Thursday, July 10, 2014

Is Drunkenness a Sin? 3 Bible Verses that Say "YES!"

Yesterday, we looked at 5 Bible Verses showing that God has no problem with moderate alcohol use. In fact, the Bible tells us to "stop drinking only water" and to "enjoy wine with a joyous heart". While it is good to reflect upon those verses to avoid the errors of some non-Catholic Christians, it is also necessary to realize that drunkenness (i.e. the overindulgence of alcohol) is indeed condemned by the Bible. Here are three balancing verses to remind us to enjoy our wine with a joyous heart in moderation only.

1. Ephesians 5:18
It was in a letter to Timothy that Saint Paul wrote "stop drinking only water and use a little wine" (1 Tim 5:23). Here in Saint Paul's letter to the Ephesians we see a more direct command emphasizes the "little" part of that advice.
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Eph. 5:17-18)

2.  Isaiah 5:22
In the fifth chapter of the Book of Isaiah God, speaking through his prophet, launches into a list of condemnations, declaring "woe to those who..." and running through a variety of sins. One of these is overindulgence in alcohol.
Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks (Is 5:22)

3. Proverbs 20:1
One of the best places to turn to for advice in our struggles is the Book of Proverbs. In the twentieth chapter of that book we read this sage advice,
Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. (Prov 20:1)

What Does St. Thomas Aquinas Have to Say?
So while God doesn't condemn the use of any and all alcohol in the Bible, He does condemn overindulging in alcoholic drinks to the point of drunkenness. This leads the Catholic Tradition to allow for moderate use of drink, but not for drunkenness. St. Thomas Aquinas treats drunkenness in Question 150 of the Second Part of the Second Part of the Summa Theologiae.
The sin of drunkenness, as stated in the foregoing Article, consists in the immoderate use and concupiscence of wine. Now this may happen to a man in three ways. First, so that he knows not the drink to be immoderate and intoxicating: and then drunkenness may be without sin, as stated above. Secondly, so that he perceives the drink to be immoderate, but without knowing it to be intoxicating, and then drunkenness may involve a venial sin. Thirdly, it may happen that a man is well aware that the drink is immoderate and intoxicating, and yet he would rather be drunk than abstain from drink. Such a man is a drunkard properly speaking, because morals take their species not from things that occur accidentally and beside the intention, but from that which is directly intended. On this way drunkenness is a mortal sin, because then a man willingly and knowingly deprives himself of the use of reason, whereby he performs virtuous deeds and avoids sin, and thus he sins mortally by running the risk of falling into sin. For Ambrose says: "We learn that we should shun drunkenness, which prevents us from avoiding grievous sins. For the things we avoid when sober, we unknowingly commit through drunkenness." Therefore drunkenness, properly speaking, is a mortal sin.
Thus, getting deliberately drunk is mortally sinful (and therefore reason to abstain from receiving the Eucharist until first going to Confession. Remember, mortal sins are those that, if not confessed, will send a soul to an eternity in Hell. Enjoy wine but do so in moderation.

Avoid Drunkenness

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