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Should Christians Smoke Pot or Not?

Mark Driscoll on Washington State's move to legalize marijuana and what it means for Christians.

Today, my home state of Washington legalizes the recreational use of marijuana. This decision, of course, leads to a host of pastoral questions and issues.

I have been asked these questions for years, as Mars Hill Church has always reached out to a high (pun intended) percentage of single young guys living typical, irresponsible urban lives. These guys are generally not very theological, but curiously they tend to know at least two Bible verses:

“Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth.’” (Genesis 1:29, NIV)

“Thou shall not judge.” (Luke 6:37, otherwise known as the catch-all, in-case-of-guilty-emergency-break-glass verse, paraphrased)

Over the years, my default answer has been Romans 13:1–7, which basically says that believers must submit to the laws of government as long as there is no conflict with the higher laws of God in Scripture. This was a simple way to say “no” to recreational pot smoking.

Now that recreational marijuana use is no longer illegal (according to my state laws, at least), the guiding question is now twofold.

But now that recreational marijuana use is no longer illegal (according to my state laws, at least), the guiding question is now twofold:

Is using marijuana sinful, or is it wise?

Some things are neither illegal (forbidden by government in laws) nor sinful (forbidden by God in Scripture), but they are unwise. For example, eating a cereal box instead of the food it contains is not illegal or sinful—it’s just foolish. This explains why the Bible speaks not only of sin, but also of folly, particularly in places such as the book of Proverbs. There are innumerable things that won’t get you arrested or brought under church discipline, but they are just foolish and unwise—the kinds of things people often refer to by saying, “That’s just stupid.”

Full Disclosure

I have smoked pot as many times as I have been pregnant. I grew up next to the Sea-Tac airport before the area was incorporated as a city. Practically, this meant there was no local law enforcement. Drug deals took place openly and frequently on Pacific Highway South, which was also legendary for brazen prostitution. I grew up in a home where my then-Catholic parents warned my four siblings and me about drug use. I had many friends who ranged from recreational drug users to addicts. I saw drugs used in front of me numerous times. I even buried one friend who overdosed as a teen. However, by God’s grace, I have never touched any drug of any kind, including marijuana. I have never even taken a puff of a cigarette, though I did try one Cuban cigar over a decade ago while in the Bahamas. That’s the sum total of my entire life’s smoking experience.

Simply put, my view of recreational marijuana use is not motivated by guilt from my past or present, nor do I have any desire to partake in the future. I have never smoked weed, I will never smoke weed, and I will strongly urge our five children to never smoke weed. As a pastor, I would never encourage anyone to smoke weed recreationally. (Medicinal use is another matter, which we’ll deal with later in this article.)

Pot as Self-Medication

As a pastor, I would never encourage anyone to smoke weed recreationally.

Frankly, I think that our entire Western culture is addicted to self-medication with food, alcohol, pot and other drugs, sex, prescriptions, etc. My doctor is a naturopath, and I am one who prefers to avoid prescriptions for anything, except as a last resort.

Furthermore, as a pastor I have noticed that people tend to stop maturing when they start self-medicating. Everyone has very tough seasons in life, but by persevering through them we have an opportunity to mature and grow as people. Those who self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol (as well as other things) often thwart maturity as they escape the tough seasons of life rather than face them. This explains why some people can be biologically much older than they are emotionally and spiritually.

Childish Ways

Practically, what also concerns me is the fact that young men are the most likely to smoke weed and, by seemingly all measurable variables, are immature, irresponsible and getting worse.

Young men are less likely than their female peers to attend college, work a job or attend church. For the first time in America’s history, the majority of births to women under the age of 30 are now out of wedlock—meaning the majority of those kids have no experience of their father ever being married to their mother.

Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:11 are timely: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” There is nothing wrong with being a boy, so long as you are a boy. But when a man acts like a boy, that's a real problem. A recent article even noted that young men are now less likely than ever to own a car, as taking public transportation allows them to use their smartphone more hours every day playing video games and downloading porn. The last thing these guys need is to get high, be less motivated and less productive; instead, they need to “act like men, [and] be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).

