Should Christians Drink Tea?
“Would you like a cup of tea?”
This seemingly innocent question has been asked countless times, and is regarded as a gesture of courtesy and hospitability in many parts of the world, in both eastern and western culture. Tea is an aromatic beverage commonly prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. It has originated in China as a medicinal drink, its origins long lost in the sands of time. Portuguese priests and merchants introduced this beverage to Europeans during the 16 th century, and one century later it would become widely popular in England. It has been said that tea is the most widely consumed drink in the world, after water.
All genuine Christians who take interest in God’s Word, the Bible, won’t fail to notice that, unlike other beverages, such as water, wine or even beer, there’s no mention in the Bible of a drink produced from boiling leaves in water. Certainly, the consumption of a tea-like beverage isn’t mentioned as a habit of the faithful patriarchs, the Israelites, nor among the early Christian congregation. The fact that this beverage originated from a culture that is rife with superstition and idolatry has raised some concern among genuine Christians who care deeply about ‘presenting their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God’. (Romans 12:1) Today, genuine Christians refuse to condone with any behavior just because it may be popular with their local culture. Instead, they’re very interested in learning Jehovah’s point of view. Indeed, Paul advised us to “make sure of all things” – and “all things” encompass the seemingly big things, but also the seemingly small things. After all, Jesus taught that “the person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Luke 16:10
The shady origins of tea
In 1905, Wenceslau de Moraes, a Portuguese diplomat in Asia, wrote in his book “The Cult of Tea”: “According to tradition … Darumá, the great Indian apostle of Buddhism, came to China on the 6 th century AD and preached …” He gave up earthly comforts and spent his life on his knees over rocky soil, absorbed into mystical meditations, without even the simple luxury of sleep. “One night, his eyelids closed with fatigue, and he only woke up in the morning. Exasperated for his weakness, [Darumá] asked for a blade and cut off his own eyelids and threw them into the ground … by miracle, the eyelids grew roots, and a gracious shrub, never seen before, that quickly thrived, and whose leafs, when treated and infused in boiling water became a most precious medicine against somnolence and a suitable remedy for the fatigue of vigils. Thus the tea was created.”
In the 16 th century, tea became the centerpiece of an obscure cult in Japan, known as Teaism. The philosophy behind this cult has been described as “the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. [teaism] inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect …” Tea was likely the beverage of choice for the fellowship of teaists, possibly with hallucinogenic properties. Teaism later evolved into modern-day Taoism.
Implications for Christians
As noted above, the appearance of the beverage is intimately connected with false religion and mysticism. “But that was in a distant past”, someone may argue. “Why should it disturb my conscience in this day and time? I don’t drink that beverage with a religious or mystic intention behind it.”
While at first glance that may seem like a sensible reasoning, we must remember that Satan is a master of deception. He enjoys deceiving humans, especially God’s chosen ones, so that he can mock Jehovah God and his sovereignty. (Proverbs 27:11; Revelation 12:10) Satan would certainly take delight that we should ‘deceive ourselves with false reasoning’. (James 1:22) One such false reasoning is that it doesn’t matter what the origins of a given habit are, as long as the contemporary use doesn’t involve a religious or mystic intention. True, many people may not consciously view drinking tea as a religious or superstitious gesture. Yet Paul gave this stern warning: “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else,” wrote Paul, “do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) What ‘glory’ would there be for the holy God if we would drink something made unholy – indeed filthy – for its pagan and spiritualistic roots? Wouldn’t we be bringing reproach to Jehovah’s holy name? Jehovah is perfect in a superlative degree; the cult of the “Imperfect” amounts to worship of the creature that is the exact opposite of God: Satan, the devil.
Genuine Christians must remember that Jehovah is the “ancient of days”. (Daniel 7:9, 13) He was present and watching when the first tea was produced. And He knows exactly what was involved in its origin, and unquestionably He felt offended by it, just as He felt offended when the apostate Israelites worshipped phallus-shaped images right under his nose. (Ezekiel 8:17) Likewise, the vapor stemming from each teapot, instead of being a “pleasing aroma” of pure worship to Jehovah, undoubtly becomes like an offensive smell of excrement, because of its connections with idolatry. – Numbers 28:2; Deuteronomy 29:17 [see note]
Christians should consider with prayer the implications of drinking tea in their personal relationship with Jehovah. Some in the congregation of Corinth seemed to think that there was nothing wrong in eating meat that was sacrificed in a pagan altar, reasoning that, since idols were a non-reality, therefore, the meat offered to them had no religious meaning, and therefore, was innocuous. However, Paul condemned that reasoning in no uncertain terms: “Are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers with the altar? What, then, am I saying? That what is sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No; but I say that what the nations sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers with the demons. You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; you cannot be partaking of “the table of Jehovah” and the table of demons.” (1 Corinthians 10:18-21) Indeed, if a beverage has idolatry and spiritism in its inception, then indeed such drink is “the cup of demons”! Do we want to become ‘sharers with demons’ by drinking tea? Any baptized Jehovah’s Witness who deliberately and unrepentantly choose to be a ‘sharer of demons’, is taking the side of God’s enemies and becomes himself a spiritual adulterer, an enemy of God, and must be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation. - James 4:4
This is certainly not a matter for personal decision based on a trained Christian conscience. There is much more involved than simply considering if a certain habit may become a cause for stumbling of others. There are clear Bible principles involved, and they involve our perspective of eternal life in the future! Every devout Christian should ‘make sure of all things’, and this includes apparently minor things as drinking an infusion of herbs in boling water. (1 Thessalonians 5:21) Is it pleasing to God to fuse His pure worship with practices that are, at their origin, tainted with false, satanic religion? Certainly not!
What if some Christians have been accostumed to drink tea as part of their upbringging or cultural influence and find it difficult to give up such a filthy, self-abusive habit? They must ponder on the words of Jesus, who said: “If your eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you. It is better for you to enter one-eyed into life than to be thrown with two eyes into the fiery Gehenna.” (Matthew 18:8, 9) If something as precious as an eye should be done away with if it would hinder a disciple’s path of righteousness, what more can be said of a filthy habit of consuming a tea beverage! “Let no man deprive you from the prize”, warned the apostle Paul. (Colossians 2:18) Those who have been addicted to the consumption of tea can find suitable replacements in other beverages that the Bible speaks of in a favorable light, such as wine. – Psalm 104:15
If we want to keep ourselves in God’s love, we must “touch nothing unclean”. (Isaiah 52:11) It may take considerable effort to abandon past wrong conduct and overcome a guilty conscience, but the effort will pay off. Paul wrote: “Or do you not know that unrighteous people will not inherit God’s Kingdom? Do not be misled. Those who are sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who submit to homosexual acts, men who practice homosexuality … will not inherit God’s Kingdom. And yet that is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean; you have been sanctified” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) Those who have sinned in the past by drinking tea should take comfort, because even great sins such as male homosexuality and idolatry may be overcome and washed clean. The same principle is valid for tea drinking. Jehovah and his Son Christ take interest in our spiritual well-being and they will generously provide Holy Spirit to strengthen those genuine disciples who seek to acquire the “new personality”. May we be determined to reject evil, and ‘keep abstaining from’ tea. - Acts 15:29