Marijuana use may be socially accepted by many, but it’s illegal in most states and countries. With such varied laws and public opinion, this leads to some confusion between social acceptance and law. How can something so socially accepted still be illegal? Or even more peculiar, why is something illegal so socially accepted? Is there a Christian perspective? Is smoking marijuana against God? Is it anti-Christian? What about for medical use? What does the Bible say?
A Christian perspective on marijuana use may first seem difficult to obtain, as talking about marijuana and Scripture may well be a sort of anachronism. Though the Bible does not expressly forbid the use of marijuana, there was also nothing in the ancient world that can be compared to what marijuana is today – a substance that is consumed individually but with large sociopolitical implications.
“Nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him unclean,” said Jesus. (Mk. 7:18). “What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. For from within, out of men’s hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly” (Mk. 7:20-22). Marijuana (the cannabis plant) is not good or bad in itself, but many Christians see the consequences of its consumption as being where the issue lies.
From the perspective of consumption, marijuana, a relatively mild narcotic, is mostly used for recreational purposes. There are several medical reports about the relative inoffensiveness of the drug compared to other substances or alcohol, and there are even proven benefits in its medical use. But, per one perspective, marijuana is not without damage to an individual’s health and especially to his or her social life. The reasoning is that all Christians are ultimately called to be a part of the body of Christ (the community of believers) in some way. One of the implications of Paul’s discussion on sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6, is that when one person makes him or herself impure by fornication, it affects the purity of the entire body, since they are joined as one by the Spirit. In this way, it’s argued that the social consequences of one person’s lack of sobriety can have a larger effect on the community of Christ as a whole. Many see marijuana (as well as some other substances) causing harm to the body of Christ in this way. In addition many view marijuana as resulting in a strong lack of motivation which, in the long run, can affect family, school, work and children. Concerning casual or recreational usage, there is clear medical evidence that marijuana usage impairs, at least temporarily, cognitive function. And 1 Peter 5:8 charges Christians to “Be sober; be on alert.” [LEB]
Supporting the Drug Trade & The Legality of It All
Since not all states or countries can legally grow marijuana, the consumption of marijuana often has other implications, basically supporting a system that is profoundly detrimental: the international drug trade and the traffickers that bring violence and fear to people in producing and transit countries and in countless neighborhoods. It could be argued that every time someone lights up a marijuana cigarette, they are empowering a criminal organization. Some may say this is an argument in favor of legalizing marijuana on a national scale. They say that if marijuana were legal, the demand would decrease as people begin to farm it or sell or trade it. How often is there news of organized cartels or violence centered on tobacco farming? But there’s more to it than that. You could say alcohol is legal and it still causes health concerns, affects motivation and has socioeconomic implications if over consumed. To understand the correct perspective about marijuana or any other habit, it’s important to look at the consequences and not just the substance itself – understanding that there are other issues that need to be considered.
REASONS FOR USAGE
A Retreat From My Problems
Some believe the question shouldn’t be is smoking marijuana against God, but rather, why is someone smoking marijuana in the first place? In other words, what led that person to turn to marijuana? Is it to help relax, ease stress, or find relief from an emotional issue they are going through? Does it help or hinder the well-being of that person in the long term? If marijuana is used as a way to avoid a problem or issue, rather than deal with it – this could be hurting the person, instead of helping. God wants us to go to him with our emotional problems or painful past, rather than mask them or avoid them entirely. God can especially work through the body of Christ (other Christians in a church community) to bring healing, freedom and understanding in such areas. In a church community the individual facing the problem doesn’t have to go-it-alone, but can come together with other believers, who through Christ, become a supportive team. This team strives for growth and change, to live a life like Jesus modeled. Some argue that the use of marijuana encourages the avoidance of personal issues and does not help the individual, even if they think it’s helping in the short term. Those that feel this way, desire for the overall betterment of the person, and not just a temporary solution.
Medical Marijuana To Ease The Pain
While there is a federal law prohibiting marijuana usage in the United States, there are a number of states that have repealed their own state law in order that marijuana may be used as a medical product for those who are terminally ill. Though many in the scientific community have praised the effects of medical marijuana for pain relief, some wonder whether the use of medical marijuana is a supplement for a reliance of God. They ask what about prayer for medical use or prayer as a pain reliever? Do we discount God’s power to heal or to change our lives? We cannot assume that God won’t heal, but there isn’t a guarantee He will either. It’s a delicate balance of faith and practicality. Most believe that God has provided many amazing cures through medical science and created beneficial plants and herbs that provide remedies for our bodies. And it would be unwise to dismiss these. The argument is not likened to encouraging people to pray for safety rather than use a seat belt, rather it’s more about how we can abuse the blessing or not think of God at all in the process. Do we pray for a headache to go away? Do we evaluate what might be causing it (such a dehydration)? Or do we simply take an aspirin? We need to pray and use what medical options God has made available to us. But since much marijuana use is recreational, those that use it for recreational purposes can’t claim it as a justifiable pain reliever or physical remedy unless they have a prescription for it. Especially for terminal illness, marijuana use may be a legitimate medicinal option for those who reside in states where the plant is legal.
It’s Natural – So It’s God Approved?
Some have even argued that since marijuana is an herb then that makes using it permissible and endorsed by God as long as we don’t abuse it. (Genesis 2:5). The argument is that if God created it then it must be good. The scriptures used to support this argument are Gen 1:11 and Gen 1:29. The first scripture is the charge by God for the earth to produce “seed-bearing” plants. The second scripture is the statement by God that He has “given [humankind] every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth…” [LEB] But most say that the “God created it” stance is not a good enough argument to endorse use of marijuana. God also created poison ivy but it does not mean we should rub it all over our bodies.
