How and why is getting drunk a sin?
Question: "Is getting drunk a sin?"
Answer: Getting drunk, tipsy, or even moderately affected by alcohol is clearly prohibited in the Bible (Proverbs 20:1; 23:20; 29–32; Isaiah 5:22; Ephesians 5:18). There are many commands in Scripture about behaviors to avoid, such as drunkenness, sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18), and lying (Proverbs 6:16–17). But the Bible is far more than a definitive list of "sins." When we approach it as such, we are missing the point. God does not want us to check off a list and consider everything else acceptable. The Pharisees did that, and Jesus was not pleased with them (Luke 11:42; Matthew 23:23). God desires obedience that arises from a loving heart that wants to be like Him (1 Peter 1:15).
Getting drunk is a sin, but what about drinking in moderation? Drinking alcohol has been the subject of debate within the church for centuries, but never more so than in recent years. With the shift toward postmodernism, practices that were once discouraged by the Christian community have been embraced and even promoted. The open consumption of alcohol is one of those practices. In Bible times, anyone set apart for God was to totally abstain from any fruit of the vine (Judges 13:4; Leviticus 10:9; Numbers 6:3; Luke 1:15). Wine was often symbolic of worldly contamination, and those called into priestly service were to keep themselves from it. Such warnings have led many followers of Christ to forgo alcohol altogether, deeming any use of it unwise. Although drinking in moderation is not condemned in Scripture, there are many warnings about its destructive nature (Proverbs 20:1; 31:4). So why does the Bible speak so strongly against becoming affected by alcohol?
Ephesians 5:18 holds the key: "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." Two elements are being compared: alcohol and the Holy Spirit. Each has the power to take control of a person's mind and behavior—with vastly different results. Getting drunk leads to a loss of self-control; being filled with the Spirit leads to more self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). We cannot be controlled by both alcoholic spirits and the Holy Spirit at the same time. When we choose to ingest mind-altering substances, we are effectively choosing to give ourselves over to the control of something other than the Holy Spirit. Anything that takes control of our mind, will, and emotions is a false god. Any master we obey other than the Lord is an idol, and idolatry is sin (1 Corinthians 10:14).
Getting drunk is a sin. Whether it be alcohol, drugs, or some other addictive behavior, Jesus said, "You cannot serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24). When we get drunk, or even slightly affected by alcohol or drugs, we are serving a master other than the Lord. Choosing to follow Jesus means choosing against our old sinful patterns and lifestyle. We cannot follow Jesus and also follow drunkenness, immorality, or worldly thinking (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:1–6). They are going in opposite directions. First Corinthians 6:10 lists drunkards among those who "will not inherit the kingdom of God." When we choose to be defined by our sin, we cannot also be a Christ-follower (Galatians 5:19–21). When we choose drunkenness in spite of God's command against it, we are choosing disobedience and cannot, in that state, be in fellowship with a holy God who condemns it (Luke 14:26–27; Matthew 10:37–38).