Several months back a young man wrote me asking if it was okay for Christians to drink Kombucha? Until that moment I had never heard of Kombucha and therefore had no clue, but I gathered there must be something questionable about it for him to ask the question. The young man informed me that Kombucha is a popular drink among health-food conscious people that contains many probiotics and is made from fermented tea. When I heard the words “fermented tea” I understood why he had posed his question to me.
The young man’s question turned out to be a two-part question really. His first question was really, “How much alcohol can a drink contain before a Christian should decide to refrain?” His second question was, “Is it okay for Christians to drink alcohol as part of a healthy diet?” Before answering these two questions, I would like to give a little bit of background information about Kamboocha and other similar drinks.
Have you ever heard of Kefir? How about Kvas? These two drinks, like Kombucha, have a low-alcohol content. Kefir is a drink containing fermented milk, Kvas is made from fermented bread (a process similar to that of making beer), and Kombucha is made from fermented tea. All three drinks are said to have some form of health benefits connected to them and are considered non-alcoholic, though all three contain varying levels of alcohol (Kombucha can contain anywhere from .5% to 7% alcohol). Yes, that is right, Kombucha contains alcohol. As a general rule, when you hear the word “fermented” you should think alcohol. Though some drinks are considered non-alcoholic, this does not mean that they are alcohol-free.
A quick Google search will reveal that U.S. federal law requires an alcohol content of less than .5% in order for a drink to be considered non-alcoholic. To put this in perspective, any wine containing more than .5% alcohol must be sold as regular alcoholic wine and the purchaser must be of a legal drinking age in order to obtain it. In 2010 tens of thousands of bottles of Kombucha were pulled from the shelves of health-food stores for containing greater than .5% alcohol. According to FoodNavigator-USA.com Kombucha is still not widely regulated despite the former crackdown.
When we preach against Christians drinking alcohol from the Bible we generally have wine, beer, and liquor in mind, but why not alcohol in general? Christians who try to justify the consumption of alcohol often argue that though the drink alcohol they do not get drunk, by which they mean they do not drink enough to exceed the “legal limit.” In response to the “How drunk is drunk?” conundrum, the Bible consistently argues that drunkenness is a process rather than a state of satiation (see Eph. 5:18 and 1 Thess. 5:7) and commands sobriety (1 Thess. 5:8). Drinking alcohol, regardless of the concentration or amount, begins the drunkenness process and must therefore be avoided. Did you know that many recovery programs advise their clients to avoid drinking non-alcoholic beer, Kamboocha, and other “non-alcoholic” drinks”? Now you know.
Another argument I have encountered from Christians who attempt to justify drinking alcohol is that there are great health benefits to drinking a glass of wine a day. Health benefits are said to include boosting the immune system, reducing the risk of strokes, reducing the risk of heart disease, reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes, and lowering one’s cholesterol. Do these health benefits allow the Christian to drink a little wine every day for the sake of its positive health benefits?
One of the problems with this argument is that it offers caveats to passages such as Eph. 5:18 and 1 Thess. 5:17 that the Lord did not include. Adding appendages to God’s Word should cause pause (Rev. 22:18-19).
Some point to 1 Timothy 5:23 for justification to drink alcohol for preventative purposes, yet Paul’s instructions to Timothy come up short as well. 1 Timothy 5:23 prescribes a measured dose (“use a little”) for curative purposes; Paul does not give allowance for treating alcohol as a vitamin (for potential preventative purposes).
Without getting into a full-blown discussion of why it is wrong for Christians to get drunk (drink any amount of alcohol for non-medicinal purposes – see articles linked below), I would like to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to reconsider what they drink for pleasure and to maintain a healthy diet. Like myself, many may not have been aware of the alcoholic content of Kombucha, Kefir, Kvas, and other type drinks, but now that you know, maybe we should reconsider them.