember can be found in the Apostle Paul’s words to the Christians in Rome…

Do not tear down God’s work because of food. Everything is clean, but it is wrong to make someone fall by what he eats. It is a good thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. Whatever you believe about these things, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith, and everything that is not from faith is sin. – Romans 14:20-23 CSB

I would love to continue this as a discussion in the comment section.

What do you think about the words of Paul? What do you think of my commentaries on Proverbs 31?

Let us know what you think, and why.


Filed under Alcohol, grace

20 responses to “Wisdom and Alcohol: A Proverbial Perspective

  1. I grew up in the Baptist Church. There wasn’t supposed to be any drinking or smoking or dancing or hanging out with those that do.

    My parents and most of their Baptist friends drank a cocktail at night. The Deacons smoked outside the church while the service was going on. My friends all went to the high school dances.

    I drink but one sister doesn’t and another is an alcoholic who quit 20 years ago.

    What does this all mean? I think Paul was right to challenge us to be careful.


  2. My men’s Bible study/accountability group is wrapping up the book of Romans this week (we meet Thursday). I was re-reading that very chapter on my lunch hour at work as I clicked on today’ post.

    I see it this way. Paul clearly states to not do anything that would cause one to stumble. So should I order a shot of Crown next to a friend battling alcoholism? No! But I also do not drink. Not from a skewed biblical belief, rather, personal choice.

    My stepfather does not believe in having a beer unless he’s behind the wheel. McMinn County, TN’s catch and release program allows this behavior to be acceptable and rampant in that county. He’s been doing the DUI tango since age 16 (he’s 55 now).

    I personally do not see any wrong in the consumption of alcohol in moderation. But, if you feel you “have” to have it, that’s when you need to re-evaluate your consumption.

  3. There was no alcohol in our house when I was growing up and my grandparents had signed the ‘pledge’ never to touch a drop. That was the Baptist way in the UK in those days. Times have changed, but moderation has to be the key.

    I remember a church secretary lighting up a cigarette inside the church after each service back in the early 70s – the same man would disapprove if the younger folk had a beer. Funny old world. These days smoking is a complete no no to many folk and I don’t know of anyone in our church who smokes, but many enjoy a beer or a glass of wine, or even a tot of something stronger. However, we still have de-alcoholised wine for our communion services as our Baptist trust deeds do not allow alcohol on the church premises. I don’t think that this applied to the wine at the last supper.

    Isn’t it true that there are Christians who think that drinking coffee is sinful?

  4. Yes… so important that each follows the Holy Spirit’s conviction in this regard. For some, alcohol consumption is deadly, and for others, simply another beverage option. I’m looking forward to reading your other posts. Had no idea that you had another blog. How did I miss that? :-/ Great post, Anthony! You are always spot on!

  5. Jennifer

    That’s neat insight! Solomon said to do all things in moderation (paraphrase). The Bible condemns drunkeness, and being a stumbling block to a brother like the verse you mentioned earlier. Jesus did say that we would drink of the new wine with Him in His new Kingdom. I bet it’s going to taste great!

    • And here’s another thought… Whatever the wine is like in heaven, there won’t be any ill effects and there’ll not be any big beer companies profiting from our weaknesses.

    “they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins.” (I think this was NIV … I … I forgot to check before closing the tab …)

    Okay. So that only applies to those who take the Nazirite vow. But still. It is “a clear, biblical mandate for total abstinence” … (for specific people)

    And in reply to your and David’s thread, I struggle with a lot of pork, and I used to think coffee was of the devil. (Please avoid talking to my younger self about me starting a coffee shop this year. Thanks.)

    Shellfish is still unclean. I am sure I read that in Third Peter.

  7. I stopped drinking completely 10 years ago. Just decided I didn’t want to anymore. I personally also see no clear prohibition Biblically against all alcohol consumption. Having said that, we do agree in our work to not consume it. Of course that didn’t actually stop me after I joined the church, and I suspect i was not alone. I just decided it was too much of a throwback to my previous life to still consume it. Kind of like when I chucked all of my AC/DC records. Too much temptation for me.

    The churches in our work do have as part of the covenant not to consume or participate in the sale of alcohol as a beverage. I am quite ambivalent about the fact that we include that, and wonder if it’s not legalistic. Actually, i know it is. But, it’s no secret, and folks agree to live by it. I have heard stories of churches withdrawing fellowship with member who work at retail stores which sell beer and wine, which seems quite over the top to me.

    @ David. If coffee is sin, I am in deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep trouble!

  8. Growing up, the wife of my pastor of my Lutheran church said that after church on sundays when she was young They would have a keg of beer and bbq out in the whatever you call it where you hang out after church outside. That it was no big thing.

    Moses got drunk and we still talk about him. Despite what God might have said about it, we still consider him as doing Gods service.

    We drank wine at communion once a month. Even though some churches I know served plain grape juice.

    I think all things in moderation and God will be ok with it. I don’t drink or smoke because it doesn’t agree with me, but I didn’t think I was condemned because I did. God was with me the whole way; when it was time to stop, it was time. But I don’t think people will goto heel because they drink or smoke. Anymore than they would if they took a prescribed pain medication.

  9. This post is sure to get a lot of response! I wrote an article called the Strong Drink Lie also.

    I spent 15 years in a Oneness Pentecostal church and we were taught that any sip of alcohol (except the already mentioned Nyquil) would send you straight to the lake of fire.

    This is an impossible stance to take and be supported by Scripture, but more importantly, our movement teaches that when the Bible speaks of wine, it is speaking merely about Welch’s Grape Juice, non-fermented products. They also, falsely I might add, taught that the Jewish custom would never have allowed them to drink alcohol, and thus, people must be misinterpreting the Marriage Feast and Jesus’ first miracle.

    That is to say, when the Bible speaks of wine, it is just, when the Bible speaks of ‘strong drink’ it is alcohol. And yet, again as has already been pointed out, the very first mention in the Bible about ‘wine’, included intoxication!

    He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. – Genesis 9:20, ESV

    Furthermore, if the supposition were true, that when the Bible speaks of ‘strong drink’ and that the Bible completely condemns the drinking of ‘strong drink’, then we would have found a paradox in Scripture in the Law of Moses.

    “…go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.” – Deuteronomy 14:24-26, ESV

    Thus, we must follow the Scripture in knowing that it says at once do it, and at the same time, be really, really careful if you do! Paul told Timothy to drink wine for his stomach, the Law of Moses told people to celebrate in the House of God with strong drink, and Paul also taught, that whatever you allow in yourself without condemnation, happy are you. (Open to interpretation) Romans 14:22


  10. Paul

    Is it too simplistic to think of it as – if it doesn’t hurt you or bring you down or cause you to hurt others or bring them down – then it’s not such a big deal?

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