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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

Danielle Hewitt

2

Danielle Hewitt commented…

Interesting article, and I think I have a valuable personal opinion on the matter that I'd like to share.

I smoked weed for the first time when I was 13, and I thought it was great. I continued smoking weed, just about every single day (with some exceptions during pregnancy) until relatively recently. I think the two Bible verses about seed-bearing plants and judging others are funny because those are the same two verses I would have relied on if someone was going to tell me my actions were unsavory.

Fact is, at some point in my life, it stopped being a recreational thing and became a dependency. California's legalized medical use (which is REALLY easy to get, btw) only enabled me further. Eventually, I became a full-blown addict. [yes, you can be addicted to weed, contrary to what most stoners will tell you]

Then some months back I got tired of being stuck in my life. I could NOT make progress no matter how hard I tried. I simply could not improve my relationships, finances, or personal growth any longer. I was at a dead stop. I eventually got sick of it and started asking God for help every single day through prayer. I would be praying and praying and praying, and would hear a little voice "You have to quit smoking weed Danielle" and I would be like "SHUT UP! Can't you see I'm talking to God? geez..." and go back to my prayers. Same voice, same sentence, same reaction - day in and day out - for weeks and weeks.

Then one day I realized that little voice WAS God. It was the answer to my "what else can I do? wah wah wah...why can't I get out of this rut? wah wah wah...I am so tired of living this life...wah wah wah..." QUIT SMOKING WEED, DANIELLE! And oh man...when I realized that voice was God answering all my redundant questions, I threw a childish fit. I started crying, trying to rationalize my choices, fighting tooth and nail about how absolutely valid and respectable my daily weed-smoking was. I threw this stupid tantrum for a good couple hours, but finally I gave in. So I did not smoke weed that day. And I did not smoke weed the next day, and I have not smoked weed since.

On my second day of not getting stoned, the 'likes' on my Facebook business page more than doubled, and my reach extended by 2000-and-something percent. I was floored.

And then, as if dominoes in my life were set-up just waiting for that initially tip, everything began transforming. I actually connected with my husband, rather than just passing a pipe back and forth. I got baptized as an adult. The lead pastor at church re-tweeted my blog entry and I got more traffic than I'd ever seen on there in the two years it had existed. My mom suddenly wanted to hangout with me again. My dad paid off my school payment plan. People started calling back about the part-time job applications I was submitting. My money stayed in my wallet. My friends and colleagues began declaring this respect and admiration that I'd never heard from them before. And perhaps the greatest thing of all is that my heart changed. My priorities shifted and my daily activities became centered on God and my relationship with Jesus. THINGS CHANGED...for the first time in freaking YEARS, things finally began to change.

And they're still changing, still getting better. I don't wake-up thinking about how much pot I have left or when I need to go to the clinic again. I spend my time studying the Bible and working to finish school, watching my kids play, making love to my husband, planning my future.

This one simple change, the one thing the little voice was telling me to do, changed everything. It transformed every aspect of my life. And it taught me something about Jesus-followers smoking weed...

Jesus endured more stress in his last days on Earth than I have ever dealt with or likely ever will deal with, but he did not smoke weed in order to get through it. He prayed, he cried, he called out to the Father, but he did not rely on a substance, earthly or natural as it may have been, to face his fate. And if my aim is to be as Christ-like as I can be, then I too must choose the faithful way of facing problems. Whether the problem is stress, frustration, sadness, or even boredom...to be like Jesus (which I think is the greatest aim of any Follower) we have to choose like Jesus would choose; not as faulty, sinful humans so often do.

Isn't is written that what you ask for IN FAITH will be given. Not what you ask for in a cloud of smoke, not what you ask for over a glass of wine, not what you ask for while telling your 'little voice' to shut up...but what you ask for IN FAITH will be given.

Choosing to release the use of weed and replace that dependency with faith in my God transformed me. And so I have determined that simply put: No, Christians should not smoke weed. Recreationally for sure. Medicinally is another topic, and one that I will not involve myself with because my feigned "anxiety" was not a medical need. So I cannot speak for a cancer patient or someone who may be truly helped by the practice. But a follower of Christ can choose better than that, can use their money better than that, and can engage with the beauty of all creation better than that.

Esther Aspling

635

Esther Aspling commented…

This is totally out there for me, but here goes. I suffer from a pain disorder. I take pain medication daily, but because I have ER type reactions to most pain medication I am left taking the not as effective versions. If pot were legalized in my state for medical use, I would SERIOUSLY consider using it as a pain medication in pill form. The lack of side effects alone would make it a million times better than the ones I'm on, and there is really no difference mentally. As it is I only take 1 certain one at night because I get loopy and can't drive while on it. I may as well exchange that one for something less harmful to my body.
Rant over. Don't judge. Please.
Can't believe I just said that out loud, but I did.

88 Comments

Lauren B

2

Lauren B commented…

To the above comment:

I think what Paul says in 1 Corinthians can really speak to what you are saying. "All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything." Because Jesus died on the cross for our sins we are no longer enslaved by it. God does not want us to still act like slaves...we've been set free. An addiction to a self-medicating drug is taking the place of something God can do in your life. In 1 Corinthians 8 he says "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak." Yes, pot is now legal, which means you are no longer defying Romans 13, but what about those you are called to bring to Christ? Having an idol in your life that you daily bow to is not a picture of the gospel to those people. The hope in this is that "no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." Good luck with your struggle, and I beg you to consider the wisdom God offers us in Scripture before making a decision based on your own desires.

