Question: Is it OK to drink alcohol so long as you don’t get drunk?
Answer: The Bible clearly condemns drunkenness (Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:18). Some professed Christians claim it is OK to consume alcoholic intoxicants in “moderation”, what some refer to as “social drinking”. Implicit in such a claim is a degree of casualness toward alcohol and its effects. Let’s see what the scriptures have to say about this “moderate” or casual use of alcohol.
Be Sober. Soberness is to characterize every Christian’s life (1 Thess. 5:6-8, 1 Tim. 3:2, 11; Titus 1:8; Titus 2:2,4, 6; 1 Peter 1:13, 4:7, 5:8). If you do a careful word study of “sober”, “soberness”, and “sober minded”, you will find two primary meanings. One is related to being free from the effects and influence of intoxicants. The other is related to having a “sound mind”, “self-control”, or “sound judgment”. Many things can begin to impair a person's sound judgment and alcohol certainly is one of them. Such warnings should not surprise us since Christians need to be constantly on the alert. As 1 Peter 5:8 warns:
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (ESV)
A Dangerous Chemical. Simply speaking, alcohol is a dangerous chemical which slows down the functioning of the central nervous system, altering a person’s perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing. The very first mention of intoxicants in the scriptures is associated with nakedness and sin (Gen. 9:20-27). David attempted to use it to cover up his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11). Note carefully how Prov. 23: 29-35 warns people to stay away from it:
“31 Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. 32 In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.” (ESV)
Given the strength of modern beers, wines, and liquors, alcohol begins to exert its influence even when consumed in limited quantities.
Drinking Parties. The scriptures not only warn against alcohol, but also against some of the environments associated with its consumption. Verses like Rom. 13:13, Gal. 5:21; and 1 Pet 4:3 distinguish between drunkenness and the “party atmosphere” that leads in that direction. Depending on your translation, you may encounter terms like “revellings”, “rioting”, or “drinking parties”. As one lexicon says regarding the underlying meaning of this Greek term:
“a nocturnal and riotous procession of half drunken and frolicsome fellows who after supper parade through the streets with torches and music in honor of Bacchus or some other deity, and sing and play before houses of male and female friends; hence used generally of feasts and drinking parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry”
Modern bars, night clubs, and “keggers” easily fall into this category. So do too many office parties, bachelor parties, New Year’s Eve celebrations, and such.
Limited Usage. In all fairness, the Bible acknowledges a medicinal use for "wine" (I Tim. 5: 23). Paul urged Timothy to use it for his frequent infirmities. And yet, notice also that Paul qualified his instructions with “a little” wine, recognizing its dangerous properties.
The Big Picture. The scriptures make it very clear that a casual attitude toward alcohol is wrong. Alcohol is not “ok to drink in moderation, so long as you don’t get drunk”. Further arguments could be offered in terms of being a bad example to others, tending to lend endorsement to alcoholic beverages in general, and funding the alcoholic beverage industry. Do as God commands - “be sober”!
Being an Enabler. A person may not consume alcohol themselves, but is enabling and/or encouraging others to consume it. Christians who are employed by the alcoholic beverage industry (manufacture, distribution, marketing, sales), work as a bartender, and/or offer alcohol at parties they host need to seriously examine their role in tempting others to sin. As Jesus says in Luke 17:1-2:
“1 And he said to his disciples, "Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” (ESV)