The last thing these guys need is to get high, be less motivated and less productive.

Other Considerations

Also, many will attempt to treat marijuana usage as analogous to alcohol. But while the Bible does speak of alcohol, it never mentions marijuana, which means the issue requires a great deal of consideration before arriving at a thoughtful Christian position.

All that said, I hope this helps Christians think through the matter of marijuana in an informed way. It is by no means meant to serve as a definitive word on the subject, nor are these thoughts meant to be comprehensive, or even unchangeable. I have a lot to learn and consider on these issues, and along with many fellow Christian leaders am seeking to develop thoughtful and helpful answers to these questions. I want to thank in advance those who will contribute to the conversation so that we can all become more informed and better counselors by God’s grace, for God’s glory, and for the good of God’s people.

Originally posted at The Resurgence, as excerpted from Mark Driscoll’s free ebook Puff or Pass: Should Christians Smoke Pot or Not?

Top Comments

Christal Butler

1

Christal Butler commented…

I wonder about this at times. If I'm not sinning while doing it, then is it a sin to do it? Is it really sorcery if I'm not meditating on sinful things or casting spells? What does it mean to cast a spell? What does it mean to be a sorcerer? Jesus turned water into wine at a party (people tend to drink more than one glass of wine at parties), which leads me to believe that there is a time and place for nearly everything.

Jesus created this plant so why can't I eat it? If God approves of us eating this plant then doesn't His approval supersede man's disapproval?

I feel like I don't know the answers and I've been on the fence about this one. I wish I could accept the truth, whatever that may be.

Jason

55

Jason commented…

Part of the Fruit of the Spirit of God is a sound mind (Gal. 5/ 2 Tim 1). Any substance that is going to alters the state of our minds is going to inhibit the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. If you take this into consideration, then it is just a matter of submission to the Spirit or submission to the flesh. Again, this includes "any substance" that can effect our Spirit given sound minds. This is also why drunkenness is so harshly rebuked throughout scripture.

86 Comments

S Wesley Mcgranor

3

S Wesley Mcgranor commented…

It is an intoxicant--plain and simple. Boredom and a lack of 'social skills' may lead to its use. Escapism is a factor; with, or without the spirit of Christ. How many want to participate in reality sober? The postmodern society suggests that nearly not any do.

Brett Satkowiak

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Brett Satkowiak commented…

This is a very interesting question, and I applaud Mark for taking it up.

However, the response, like most of what Mark Driscoll writes and believes, is clunky and reveals the incredibly pietistic nature of his theology. It stems from a view of the Christian based on what one DOES instead of what one BELIEVES.

His challenge against the cultural practice of avoidance and self-medication/escapism is well-founded, though. The Bible frequently explains that the life of the Christian is not absent of pain and suffering (Matthew 16:24 "Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."). And our culture continues to develop method after method of avoiding it. Either we don't want to talk about it, don't want to think about it, or we become obsessed with the idea of transforming society with a mind of eliminating it. The caricature he uses and the basis of argumentation operate pretty heavy-handed with Scripture and deny the vast spectrum in which this phenomenon plays out in American culture. That doesn't make his point wrong ... just clumsily (and irresponsibly?) argued.

The question of sinfulness is fair to ask, but not so easy to answer. The criticism raised by individuals here that condemnation of the practice runs the danger of being controlled more by cultural views and stereotypes than Biblical teaching is well-founded. So much of American Christian teaching has been wrapped up in the goals of the state and it's teaching, and this presents a golden opportunity to continue that practice by seeking to connect America's War on Drugs with God's command. As such, we must be careful.

However, it's also fair to ask the question about what God's Word says about such practices. There are certainly various ways that I think one could approach it. Driscoll's approach, lumping it with America's desire to self-medicate and avoid suffering, is fair and Scripture certainly has much to say in that regard.

