Can Christians Use Marijuana?
Bob Dylan said it better than anyone in our modern culture, “The times they are a changin’…” This is true across every aspect of our daily lives. Sometimes this change is good and helpful, just look at how far racial equality has come over the last 50-60 years (and there’s a lot further to go). Sometimes this change is extremely unhelpful and even sinful. In this changing culture, one needs to constantly be thinking through their stances on issues. Christians especially must think through these changing issues and always ask what God’s Word states about a certain subject rather than simply relying on tradition. That’s just not good enough for many younger believers who are earnestly trying to understand God’s stance on various issues. These dogmatic Christians risk losing younger believers on certain issues either because they do not want to come up with a valid Biblical argument or they are afraid they won’t be able to do so.
One of these changing stances on culture has been the use of marijuana. For decades it was looked down on by society, even leading to many being imprisoned over its use and sale, but over the last 10-20 years this too has changed. Soon the majority position will be accepting of its limited use. Laws are bing passed daily toward its total legalization. How are Christians supposed to react to this change? How should Christians view marijuana use?
IS MARIJUANA IN THE BIBLE?
No. Frankly, it’s not. There are some who would run to passages like Ezekiel 47:12 or Revelation 22:2 which describe a plant with healing properties in its leaves. Yet, both of these passages are figurative in nature. Another argument that is often quoted by proponents of marijuana use is an improper understanding of Genesis 1:29 which reads, “And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” There are many problems with this, but I’ll just say that the garden was good and that no one eats marijuana for nourishment. That is not the purpose people digest this drug. To argue otherwise is simply dishonest.
ARE THERE SIMILAR THINGS DESCRIBED IN THE BIBLE?
The closest that we come to describing the use of marijuana in God’s Word is found in God’s view of alcohol. Ephesians 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…” We see from this passage, along with numerous others, that drunkenness is a sin. Yet, this passage also shows us why it is sinful. It’s not a sin to be drink because of simple traditionalism or because God hates fermented grapes/hops, no being drunk is sinful because Christians are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Alcohol controls the drunken man, not the Holy Spirit. When you are drunk you cannot yield yourself to the Spirit, because you have already yielded yourself to alcohol. The Christian cannot fulfill his duty of being Spirit led while he is controlled by any substance, including alcohol.
ARE ALCOHOL AND MARIJUANA THE SAME?
Not exactly. Alcohol robs the user of decision making abilities, while marijuana soothes the user into a fog. Yet, alcohol’s effect grows at a gradual pace, while marijuana works much faster. A small amount of alcohol might not have any effect on the one drinking, while even a small amount of THC puts the user into a foggy state. While marijuana might not distort reality as vividly as alcohol, hallucinogens, or other drugs, it does alter the user’s mind.
WHY DO PEOPLE USE MARIJUANA?
Unlike alcohol, people do not keep coming back to marijuana for the taste. They use marijuana for two reasons. 1. To escape their current troubles. 2. It feels good. The only reasons people use marijuana is to get high. They want to flee from their current situations, hurts, and concerns. They just want a break from reality. They want to be rid of those struggles and enjoy something. They want to feel good. They want to numb their cognitive abilities get away from reality. While the world might say there’s no shame in that, the Christian should know better.
The Christian is not to escape reality. That does not fit with what Jesus did and taught. Jesus told us that we would face struggles and even persecution, but he never says “Run!” Rather, He says to face these circumstances with boldness, because He has overcome the world. James tells us that we should rejoices over these circumstances because God will use them to build steadfastness in us and glorify Himself. If anyone was in need of escaping their current troubles and getting high, it would have been Paul. And he rejoices that he can share in the sufferings of Christ. The Christian is not to run from these situations, chasing after a substance that can ease the pain. Rather, the Christian is to run to Christ for nourishment, healing, and strength. Christ should satisfy the Christian, not marijuana. Using marijuana to alter one’s mental state in order to escape reality and feel artificially better is a form of idolatry, robbing Christ of glory and the user of steadfastness.
The key verse for this issue resides in I Thessalonians 5:6-8. Paul writes, “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” The word sober is not referring to the state of substances in the body, but to the attitude of being aware or alert. Christians must be spiritually alert to what’s happening around them, this is impossible and antithetical to getting high on marijuana. Recreational use of marijuana is not a grey issue, it’s sinful and directly opposed to the teachings of the New Testament.
WHAT ABOUT MEDICINAL MARIJUANA?
This is a completely different issue, unlike recreational marijuana this is truly a grey issue. Medicinal marijuana does not necessarily have the goal of altering the cognitive abilities of the mind, but numbing certain pain receptors in the brain. There are many different strands of THC and some have been made to do the specific and singular job of relieving pain immensely. Just as Tylenol is not sinful, medicinal marijuana that does not alter your cognitive abilities can be righteous, if the Christian can do so with a clean conscience as described in Romans 14. They must be able to honestly answer these questions for themselves in their own heart.
1.) Can I use medicinal marijuana to the glory of God?
2.) Will the use of medicinal marijuana cause brothers and sisters to violate their conscience?
3.) Am I fully convinced of my medical marijuana use?
4.) Will my use of medicinal marijuana hurt my testimony?