CONSCIENCE & BREAKING THE LAW
One of the scriptures against the use of marijuana, is Paul’s instruction in Romans 13:1-5 to “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” As a Christian this would exclude using marijuana in the United States of America since there is a federal law prohibiting its use.
If we as Christians didn’t necessarily find it wrong, holding ourselves accountable to the law and being above reproach should be plenty enough of a reason to hold to a higher standard as “lights of the world” (Ephesians 5:8). Whether or not marijuana in itself is against God is debatable, but as a substance that is against the law, we are still subject to the law. It’s important as Christians to be consistent in our honoring of authority. After all, speeding, burning copyrighted music and under-age drinking are all against the law as well. In addition, marijuana, as with other substances, has the potential to lead to acts certainly considered against God (Ephesians 5:11).
SELF CONTROL: BEING IN YOUR RIGHT MIND
Paul the apostle wrote: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). Although Paul surely never heard of marijuana, he knew about the effects of wine, another “stimulant” that was used in the Mediterranean world for strengthening bonds, but also with a recreational and escapist purpose, something that had the capacity to disrupt social life, just as it does today. Wine, of course, is not bad in itself and surely Paul could not condemn it —it was, after all, a symbol of the presence of Christ, but in his letter to the Ephesians, he was warning about excessive indulgence and moral relaxation that happens when one crosses a certain line. Wine, in one word, is blessed; drunkards are not.
It seems fairly clear in the Scriptures as a whole that drunkenness goes hand in hand with sin. And while the Bible does not address marijuana specifically, it can probably be noted that it produces a certain kind of intoxication that could be understood as similar to drunkenness in the biblical sense. Indeed, anything that produces a change in our mental function which causes us not to see clearly seems to be biblically suspect. The only caveat here is that in the Psalms, David speaks of “wine that gladdens the heart of man…” [Ps 104:15] In addition, there are numerous scriptures with the theme of wine as bringing joy or gladness: cf Ps. 4:7; Ecc 9:7; Zech 10:7.
While it may be the case that consuming wine in the biblical sense can be an occasion for joy, such as during weddings and feasts, the idea of losing control is usually never understood as the right thing. Some say that marijuana is more or less the equivalent of wine for the ancient world: something that is good with moderation, a symbol of blessing, but bad in excess. Others say it depends on the level of intoxication you receive from the substance. Does a glass of wine or a joint of marijuana produce equivalent highs? Some would argue that the consequent “drunkenness” attained by these levels of consumption (a glass or a joint) are very different in practice. Others say that to identify when “drunkenness” occurs from moderate intake is so particular to each individual person, it’s nearly impossible to nail down numerically what a limit might be (as in more than two glasses of wine equals drunkenness, etc.).
Spiritually speaking, marijuana can open doorways and allow opportunities for spiritual attack (Ephesians 6:12). When we put our minds in a trance-like state, we are not in control. Instead of dizzying our minds, rather it would be better to renew our minds in Christ as it says in Romans 12: 1-2. Apostle Paul writes to the believers in Christ: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (ESV) As people of God, when we stray outside of the will of God into ungodly chatter, matters, and musters, we open ourselves up to Satan’s charms. Some believe that engaging in the smoking of marijuana and even cigarettes can pull us away from God; we should rather strive to be involved in things that edify. Bringing God into focus rather than out of focus.
BEING A GOOD WITNESS
Romans 14:19-21 (AMP) says, “So let us then definitely aim for and eagerly pursue what makes for harmony and for mutual up-building (edification and development) of one another. You must not, for the sake of food, undo and break down and destroy the work of God! Everything is indeed [ceremonially] clean and pure, but it is wrong for anyone to hurt the conscience of others or to make them fall by what he eats. The right thing is to eat no meat or drink no wine [at all], or [do anything else] if it makes your brother stumble or hurts his conscience or offends or weakens him.”
Some argue that to them it’s not even about personal effects of smoking marijuana, but that one should abstain from smoking when it makes others uncomfortable. Current culture has been conditioned that marijuana use is forbidden by Christians, whether or not this is true (apart from legally), the argument still stands that smoking marijuana goes against the conscience of many believers and non-believers alike. Does smoking marijuana offend your family or your friends? Does the habit cause others to question whether or not you are a follower of Christ? Similarly for alcohol, there are some cultures where drinking represents a sinful lifestyle. Whether this is the case or not is a moot point, the perspective is still valid for those who hold it. This would seem to make the argument that drinking a glass of wine with dinner or smoking marijuana from time to time should be done in the privacy of one’s own home – not to pressure others to conform to the habit; make anyone uncomfortable by using it; cause others to stumble because they disagree with it or consider it something to avoid.
But then one may ask, is smoking marijuana even helpful to our life as a Christ-follower at all? Does it promote better health? Does it bring us closer to God? In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul talks about how as a follower of Christ “all things are permissible for him but not all things are helpful.” What help are we being as living examples of Christ in our world by smoking marijuana? Is smoking marijuana a necessary part of being an example of Christ to those that don’t know him? Or has smoking become a habit to partake in (as are other things), regardless of whether it’s a productive or glorifying use of our time? Has it become an idol (priority above God) in life? In Exodus 34:17, the Lord says, “Do not make any idols.”
In the end, we should not judge one another on whether we agree or disagree on the topic, as it says in Luke 6:37, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” The text of the Bible provides many reasons to be cautious of marijuana but also no definitive do or don’t (besides when it is illegal), and no single argument is conclusive on its own. Such unclear and complex issues always need to be worked out in faith communities, with the larger church’s historic traditions and doctrines serving as conversation partners and guides. As with all psychoactive substances, there are many questions to ask, whether about legality, health, medicinal purposes, or honoring God, and even more consequences to consider. It’s clearly an issue that needs continued dialogue with other believers.