Substance abuse, whether in the form of drugs or alcohol, is a serious problem in many parts of the world. Drugs provide a dangerous momentary release from the world and its problems, but they destroy lives, families, and communities in the process. Thankfully, God’s Word isn’t silent on the issue.
Bible contains strong warnings against substance abuse. Drugs destroy things that the Bible values, people’s lives, their families, and their communities. Drugs are sinful because they cause users to lose control of their mind, body, and soul, as they surrender them to idols of euphoria and addiction.
Why does the Bible warn people so strongly regarding substance abuse? What’s the difference between alcohol and drugs in relation to self-control? What does the Bible say about addiction? Keep reading to learn more.
The Bible’s warning against substance abuse
The Bible offers clear, strong, and general warnings about the dangers of substance abuse and addiction. It reflects the problems of the societies in which it was written, so it mentions alcohol abuse and drunkenness more than other forms of intoxication.
How does the Bible describe substance abuse? The Bible commands people to not give up self-control to substances. It doesn’t matter if the substance has its origins in the natural world (e.g. marijuana, wine) or has been fashioned in a kitchen or lab. According to 1 Corinthians 6:12, doing so renders a person a slave.
|Translation||1 Corinthians 6:12|
|ESV||“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.|
|KJV||All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.|
|NASB||All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.|
|NIV||“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.|
|NLT||You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.|
What is the principle of 1 Corinthians 6:12? If a person is a slave to a substance, then that substance is their master. They obey its commands, in a manner of speaking. It is their value, authority, and source of joy and peace.
Drugs “save” them from the trials and tribulations of the world. Yet it’s all an illusion. The relief it provides is temporary and destructive. Jesus is humanity’s only Savior (John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5).
Luke 6:13 warns followers of Christ about not having money as their master, but the same concept can be applied to a person devoting themselves to anything other than Christ. “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
The biblical difference between alcohol and drugs
The Bible doesn’t teach that all substances that have the potential to cause a person to lose self-control are wrong. For example, the Bible doesn’t universally prohibit drinking alcohol, but it does strongly teach that drunkenness is always sinful. The difference is whether or not a person has self-control.
Can a person drink alcohol and not lose self-control? It’s wise to consider that some people should never drink alcohol, like those who have abused it in the past, or who come from a family of alcohol abusers, or those who struggle with self-control in general.
While the Bible doesn’t universally prohibit responsibly drinking alcohol, its allowance isn’t necessarily an encouragement to drink either.
Can a person do drugs and not lose self-control? The difference between alcohol and drugs is that a person can drink a moderate amount of certain alcohol without losing self-control. In other words, they are still their own master (1 Cor. 6:12).
However, a person can’t do drugs and maintain self-control. Drugs immediately alter the mind and consciousness, which is why a person takes them in the first place.
Substance abuse, like doing drugs, is never permitted or celebrated in the Bible. In contrast, wine is sometimes a picture of blessing in the Old and New Testaments.
- Isaiah 25:6, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” (ESV)
- Amos 9:14, “I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.” (ESV)
- John 2:9-10, “the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine… 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.” (ESV)
Yet the Bible strongly forbids drunkenness. For example, Ephesians 5:8 reads, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” And Galatians 5:21 reads, “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.” (ESV)
What does the Bible teach about addiction?
- 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
- 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
- 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.”
- James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.'”
- 1 Peter 5:10, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
- John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
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