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Is Drinking a Sin? What the Bible Says

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A very tough yet important question often asked in the Christian community is, “Is drinking a sin?” or “Should Christians drink?” Neither is an easy question to answer, as the Bible does not give direct orders one way or the other.

The purpose of this article will to walk through the topic of drinking in scripture, as well as the call to be self-controlled and sober-minded, with a goal to set you up to come to a personal choice on the topic. 

mean doing a toast with glassess of whisky with the text is drinking a sin? what the Bible says

Is Drinking a Sin

Unfortunately, there is not a place in the Bible where drinking is either clearly permitted or condemned. Instead, it is one of those things that are left up to the individual believer between him/her and God. We would call this category of topics a “personal conviction.”

There will be more on the specifics of what that means later on. For now, we will go through the scriptures where drinking is addressed, both directly and indirectly, in order to steer you towards an answer to the question “Is drinking a sin?” in your own life. 

What Scripture Says

Although there is no direct yes or no to the common question “is drinking a sin” in the Bible, there are numerous scriptures that can indirectly point you as a follower of Christ to your own personal conviction on the subject.

The Bible talks about alcohol – specifically wine, drunkenness, self-control, and the act of being sober-minded in order to give us wisdom on the subject of the drinking of alcohol. 

We will first look at scripture on alcoholic beverages without the addition of drunkenness, self-control, or sober-mindedness. 

Alcoholic Beverages

The drinking of alcohol, specifically wine, was a part of culture in biblical times, as we see in these Old Testament verses:

“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.”

Ecclesiastes 9:7 (ESV)

“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 14:26 (ESV)

“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 (ESV)

As we see in these scriptures, wine was approved of and even encouraged by God in this time period, and that can be confusing since alcoholic drinks seem to be a more taboo thing in the Christian community. But what is important to note is that these Bible verses, along with others, simply mention wine, not the sub-topics of drunkenness, self-control, and sober-mindedness. 

One of the most well-known passages that relates to wine is the wedding at Cana where Jesus Christ turned water into wine. 

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was incited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “they have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there fore the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants,  “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.

When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came form (thought the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine.

But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

John 2: 1-11 (ESV)

The Son of Man turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana in New Testament times does not tell us it’s okay to get drunk whenever we want, but it does tell us that a little wine is generally okay. After all, wine was used in Jesus’ first miracle, proving he was the Messiah. So we may not have fully answered our question, “is drinking a sin” yet, but we can at least say that alcoholic beverages in and of themselves are not, generally, ungodly.

I say generally because the consumption of alcohol is a personal conviction that can differ from one Christian to another depending on the circumstances of life. 


One thing that is clear in the Bible on the topic of alcoholic drinks is that we are not to indulge in excessive alcohol consumption, but rather that we are to stay away from the dangers of drunkenness; a state of intoxication

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,”

Ephesians 5:18 (ESV)

Debauchery is defined as excessive indulgence in pleasures. We know that we are not to gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16), which drunkenness is an act of.

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)

Again, we are to walk in the Spirit, actively turning away from the desires of the flesh. Drunkenness is listed by the apostle Paul as one of the distinct fleshly desires.

Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them!”

Isaiah 5:11 (ESV)

Those that wake up in the morning with the urge, or craving, for “strong drink,” meaning alcoholic beverages, are in great distress; woe. 

“Nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

1 Corinthians 6:10 (ESV)

The gates to eternal life in God’s kingdom are narrow, and only few find it (Matthew 7:14). Drunkards are not among those that find it. 

nuns with bottles of red wine for the post is drinking a sin

Self-Controlled and Sober-Minded

Although there is no direct command against the consumption of alcohol, there are numerous commands to be self-controlled and sober-minded.

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.”

1 Peter 4:7 (ESV)

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

Proverbs 25:28 (ESV)

“But hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.”

Titus 1:8 (ESV)

These specific Bible verses are not stated in the context of drinking, however, being self-controlled bleeds into all aspects of the daily lives of Christians. We are to be self-controlled in our thoughts, emotions, words, and actions, both towards ourselves and others, mirroring the image of Christ to the world. If you are drunk, you are not in control of your words or actions, and therefore are not able to proactively put your flesh to death in the Spirit. 

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 1:13 (ESV)

Older men are to be sober-minded, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good.”

Titus 2:2-3 (ESV)

The command to be sober-minded more directly relates to the drinking of alcohol as of course, sober and drunk are opposites. We are to always be in a state of rational thinking, in control of our minds and bodies.

This is not to say that you can never have a glass of wine (unless that’s enough to alter your mind), but you must have the ability to stop yourself before you lose that control. However, if you know that one glass of wine will only make you want more, maybe you shouldn’t even have that; and that leads into the topic that truly answers “is drinking a sin?”

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Personal Conviction

A personal conviction is something that the Bible does not have a clear stance on, and is therefore a gray area left between an individual Christian and God. Other examples of these would include tattoos, language (specifically cussing), working women, and more. ‘

As it relates to drinking and whether or not that is a sin, it is a decision that you must come to with God for yourself. If you have a genetic disposition towards addiction, if you’ve struggled with excessive drinking in the past, or if you struggle with self-control in general, then maybe it is best for you to practice total abstinence from alcoholic drinks. But again, it is only something that can be decided between yourself and God.

What is important to understand when wrestling with the topic of drinking in your life and coming to a personal choice, is that no matter what, you are to always obey the commandments of God through scripture, and reflect the light of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, to the unbelieving world. If there is anything that stops you from doing so, it should be avoided. 

So is drinking a sin? It depends. 

“I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.”

Romans 14:14 (ESV)

If you think it is a sin to have even one sip of alcohol, then it is a sin for you to have even one sip of alcohol. If you think it is okay for you to have one glass of wine, then it is okay for you to have one glass of wine. Just remember, it is not just want you think based on what you want, it is what you think based on your relationship with God in your Christian walk. 

This too goes for how you interact with others when it comes to the consumption of alcohol. If you have made the personal decision that it is okay to participate in the moderate use of alcoholic drinks from time to time (with the absence of abuse of alcohol of course), but your sister in Christ has determined otherwise, then you should not drink in social settings where she is present, possibly causing her to stumble in her faith. 

“Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.”

Romans 14:20-21 (ESV)

We have looked at what scripture says regarding wine as a part of culture in biblical times, drunkenness, self-control, and sober-mindedness, as well as explored the concept of personal convictions.

As much as we all wish we could have an easy answer anytime someone asks, “Is drinking a sin?” God’s word just doesn’t lend a hand to it. However, you are hopefully set up well to delve deeper into the topic and come to a personal decision based on scripture and your own personal relationship with God. 

You may enjoy this video by Allen Parr about “is drinking a sin”?

ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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