The drunkenness argument has also been brought up and certainly warrants comparison. If one can abuse alcohol, how might one abuse marijuana? Or to pose it the other way, how might one use it responsibly?

Another way of looking at it might come from Paul's discussion Romans 13 regarding how one's actions might influence others. In verse 14, he writes, "I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself." As such, we should regard marijuana in a similar light. As part of the freedom from the law that we have received in Christ, we are confident that such practices, in and of themselves, do nothing to jeopardize our standing with God (this doesn't mean that motivations connected to it may not, but the practice by itself does not).

However, as Christians, Paul has given us another means for scrutiny. Even as he is convinced that nothing is unclean, he contends that "it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean." So the Christian who seeks to do such things no longer has only himself to consider, but those around him and what they might think about faith and God because of his actions.

Paul continues in verse 15, "For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died." With the changing of civil laws, the Christian may be freed to engage in recreational marijuana use, even as an exercise of his Christian freedom. However, if such a practice, which is in NO way essential for a saving faith and sound understanding of God's grace for sinners, makes it difficult for others FOR WHOM CHRIST DIED to come to faith ... then the motivation of love toward the brother should trump the desire to use it. And if a Christian is unwilling to concede to this reality about our calling (in other words, desiring marijuana over and against the faith of a fellow in Christ), then there may very well be other reasons to consider abstaining from the practice.

Catherine

1

Catherine commented…

Whether or not our choices are legal, we should, as the article discusses, focus on their morality, considering the impacts of the demand we are creating.

My food isn't always environmentally responsible and many of the goods I consume are products of sweatshop labor. I'm trying to be a more conscientious consumer and the first step towards that is recognizing where our demand is negatively effecting others. The second is a willingness to go without.

Most of us are aware of the incredible violence in our southern neighbor but fail to connect the Mexican Drug Wars and gang violence to Americans' demand for drugs.

Krempel

14,046

Krempel replied to Catherine's comment

buy local and/or from verifiably responsible producers

Brett Fox

2

Brett Fox commented…

First, although it is widely recognized that Romans 13 talks about politics and that we, as Christians, should submit to our government, there is also a group (Douglas Campbell, me, etc) that believe that Paul was using sarcasm while showing "support" for the Roman government as a way to hide the fact that Christian's and their beliefs actually supplant the authority of Caesar and the Roman gods. Its like subliminal messaging.

Second, I would have a appreciated a citation to the "recent article" that says them young boys (men) are choosing to not buy cars so that they can spend their time riding public transportation so they have more time to play video game and download porn. For one, I highly doubt that these young men are downloading porn onto their phones on public transportation. I also am skeptical that young men are choosing public transportation over having a car, unless of course they come from impoverished neighborhoods and are minorities.

This article and its issues are highly racial issues and those issues are masked by his talk about boys and men. Substance use is not simply a choice between right and wrong. There is a culture that does advocate for people to use substances for enjoyment and to escape life's problems, but unfortunately some people are left to deal with real addiction, which is a treatable medical condition, not a sin.

I hadn't planned on it, but it also comes to mind because of his reference to 1st Corinthians about Paul growing from childish ways and becoming a "man." I don't think Paul ould necessarily equate his "manhood" with his being a good Christian because when Paul was an adult man, he was still persecuting Christians.

Of course, all of my points are remiss if we are reading the bible the the lens that Driscoll does which requires a literal, sola scriptura reading, that raises scripture to the status of idol.

DM Wenceslao

1

DM Wenceslao commented…

So much written, when we know in our hearts what is right. We belong to christ, we are not our own anymore. Every decision i make in life must be guided by at least these three questions: will i glorify God, will i know Christ better, will i become like Christ. Christ modeled above all else obedience to the father, he wanted his will to match the father. Are we doing the same, glorifying and exalting Christ? Recreational use of marijuana is all about the "me" and we know it. The topic needs no discussion, we are not moving closer to Christ being recreationally high, drunk or stoned.

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