Is the Act of Drinking Alcohol an Act of Sin?

Maqui Castelo

October 15, 2021

Newsflash: There are Christians who drink alcohol. It’s not a secret, and we’re not trying to hide it either. 

However, here in the Philippines, the act of drinking carries a lot of negative connotations.

As I was growing up, when my curious young self wanted to try alcohol, I’d often hear adults reprimand me by saying that “drinking is bad”—which, in retrospect, I would’ve acknowledged more had they not said it while taking a sip of their ice cold beer. How ironic, right?

Lately, however, more and more people are starting to embrace drinking as a cultural and culinary experience. A lot have become connoisseurs of a sort, preferring to have their wine paired with a good steak, or to enjoy the fragrance of a gin and tonic embellished with various

combinations of herbs and spices.

While it is true that food or drinks are neutral, we are called to view life in a way that values the honor of God more than any food or drink.

And so the question is: Is drinking a sin? 

The short answer is no. Drinking is not a sin.

In fact, you’d be quite surprised that there are passages in the Bible that have quite the

opposite to say about drinking. In Deuteronomy 14:22-26, it says this:

““You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And

before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell

there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn

of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. And if the

way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your

God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God

chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money

in your hand and 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 14:22-26

The passage speaks of the act of tithing and enjoying a feast in the presence of God. It’s not a

passage that specifically talks about drinking, and yet the way it presents wine seems foreign

to many of us because it’s viewed in a positive light. The Bible is saying that it is okay to enjoy

drinking “yayin” (Hebrew word for wine or fermented drink) in the presence of God, and that this can be a way to express rejoicing and celebration. That is a far cry from the common

descriptions we’d often hear about drinking within the community.

In a psalm that talks about the blessings of God to man, you have a passage that also includes

the Hebrew word yayin and, again, it is viewed in a positive light.

“You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he

may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make

his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.”

Psalm 104:14-15

This passage clearly indicates that God intended for wine to be a blessing and that its

intended effects were meant to make the heart of man glad. Both are positive indications and

are quite contrary to a lot of the opinions we hear about alcohol.

Even in the rituals of the Old Testament Law, yayin (wine) could be used as an offering to God

and that this offering can be considered good for it had a pleasing aroma to the Lord. 

“And for the drink offering you shall offer a third of a hin of wine, a pleasing aroma to

the Lord.

Numbers 15:7 

And so we can conclude that the consumption of wine is not a sin. In fact, it can be consumed

in ways that can actually give God glory. After all, His intention for wine is to be a blessing for

us in our moderate consumption of it.

So yes, alcohol intake is clearly not forbidden in the Bible, but the Bible actually has more

verses that warn against alcohol than the ones that view it in a positive light. Here is one of them:

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”

Proverbs 20:1 

The verse is not just clear on its own, but it also lends itself to the reality we see when a person succumbs to the effects of alcohol. Those who give in to drunkenness tend to be less

inhibited, talking and acting without a filter. Some even become violent when inebriated. I

mean, the term “bar fight” wouldn’t be a thing had these fights not happen so frequently in

places like bars and clubs. While the intent of God for wine is to be a blessing, being led by its

effects are foolish in the eyes of God and can also lead to some serious consequences later on.

Here’s another one.

“Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and

the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”

Proverbs 23:20-21 

As Proverbs is a book of wisdom, it teaches us not to be within the company of people who

excessively partake of the pleasures of life, which definitely includes alcohol. Not only is

alcohol dangerous, but always being in the presence of people who indulge in this too much

may influence you to follow suit as well.

The verse doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t befriend people who drink excessively—because Jesus himself broke bread with various sinners—but there should be clear and wise boundaries when it comes to spending time with people who drink excessively. Remember this: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:17-18:

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not

get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,”

Ephesians 5:17-18 

I’m not surprised that alcoholic beverages are also called “spirits,” because they do have a tendency to take over our minds when we’ve indulged in too much. Paul is encouraging us not to be filled with the spirit of alcohol but instead be filled with the Holy Spirit—in which we should be filled with all the time, every day.

So yes, drinking is not a sin. But bear in mind that on top of the numerous warnings about drinking alcohol, the Bible clearly teaches that drunkenness is a sin.

Now that we have a clear biblical perspective about what the Bible teaches about drinking and drunkenness, the question now is: As Christians, should we be drinking? 

Allow me to offer better help by presenting three Scripture-based guidelines to help us navigate through this question in order to help us discern whether or not the choices we make in life are aligned to what pleases God.

1. Will this be beneficial?

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have

the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their

own good, but the good of others.”

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (NIV)

In this passage, Paul acknowledges that any activity done within the bounds of the law (of man

and of God) are not necessarily sin. However, we should also exercise wisdom: These things may be harmless in the eyes of the world but these may not be beneficial to us, Christians.

When we think about what benefits us as Christians, we not only think about our physical bodies, our social welfare, or our mental health. More than anything, we think about what adds value to our spiritual life.

If you choose to drink, consider: Will it trigger a struggle or an addiction that you have already overcome? Can it potentially develop into an unhealthy habit or addiction for you? Will it cause harm to yourself or others?

In all situations, it is best to exercise self-control and think about whether your decision will benefit you. Many things are permissible by the law, but not all things are beneficial. 

2. Will it cause others to stumble?

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling

block to the weak.”

1 Corinthians 8:9 (NIV)

As Christians, we represent Christ to others. We are responsible for showing people how to live pure and holy lives. While drinking might not be a problem for you to do in moderation, if someone who can’t control themselves looks up to you for your faith and sees you drinking, they might be inclined to do the unwise decision to drink excessively or it might cause a damaging effect to their faith just because they have a different take on drinking. I remember this wise saying: “What leaders do in moderation, followers do in excess.” 

Let us exercise our freedom with wisdom because It is our responsibility to look out for our brothers and sisters in Christ, making sure that they are living within the bounds of God’s grace, and not be the cause for their sin. 

3. Will it give God glory?

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)

In the same vein, we are called to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice unto God as worship

(Romans 12:1); and so whatever we do, we ought to do for God’s glory. If I choose to drink

today, with these people, at this time, for this purpose, will it give God glory?

If the answer is no, then maybe you shouldn’t drink. Remember that you are not just a being with pleasures and emotions, but a spiritual being created to glorify God by worshipping Him with your life.

I’m writing this as someone who enjoys drinking. I love the taste, I love being able to share a

drink with my friends and family, I love the elated feeling I get when you’re at that good level of

tipsy—but I love God more. And so when He asked me to give it up two years ago, I did and

I’ve been sober ever since.

As a Christian, I will never tell anyone that drinking is a sin because it’s not. Clearly through

Scripture, God intends for alcoholic drinks to be a blessing for us—to make us happy and to

be able to express this happiness in the presence of God. However, it is an area in which we

have to practice utmost discernment in order to know whether our decision to drink will

ultimately give God glory. I mean, it would be a shame to trade pleasing God for a moment of

fleeting emotion.

So before you drink—or with any decision even—ask yourself:

Will this be beneficial?

Will this cause others to stumble?

Will this give God glory?

May the Holy Spirit and His written word guide you to a wise and godly decision.




The Author

Maqui Castelo

Maqui is a 24-year-old photographer, director, and producer based in Manila. He is one of the co-founders and co-owners of a local production house called Limitless Productions. In his spare time, he likes to eat sushi, play video games, and write.