Should Christians Drink, Smoke, or Chew or Go With Folks Who Do?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18

Growing up in a conservative Christian church, I sometimes heard the ditty, “I don’t drink, smoke, or chew, or go with girls who do.” This was usually said humorously, but the underlying message was one we took seriously. There were certain sins of the flesh good Christians should avoid as a matter of high priority. First on the list was drinking alcohol of any kind. What I learned in church was reinforced by my grandmother, who would say to me, “Just one sip.” This meant, “Mark, if you take even one small sip of alcohol, you’ll slide down the slippery slope into alcoholism.” That was something I resolved never to do.

When I was about ten years old, I noticed that my father was reading a book called The Taste of New Wine. I was perplexed, because my father didn’t drink wine or any other alcoholic beverages, for that matter. I asked him about the book and was relieved to hear it wasn’t about literal wine drinking. Rather, my dad explained, The Taste of New Wine was about having a deeper, truer, more genuine faith in Christ. It was written by Keith Miller, a man who was the director of Laity Lodge, a retreat center in Texas where God was doing amazing things.

One evening when I was in junior high school, I went out to dinner with my parents. I was looking forward to some tasty manicotti at Scarantino’s, my favorite Italian restaurant. When we finished ordering our food, I was shocked to hear my dad order a glass of wine for himself and my mom. When the waitress left, I proceeded to lecture my parents on the spiritual and physical dangers of alcohol. “Just one sip” and “You’re killing your brain cells” and the like. Not exactly happy dinner conversation.

At some point during our meal, my parents, who were patient with my tirade, explained that they believed it was not wrong for Christians to enjoy a glass of wine every now and then. The Bible does not forbid drinking, they said. Wine is one of God’s gifts to us, something to be enjoyed in moderation. But Scripture clearly teaches that Christians are not supposed to get drunk. Near as I can remember, this was the first time in my life I encountered the teaching of Ephesians 5:18: “Do not get drunk on wine.”

That verse stuck with me during the next decade of my life. It helped me avoid many of the mishaps that plagued my college friends and associates. In times of deep personal distress, it kept me from seeking to numb my pain with alcohol. For these reasons, I am grateful for Ephesians 5:18. But this verse also provides a rationale for avoiding drunkenness, something more than just “Don’t get drunk.” For this we’ll turn to tomorrow’s reflection.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What messages about drinking did you hear (or experience) as you were growing up? What do you believe today about drinking alcoholic beverages? Do you struggle in your own life with the negative influence of alcohol? Do you need God’s help here?

PRAYER: Gracious God, I thank you for those who taught me as I grew up, who shaped my thinking, feeling, and acting. I thank you for my grandmother, who sought to pass on to me the truths she held so deeply. I thank you for my parents, who modeled commitment to your Word.

Lord, as you know, we can easily misuse your good gifts. Wine, which can represent your holy sacrifice, can also be something that draws us away from you. Teach us, we pray, how to use wisely all that you give to us.

I pray today especially for those who struggle with the affects of alcohol, in their own lives, in their families, in their communities. May they find healing and hope, as well as freedom from that which binds them. Amen.


Mark Roberts is the Executive Director of Digital Media and the Theological and Cultural Steward for Foundations for Laity Renewal. He is the author of eight books, including No Holds Barred: Wrestling with God in Prayer. He lives in Boerne, Texas, with his wife, Linda. Their children spend most of the year away at college on the East Coast. Send a note to Mark.

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Featured image by Christine A. Scheller. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.