What I Teach My Students About Alcohol

img_0706A few weeks ago I took a few minutes in one of my talks to address our students about drinking alcohol. We were in a series on Noah and was covering the passage where we read about Noah getting drunk. I used this as an opportunity to help them see what the Bible says about alcohol.

I wanted to communicate three important things in regards to what the Bible says about alcohol. There was plenty more I could have said but I believe these three points give students a good foundation with what the Bible says about alcohol.

Alcohol is a gift from God that can be enjoyed. To anyone who believes drinking is a sin this statement may come as a shock. But the Bible is clear, alcohol is actually a gift from God. Psalm 104:14-15 (ESV) the Bible says, “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.” I want my students to see that alcohol, just like any other beverage, is a gift from God that we can enjoy. However, there are certain things about alcohol to keep in mind even though it’s a gift from God. First, we are expected as Christians to obey the law. The law says someone can’t drink until they are 21. To drink before that age is breaking the law, which is sin. Second, there are times when drinking may not be wise. So even though it’s a gift from God, it’s a gift we must use properly and in the right way. Like any gift from God, alcohol can be abused which leads us to the next point.

Drinking alcohol to the point of getting drunk is a sin. The Bible doesn’t condemn drinking. That’s something we have the freedom to enjoy wisely. However, the Bible clearly condemns drunkenness. Ephesians 5:18 (ESV) begins with saying “And do not get drunk with wine.” Clearly getting drunk is a sin. I don’t want to teach my students drinking is a sin because the Bible doesn’t teach that. However, I do want to teach them getting drunk is a sin because the Bible clearly teaches that. It’s important to not only teach students getting drunk is a sin, but we need to teach them why it’s a sin. This leads us to the next point.

Getting drunk is a sin because you are allowing something else other than God to control you. When someone gets drunk they are under the control of that alcohol. That’s why people act a different way when they get drunk. The alcohol is controlling their emotions and behavior. As a Christian, we should never be in the spot where something other than the Holy Spirit is controlling us. Ephesians 5:18 (ESV) goes on to say “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is to always be controlling us, not something else. I want my students to understand the “why” behind the Biblical teaching that getting drunk is a sin.

If you want to listen to the portion of my talk where I covered this content with my students watch the video below. You can skip to 4:38 to pick up where I started talking about what the Bible says about alcohol.

A few years ago I posted another post here on my site about alcohol and teenagers that gained a lot of attention. Click here to check that post out.

Teaching Teens About Alcohol

During the past month (30 days), 26.4% of underage persons (ages 12-20) used alcohol, and binge drinking among the same age group was 17.4%. 

Nearly three quarters of students (72%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school, and more than a third (37%) have done so by eighth grade.

Among underage drinkers (ages 12-20), 30.8% paid for the alcohol the last time they drank – including 8.3% who purchased the alcohol themselves and 22.3% who gave money to someone else to purchase it. Among those who did not pay for the alcohol they drank, 37.4% got it from an unrelated person of legal drinking age; 21.1% received it from a parent, guardian, or other adult family member.

Many students, especially in high school, are involved in drinking alcohol. If you are a student pastor than you have students in your youth group that are faced with the pressure to drink or are currently drinking. Parents, your children are either faced with the pressure to drink or are currently drinking. In many churches and Christian families the method we use to keep students away from alcohol is this – just don’t drink! Some churches and Christian families may even go as far as to say – don’t drink because its a sin! Just telling students to not drink or don’t drink because it’s a sin doesn’t work. In his book, Youth Ministry by the Book, Roger Glidewell correctly states that “We cannot just lay down ironclad rules and expect that to suffice. Young people need to be equipped with principles behind the rules that will guide them in the gray areas of life.” So how should we teach our students about alcohol?

Teach students that underage drinking is breaking the law. Even if you are on the social drinking side of this issue, we all know that if you are under the age 21 it is against the law for you to drink. We need to teach our students that God expects and commands us to obey the law. In Romans 13:1-7, the Bible makes it clear that God has placed governing authorities over us to in force laws. In that passage it says that if we disobey those laws we are actually disobeying God. Students don’t need to learn that underage drinking is against the law and disobeying that law is actually disobedience towards God.

Teach students that in some circumstances it is not wise. Even though the Bible doesn’t say drinking alcohol is a sin (more on that later) it does say at times it isn’t wise. Leaders are told to be careful with drinking. Believers are told to abstain from drinking if it causes another believe to stumble. Drinking may not be wise if one as a history with alcohol abuse. These are situations where drinking may not be wise. Students will be better equipped to deal with the pressure to drink if they understand that in some situations it really isn’t wise. John Piper said, “Alcohol is deadly in our culture.” Alcohol isn’t something to be taken lightly. It can be damaging, which is why we need to help students understand the situations where it may not be wise to drink.

Don’t teach students it is a sin. Through study, research, and thinking I do not believe drinking is a sin. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture we drinking is called sin. I do see where Scripture makes it clear being drunk is a sin (Ephesians 5:18). I don’t believe drinking is a “deal breaker” and should cause division between Christians. I do ministry alongside many who believe drinking is ok in moderation and I do ministry along side people who think it is straight up sin. If your study of Scripture and research leads you to believing drinking is a sin than you should hold to that conviction but don’t hold that conviction on others. Don’t teach students your conviction, teach students the Scriptures.

My aim in this post is not to cause controversy or division. All I am saying is that telling students “Don’t drink, it’s sin” does not work well. We must teach and equip them with principles that will guide them to their own personal conviction based on Scripture. Here is a helpful video where John Piper explains how drinking can be wrong, but is not sin in and of itself.

Helpful links on this subject: Mark Driscoll on Alcohol, John Piper on Total Abstinence and Church Membership, and another great John Piper video on this subject.