Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Why does the Bible praise the effects of alcohol? How are we supposed to know when those effects have gone too far? I am mostly confused about this verse:

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Proverbs 31:6

Phrases like "wine that maketh glad the heart of man" (Psalm 104:15) and "wine, which cheereth God and man" (Judges 9:13) seem to suggest that it's okay to seek the light pre-drunkenness that comes with alcohol.

Does this mean it is okay to get tipsy? How far is too far in the merry-making associated with wine in the Bible?

share|improve this question

closed as too broad by Flimzy, Affable Geek, maj nem ɪz dæn, Caleb May 22 at 10:55

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
I am becoming more and more concerned with this question as a member of the Russian Orthodox Church... :-) –  Robert Haraway Aug 26 '11 at 23:03
    
What is "tipsy"? I think that should be clear first. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Aug 28 '11 at 3:19

4 Answers 4

up vote 25 down vote accepted
+50

Short answer: You've gone too far when your drinking no longer glorifies God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Long answer:

This line can be crossed at different times for different people and in different situations.

  1. A single sip, or even the presence of alcohol can be too much, if it causes another to stumble. 1 Corinthians 8:13.

  2. Drinking for selfish reasons, regardless of how much, is wrong.

  3. Drinking to the point of losing a clear head is wrong. 1 Peter 5:8

    Note that some Christians don't necessarily think this means an absolute ban on drunkenness. The argument being that if you choose to get drunk (with a clear mind), and do it under responsible circumstances, it can be okay. I don't necessarily hold this view, and would ask a person intending to get drunk to examine their motives. See #2.

    The only example I can think of where the Bible may be interpreted to specifically permit drunkenness is in the context of medicine. Proverbs 31:6 suggests "wine for those who are in anguish" which seems to be advocating using wine for pain management, which probably indicates some level of intoxication (whether it's means full drunkenness, or simply "tipsy", is subject to interpretation.) Given that most of us live in societies where other forms of pain killers are available, it would be easy to avoid this use of wine in most cases, if it is an area of trouble on your conscience.

  4. If you drink enough to be harmful or dishonoring to your body, it is wrong. 1 Corinthaians 6:19-20

  5. If you think it's wrong to drink (at all, or in a given situation), then it is wrong. Romans 2:15

share|improve this answer
    
With regards to #3, Jesus' first miracle also seems to support drunkenness under certain circumstances. (I would hold the view that in light of the rest of what the NT has to say about drunkenness its probably an edge case) –  wax eagle Aug 29 '11 at 11:21
4  
Just because Jesus provided wine at a wedding does not mean he supports drunkenness. In Jesus's time there wasn't anything else to drink apart from wine, they didn't have fruit juice, soft drinks or even water on tap. –  Michael Wiles Aug 30 '11 at 21:56
    
To add to Michael's comment, I think the wine Jesus provided in his miracle had very little (if any) alcohol content. christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/24/… –  Shredder Feb 3 '12 at 2:02
1  
@Shredder: I think the historical evidence suggests that the wine used at the time almost certainly contained at least some alcohol. The technology to prevent juice from fermenting really didn't exist. Of course this says nothing about the wine Jesus made, but I know of no reason to think he would have made unfermented wine, but anything is really just conjecture at that point. See this related queestion. –  Flimzy Feb 4 '12 at 7:38

The Bible have a lot of places where drinking wine is a natural thing, but often referenced in context of reduced self control.

Genesis 9:21
When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.

Esther 1:10
On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Karkas—

We also have to remember that wine was a natural choice for drink to food.

Ecclesiastes 9:6-8
6 Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.
7 Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. 8 Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil.

What is discouraged is not necessarily to NOT drink wine at all, but do not drink too much wine:

Proverbs 23:19-21
19 Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path:
20 Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat,
21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

For people with high positions or meeting before God, there are often more strict rules:

Leviticus 10:8-10
8 Then the LORD said to Aaron, 9 “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, 10 so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean,

Proverbs 31:4
It is not for kings, Lemuel — it is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer.

But at the end, it is important to respect others view on this, no matter your own opinion. The following verse applies more or less to all questions about food and drink for us Christians:

Romans 14:20-22
20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.


Personally, I practice to never drink so much that I get drunk. If I am with people I know practice a total absense, I don't drink at all to show respect for their view.

share|improve this answer

Common English Bible (CEB) uses an interesting word when translating 1 Peter 5:8

Be clearheaded. Keep alert. Your accuser, the devil, is on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

This and other verses exhort us to be prudent even with alcohol.

Some more pertinent verses are the following:

1 Thessalonians 5:6-9

So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 4:5

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

share|improve this answer
3  
To add to this, NIV uses "sober mind". –  El'endia Starman Aug 26 '11 at 17:24
    
@El'endia Starman yes, to be honest I am not sure what is more powerful word in English. –  user14 Aug 26 '11 at 17:25
1  
@Sotiris It shouldn't matter which word is more powerful. Which word is more accurate? That said, are you saying there isn't a tipping poing (pun intended) before drunkeness, before which we can enjoy alcohol? Is being tipsy sobermindedness? Where then is the merrymaking of Psalm 104:15? –  dleyva3 Aug 26 '11 at 17:45
1  
@dleyva3 Someone can drink alcohol without get tipsy. The question you have to ask yourself is before a drink "If I drink a little more will this let me to take a correct decisions if there is need?" To avoid drunkenness is a Christian law, in the other hand to avoid get tipsy is based on Christian principles. –  user14 Aug 26 '11 at 17:54
1  
Sotiris, I understand, and I agree. But does only one sip of drink "make glad the heart of man." I doubt it. If there is no buzz, what's the difference between wine and juice in the function of the drink. I think for an answer to be effective, it has to address Prov. 31:6. Maybe you could edit your answer? –  dleyva3 Aug 26 '11 at 19:42

I'd advocate that it's at your own discretion. I don't think it can be set in stone what exact amount of alcohol intake would warrant drunkenness or tipsiness.

Different people, I've learned, react differently to different amounts of alcohol in their system. Some can control themselves better than others.

But as a general rule of thumb, it would be appropriate to go with Sotiris' advice in his answer. So long as you are clearheaded, and it doesn't stand in the way of your worship, then you should be fine.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.