The Bible doesn’t contain direct references to drugs (they weren’t around back then) but makes it clear that intoxication, which leads to a loss of self-control, exposes a person to shame, can lead to ruin, and is in contrast to living a dignified, honorable life that pleases God.
The Bible doesn’t mention drugs specifically, simply because they weren’t around during Bible times. But, with an understanding of the effects of drugs, there are various passages in the scriptures that become relevant and offer wisdom regarding their use. Let’s take a closer look.
Drugs in the Bible
References regarding intoxication are found throughout the scriptures. While alcohol and drugs (heroin, cocaine, or cannabis as examples) are different substances, they have one thing in common – the ability to alter the mind.
With this understanding, we can extend the warnings against drunkenness in scripture and the experiences of biblical characters to the context of modern-day drug abuse and the art of getting high. The drugs may have changed – and they’ve only gotten stronger and more dangerous – but God’s Word remains the same (1 Peter 1:25).
Significant Mentions of Intoxication in the Bible
The Bible has so much to say about drunkenness. There are interesting (somewhat disturbing) stories about drunk men, there are warnings in “wisdom” passages, and direct commands in the New Testament.
Drugs in the Old Testament
Genesis 9:20-27 (ESV) Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked. When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slave will he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”
In the very first book of the Bible, we see the complicated and negative effects of being intoxicated and losing control of oneself. In this passage, Noah’s intoxication lands him in a shameful situation, exposing him to the ridicule of his youngest son.
Genesis 19:33-35 ESV That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
This well-known passage about Lot and his daughters always comes to mind when discussing drunkenness in the Bible. Here, Lot’s daughters knew that they could manipulate their father into doing something against his will if they got him drunk. Intoxication makes room for sinful behavior. In this case, the sinful behavior would have far-reaching consequences as two of Israel’s enemy nations were the result.
In other passages, drunkenness is described as a path to trouble (woes) and financial ruin as well. It is clear that engaging in activities that lead to intoxication (like drug use) is not for those who seek to live wisely. In the end, it will lead to suffering.
Isaiah 5:11, 22 ESV Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them! Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink.
Proverbs 23:21 ESV For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.
Proverbs 23:31-32 ESV Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; in the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.
Drugs in the New Testament
Jesus’ very first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding (John 2:1-11). This can cause confusion, along with other passages that include wine as part of a celebration. It is vital to note the difference between having some wine and embracing intoxication. It is also helpful to remember that wine had a lower alcohol content in Bible times, and so could be easily enjoyed without drunkenness being a typical outcome.
When it comes to intoxication, the New Testament has a lot to say.
Galatians 5:19-21 ESV Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 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.
Ephesians 5:18 ESV And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.
These passages make it clear that there is a choice to be made – to live in the flesh or in the spirit. Here drunkenness is associated with those who are out to satisfy themselves and live for their own pleasure. The contrasting image is one of being filled with the Spirit, abiding in Christ, and living for His glory.
1 Timothy 3:8 ESV Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.
Titus 2:3 ESV Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good.
These passages in the Bible are directed at the church – and so they apply to modern-day believers. The Lord asks for sobriety and reverent, dignified behavior. There is no honor in intoxication.
For many struggling with addiction, the Bible is also full of hope and encouragement. The moment a person accepts salvation, they are blessed with an incredible gift and the promise of God’s presence, the Holy Spirit to guide them.
Titus 2:11-12 ESV For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.
1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV 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.
A Biblical Case for Drugs
There are a few places in the Bible where alcohol is recommended to bring relief. These instances involve illness. The motive is kindness, the goal is to reduce pain, or aid healing. A modern-day example would be the use of morphine (this is a pretty serious, addictive drug) when a patient is dying of cancer.
Proverbs 31:6-7 ESV Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.
1 Timothy 5:23 ESV No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.
The Bible’s Take on Drugs
The Bible takes a strong stance against intoxication due to the lack of self-control that naturally follows. Narratives in the Old Testament highlight intoxication as a gateway to shame and sinful actions due to the loss of self-control and clouded judgment. Since modern-day drugs have an even greater mind-altering effect, the same principles apply.
Some like to argue of marijuana, “If it grows from a tree (like a gourd), how can it be bad?” This is a big time oversimplification of the issue. We’ll post in the future on the arguments for and against marijuana use.
In the New Testament, alcohol abuse – and by implication, drug abuse – should not be a part of a believer’s life. Christians are to be filled with the Spirit, not enslaved by any substance. What a blessing to be loved by a God who understands temptations and promises that there will always be a way out – what grace! What hope!