Does Christianity condemn alcohol or drunkenness?

Azuka

I was at a small home party in the garden of a friend and was seated at the same table with a Roman Catholic priest dressed in his white cassock. A bottle of red wine was presented to our table and he took a glass of wine, while we discussed sundry topics.

I noticed that some people were casting furtive glances in our direction, making faces and murmuring to one another. You can guess what they would be saying: “How could a priest be drinking alcohol? He sure doesn’t know God bla bla bla.” The priest didn’t stay for long. The moment he left, some of those on our table started the story about how the priest did not know God because he drank wine. I asked them in which part of the bible it is written that drinking alcohol is a sin. They went into another unbiblical, opinionated and judgemental story about why it is written that alcohol is a mocker that should be given to a fool. At the end of the discussion, nobody could point to the verse in the Bible where it is stated that Christians should not drink alcoholic beverages.

I have decided to ask a wider audience to know if I can get some satisfactory explanation: Please in what verse of the Bible is it stated that drinking alcohol is a sin or reserved for those who don’t know God? The Bible and Christianity clearly condemn drunkenness but not alcohol. But some people created their own strange, unbiblical and unchristian law that anyone seen with alcohol automatically becomes a sinner, while the prerequisite for being a born again Christian is abstinence from alcohol or even touching alcohol. Meanwhile, the first miracle of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, is turning water into wine. And the Last Supper of Jesus Christ was sharing bread and wine with His apostles and directing them to do so as a group regularly in remembrance of Him. Consequently, the original wine used by churches for Holy Communion contains alcohol. Some new churches have decided to be using fruit juices for their Holy Communion because of that same false belief that tasting alcohol is a sin.

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Another false argument presented by many is that what Jesus Christ and the Bible support is “non-alcoholic wine.” That is an argument born out of ignorance. “Non-alcoholic wine” does not exist in the Bible. Oxford Dictionary defines wine as “an alcoholic drink made from fermented grape juice.” Because there are wines made from other plants, the Oxford Dictionary has a second definition of wine as “an alcoholic drink made from the fermented juice of specified other fruits or plants. Example: a glass of elderflower wine.” Therefore, for anything to be called “wine,” the first condition it has to meet is that it must contain alcohol. All the drinks that are packaged in bottles that some people ignorantly call “non-alcoholic wines” are “fruit juices.”

The argument of those who changed the injunction of the Bible on alcohol is that taking a little alcohol leads to taking more and more until drunkenness sets it. That is possible. But that does not always happen. There are people who have never been drunk since they began taking alcohol 30 to 50 years ago. There are people who don’t take more than a glass of wine or a bottle of beer in a month. It is like criminalising cars, aeroplanes, swimming pools or guns because they can lead to the deaths of people.

Besides the fact that Jesus Christ never condemned alcohol, there are instances in the Bible where the people are expressly directed to take wine. One is Deuteronomy 14 where the law on tithes is given and explained:

“22 You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 

23 And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 

24 But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, 

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25 then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 

26 And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. 

27 You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.”

Similarly, in 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul tells Timothy: “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” By recommending wine to his adopted son, Timothy, Paul shows that the wine of their time had medicinal value. The wine or beer of today also has some health benefits. According to Mayo Clinic, moderate use of alcohol may reduce one’s risk of developing and dying of heart disease as well as the risk of ischemic stroke. Mayo Clinic breaks it down thus: “Moderate alcohol use for healthy adults generally means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. Examples of one drink include Beer – 12 fluid ounces (355 millilitres). Wine – 5 fluid ounces (148 millilitres). Distilled spirits (80 proof) – 1.5 fluid ounces (44 millilitres).”

Thirdly, in Psalm 23: 5, David says: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.” When someone’s cup is full with wine and runs over in biblical times, it is a sign of plenty.  That is why in Proverbs 3: 9-10, Solomon says:

 “9 Honour the Lord with your possessions,

And with the firstfruits of all your increase;

10 So your barns will be filled with plenty,

And your vats will overflow with new wine.”

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This message of linking overflow of wine to wealth is restated in Joel 2: 23 and 24:

23 Be glad then, you children of Zion,

And rejoice in the Lord your God;

For He has given you the former rain faithfully,

And He will cause the rain to come down for you—

The former rain,

And the latter rain in the first month.

24 The threshing floors shall be full of wheat,

And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.

Note that it is the same wine that signifies abundance in the Bible that made Noah and Lot drunk, leading to some negative consequences. It is like a gun that can be used to protect oneself and a country from being wiped out or taken as prisoners being the same gun that can be used to commit genocide, murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, etc.

We must be careful as Christians not to turn our views into biblical laws.  The Christian standard does not change even when men change it. Those who say that the Bible condemns alcohol do so out of ignorance or a desire to create their own laws and force them upon the Bible and Christianity. Many people also engage in the argument because they don’t know what “wine” is and how it is produced.

According to the World Health Organisation, three million deaths occur annually from harmful use of alcohol, which represents 5.3 per cent of all deaths globally. The Church should focus on what the Bible orders, which is: That drunkenness is bad. It messes up a human being. It destroys vital organs. It leads to terrible consequences.

Twitter @BrandAzuka

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