Two nights a week I teach Adult Basic Education at our local prison…I mean “correctional institution.” Naturally, many of the people who find their way into prison have had some experience with drugs, and sadly, many are hoping to have more experience with drugs after they leave. So, last night somehow the topic of marijuana (weed, smoke, bud, pot, Mary Jane, etc.) was brought up in our discussion of World War Two (Please don’t ask me how. They can turn the conversation to weed if you’re talking about Mother Teresa). Of course, these guys know that I am a pastor and a Christian so comments were made about how the Bible doesn’t tell us we can’t smoke dope and so on. Then, as I’m riding home Al Mohler brings up the topic of marijuana in yesterday’s (2/1/2018) episode of the “The Briefing.” His point was that marijuana usage is up in America but in other forms besides smoking it, and how more and more states are trying to jump on the legalization bandwagon to capitalize on the economic boom of weed. Oftentimes the argument is that if it is legal then it can at least be taxed and you eliminate a huge percentage of crimes that are related to possession and selling of weed.
All of this got me to thinking about the proper position on marijuana as a Christian because, let’s face it, this issue is only going to grow in the public eye as more states push for legalization. So, how does a Christian understand this issue of using marijuana? First let me outline some of the arguments that I have heard in favor of it.
Arguments in favor or marijuana.
Note: I went to Western Carolina University in the mountains of North Carolina. I worked with numerous “pot-heads.” I’ve heard these arguments.
1. “There are no negative effects on a person health like with tobacco.” I’m not going to argue against this because I’m no scientist and it may be absolutely true. To be sure, the negative effects of tobacco are well-known. Thus, some would argue that weed is a much healthier alternative to tobacco. As you will see in my argument, this is irrelevant from a Christian point of view.
2. “It can help people who have serious health problems and diseases.” Again, I know there is research out there that commends marijuana use to those with certain medical issues. I have friends who honestly feel that if their parents would have had access to legal marijuana during the dark and painful days when they were dying of cancer it would have helped. I can’t speak to the medical side of this issue, but, again, I think it is not the main concern from a Christian perspective.
3. “Legalizing marijuana would eliminate an entire class of criminals.” Indeed, our prisons and county jails are packed with people whose offense is related to the possession and trafficking of marijuana. Legalizing it would certainly ease a major burden on our justice system and law enforcement system. The problem is, making something legal does not automatically make it right. Abortion is a prime example of this principle. It may be legal, but that does not make it morally acceptable.
4. “If it was legal we could tax it.” I think this may get at the heart of why legislators are in favor of legalizing marijuana. The same basic argument is made about gambling and the lottery. If money is our driving motivation we’re lost already. Remember 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
5. “God made it so it must be okay for us to use.” Do I really need to explain how broken this argument is? First of all, there are all kinds of harmful plants in this world that, if following this logic, God must have made and are okay for us to use. “Hey, God made poison ivy, let’s go roll around in it.” God made the Caribbean Death Apple tree too, and let me tell you, if you smoke it you will immediately regret it. What about belladonna and hemlock? The logic just doesn’t work. The problem is, the goodness of marijuana as part of creation is unverifiable this side of eternity. If people are willing to concede that God made marijuana then they need to also be aware of the curse that has been placed on Creation as a result of the Fall at which point some very unpleasant things sprung up in Creation. It could very well be that, at least the hallucinogenic effects of marijuana, are a negative result of the curse.
6. “The Bible doesn’t tell us not to use marijuana.” True enough. It also doesn’t tell us not to jump into the highway in front of an oncoming semi. What the Bible doesn’t offer us in direct commandments it does give us in principles that we are to apply to our context. This will be the heart of my perspective on this issue.
A Christian perspective on marijuana use.
There are two basic lines of argument that I think are necessary in forming a Christian perspective on marijuana. Both come from the Bible.
1. If something is illegal (civil law) then, unless it contradicts a clear teaching of scripture, we are to obey that law. Paul makes this clear in Romans 13;
“Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is not authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves (Romans 13:1-2).”
We are obligated, under the sovereignty of God and His supreme authority, to obey the governing authorities over us. If the law of the land is that marijuana is illegal then we should submit to that law because it does not violate a clear principle of Scripture.
That being said, we must be careful because we are not to obey laws that are contrary to God’s revealed will. A powerful biblical example is found in the book of Exodus. The Hebrew midwives were commanded by Pharaoh to abort Hebrew male children as they were being born. The Bible says, “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt had told them (Exodus 1:17).” Civil disobedience is the right thing when the civil law violates God’s Word. There is no commandment in the Bible to use marijuana, and no clear principle that we should. Therefore, we must obey the law of the land which says, at least in most states, not to.
2. We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit, not be drunk and reckless. Ephesians 5:18 says,
“Don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit.”
A discussion about alcohol is going to have to wait for another day, but the point of this principle can be applied to weed as well. The instruction here is not to be “drunk.” The Greek word is “methusko” which means exactly what we think of when we think of someone who drinks too much. We also know what happens when you drink too much – intoxication. No matter where you stand on the debate over a Christian using alcohol, even in moderation, there is no doubt that drunkenness is bad. It is universally condemned in the Bible (consider what happened to Noah after the Flood). Follow me closely here. There is no way to avoid intoxication when using marijuana. In fact, getting “high” (intoxicated) is the entire point of weed taken in any form. Therefore, I would submit that the spirit (principle) of the commandment in Ephesians 5:18 can be applied to marijuana very easily.
The heart of this is obviously that we don’t need to live recklessly. The negative effects of drunkenness are all too evident, mostly to the people around the drunk person. Instead, we should be filled by, and finding our fulfillment in, the Holy Spirit. Our minds need to be devoted to, and transformed by, the Lord, not a substance. I would be so bold as to suggest that the more we are filled with the Holy Spirit, the less and less we desire to be controlled by any substance. The more we are filled with the Spirit, the less we desire to be drunk, the less we desire to be high, the less we desire the buzz of tobacco even. When we are filled with the Spirit God’s desires become our desires (see Psalm 37:4).
Before I wrap this up let me offer this one note of caution. I don’t want to seem uncaring towards those who have a different point of view, especially those who have a genuine conviction that marijuana use could actually help people who are suffering. That is where this discussion must be had with compassion. However, my only question would be, are there other alternatives to marijuana?
As Christians I believe we have responsibility to understand the times through a Biblical worldview. One of the issues we are facing, and will face to an ever greater degree, is that of the legalization and use of marijuana. We must be able to articulate a biblical perspective on this issue. Whether it is legal or not, we are called to a higher standard by God which does not include submitting our minds to the effects of a substance, no matter how popular, helpful, or legal it may be.