The Bible does not condone the use of recreational marijuana for believers. As various states legalize marijuana for recreational use, believers must think through this subject.
What is marijuana?
Marijuana is a plant that contains THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). When inhaled (smoked) THC quickly passes into the bloodstream. The blood takes the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body. If consumed (eaten) the THC takes a little longer to make its way to the brain. Either way, a person begins to feel the effects rather quickly.
People report different experiences, but for the most part ingesting marijuana results in altered senses, changes in mood, slowed body movement, slower thinking and problem solving, or a dulled memory. All forms of marijuana are mind altering. To put it bluntly (sorry), marijuana is used to get high.
Is it dangerous or addictive?
One popular concept is that marijuana is not dangerous or addictive. This is a lie. There is ample evidence that when people begin using as teenagers their brain development is affected. A 2014 found around 4.2 million people 12 and older had marijuana abuse or addiction problems. Research is showing that as much as thirty percent of users begin developing “problem use,” with many reporting an inability to stop. Some studies show that 1 in 11 will become addicted. That number drops to 1 in 6 when used during the teenage years. Again, this is especially true the younger a person is when they start using.
None of the above touches on the potential dangers of “gateway” drug usage. For those who will get into heavier drug use, marijuana is often a starting point. That said, most marijuana users have not gone to harder drugs.
Baser Arguments: What does the Bible say about it?
We used to laugh off the “I-have-given-you-every-plant-yielding-seed-for-food” argument (from Genesis 1:29). Nowadays, people are serious when they use it. Here, the marijuana proponent surmises that since God gave us everything to eat we ought to be able to smoke marijuana.
Since it is a seed bearing plant, we can wonder whether God gave it to us for food or not. The honest answer seems to be “no.” It is hard to imagine anyone seriously thinking of marijuana as “food” we consume to give us the nourishment our bodies need. No, people don’t want to eat it to become nourished, but smoke it to become stoned.
We would not expect the Bible to ever mention the word “marijuana.” But the Bible doesn’t have to mention it directly to say something about it. In a great post on the matter, Joe Carter of the Gospel Coalition broke down the concept of analogical reasoning as applied to the Bible. Basically, the concept is this: if subject A has a forbidden characteristic, and subject B shares that characteristic; and the Bible forbids the characteristic found in A, then B is also forbidden.
To state this plainly, since the Bible condemns intoxication with alcohol, we can conclude it condemns intoxication with anything. People might drink a glass of wine for the taste, but no one smokes weed for the flavor. The only purpose is to feel a high, and it comes quickly with marijuana (about 4 puffs). Since the Bible rebukes alcohol intoxication, we rightly conclude it forbids all forms of intoxication.
It is foolish for us to compare the stimulation we get from certain foods like sugar, carbohydrates, protein, or coffee with marijuana. Food obviously alters us - it is designed for that - perhaps strengthening or in a slight way sharpening us. But, if we are honest, this is a long way from intoxication.
Prohibition against intoxication
So, since the Bible speaks out against intoxication, the Christian strives for a sober mindedness. Here are some passages dealing with this:
“…do not get drunk…” (Ephesians 5:18) “…think with sober judgment…” (Romans 12:3) “…keep awake and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6) “…prepare your minds for action, and be sober-minded…” (1 Peter 1:13) “…be self-controlled and sober-minded…” (1 Peter 4:7)
Better Arguments: What else does the Bible say about it?
Your body belongs to God
Up to this point I’ve been dealing with the baser arguments. You may have felt them juvenile, but they merit discussion at least. Still, for the serious believer, there is a stronger and deeper reason to abstain from recreational marijuana consumption. John Piper alludes to this deeper reason in a great article on the subject. The reason is simple: my body and mind belong to God.
I do not belong to myself. I have been bought with a price. He is mine, and I am His. My body is now the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The things I do with my body are done by the church, the body of Christ. I must take care what I join my body to.
This is a major reason Christians reject sex before marriage. Our bodies belong to God. His Spirit is in us. We are to be set apart for Him and His purposes. Our question isn’t: “what can I get away with?” We don’t ask, “What am I allowed to do?” We instead ask, “Is this glorifying to God?”
Part of me that belongs to God is my mind. It must be clean and sober. If I am going to help people, if I am going to serve like Jesus served, I must have a sharp mind. I must be able to think and reason and communicate. I need lucidity. It is my friend. Marijuana does not help me with this.
We aren’t escapists
The desire to put ones self in an altered mind state is not the Christian way. Like Jesus before us, we embrace all God has for us. He would not allow his senses to be dulled when on the cross, rejecting the drink that could’ve taken the edge off (Matthew 27:34). No, He embraced that edge.
There are times medicine is helpful and merciful, but we should not self medicate (or self prescribe) with any substance. Sugar, fats, marijuana…maturity says we don’t cope with life with these elements. No, God has given us His Spirit. He has given us prayer. He has given us His Word. He has given us fellowship with other believers.
I can understand the compulsion to put your mind in another state. I can understand why someone without Christ might want to head in this direction. But this article is for believers. If you have Jesus in your heart you have been set free. There is another way for you.
Life is hard, but our response to that difficulty isn’t to become dulled, less alive. No, this doesn’t actually produce anything. We want, instead, to become more alive. More alive to the realm of the Spirit. More alive to the things of God. When life is hard we don’t seek to become dulled, but sharpened in our fellowship with Christ.
Paul’s desire states it well: “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10). He saw his suffering as a chance to experience a closeness to Christ he hadn’t yet known. This is better than any high.
So, to me, the Bible is very clear about recreational marijuana use. Here is a recap:
- It isn’t a food.
- It leads to a form of intoxication.
- Our bodies (and minds) belong to God.
- We aren’t escapists.