Wes

19

Wes replied to Krempel's comment

Seriously? That's the best retort you can come up with?

Chris Maxwell

3

Chris Maxwell replied to Wes's comment

You seem to be under the impression that this man is in a struggle. Is it because you believe Marijuana is addictive and he is addicted to marijuana? I hope not, because this would more than likely not be the case. By definition an addiction is a habit that if take away one feels withdrawals from. If you research and read the studies conducted on marijuana, you would see that marijuana users suffer no withdrawals when "quitting". Caffeine, a substance most Americans consume on a daily basis, another natural pyschoactive substance created by God, is extremely addictive and can kill you. So should I feel I'm not right with God because I drink a cup of coffee to start my mornings?

Chrissy

3

Chrissy commented…

Interesting. Seems as though this was written by someone who assumes that only negative things can result from recreational marijuana (MJ) use.

Before I go on, I'd like to point out that the negative qualities that are often discussed in relation to recreational MJ use are labeled negative subject to our cultural predispositions. For example, American society highly values achievement, success, individuality, and power. Other communities and cultures place more emphasis on community, thoughtfulness, knowledge, and togetherness (I studied in West Africa… there, a good day was a day spent around the fire, drinking tea with good company). The superficial result of MJ use is often evaluated as demotivation or laziness, which are qualities that oppose achievement, success, individuality and power. However, if you consider what often happens with users passing around a bowl of MJ, you find that these things align more closely with community, thoughtfulness (many people feel MJ helps them think more clearly or differently), knowledge, and togetherness. It's evident that this concept has not been considered in this author's argument.

Furthermore, I don't think we can assign a negative or positive nature to all things. What makes something positive or negative is how we relate to and use it. I believe substances can have practical and positive uses, but can also be abused. Take food: food nourishes our body, but if abused, can lead to conditions which harm our body. Take alcohol: In Jesus' day, wine was safer to drink than water and thus served a practical and positive purpose, and today is useful as an antiseptic. However, alcohol can also be abused. Take work: Scripture acknowledges work as good, but it can also be abused and have a negative impact on the individual, family, or society. Money: you get my idea. I think the same concept is true with MJ, as is with many other things, which leads me to my next thought.

While the author makes it clear that he has never used MJ, it is also clear that he has never done much research on the many ways it benefits the individual. This is perfectly demonstrated in his assumption that using MJ directly contributes to spiritual and emotional immaturity when civilizations throughout history and individuals today have found it to enhance or bring spiritual understanding and make sense of or bring peace to troubling life situations.

I feel that he is correct in that MJ use could stunt spiritual maturity of a Christian kind because spiritual exploration outside of a set of prescribed methods has traditionally been discouraged by the church. MJ, along with other entheogens (such as psilocybin and mescaline) seem to open the user up to other spiritual knowledges or theologies that are often very different than the Christian example, but not necessarily so. For some, entheogen (this word itself means "full of God") use may only strengthen one's preexisting convictions. I find this all very ironic, as Christians encourage each other to grow spiritually and to seek God, but only to a certain degree or within certain limits. Why? Because if there were no limits, someone might learn something that doesn't doesn't sit well with what they've been told is truth.

So, in summary, I feel that the natural reaction of the church will be to warn against marijuana use because they will say it is foolish. Foolish, because the results contradict cultural values, and foolish, because it opens the user up to more avenues of thought than tolerated by the church, which could eventually put the church out of business (if I may be so bold).

Kevin Jones

1

Kevin Jones commented…

I find these arguments interesting. I am a pastor who has two brothers who have been using marijuana recreationally for most of their lives. One is 52 and been using for 38(more or less) years. The other is 44 and has been using for 25 ish years. Both continue to smoke on a regular basis. My observations of these two is that they seem to be stuck, emotionally, maturationally, relationally, etc. at about the ages when they began using.

Recent research has shown that the adolescent brain is not finished developing until approximately 25 y.o.a. The chemicals in marijuana are stored in the bodies fat cells. The brain is composed largely of fat cells, so the marijuana chemicals are stored in the brain, changing the myelin sheaths in brains that are not completely developed. This is a problem for those who begin using prior to the complete development of their brains.

I think, though, the best argument for not using I have ever heard came from a philosophy professor who was a strong and committed believer. Her son struggled with MJ use. Her argument was that God has created us as beings who are spiritual, emotional, relational, and intellectual. In order to be the most fully human, we need to develop as much as we possibly can, each of these aspects of our being.

To drink alcohol to the point that we check out emotionally, relationally, intellectually, or in any other way is to become less than the beings God has created us to be. This is true also with MJ. While people can drink alcohol and not get drunk, the same is not typically true for MJ users. Most use to get high. That's kind of the point. When one gets high, they become less human, less than what God has designed for them to be. Hence, it's not glorifying to God to use and get high, it implies his designed purposes for us are misguided by giving the perception that we are better when we are high. It's simply an insult to God's design for humanity. We are at our best when we are most human.
To dull any of these aspects of our created being is to diminish the good work God began in creation.

Chris Maxwell

3

Chris Maxwell replied to Kevin Jones's comment

So I would venture to say you would be against anyone with any kind of disorder taking any kind of medication then, correct? Because as you state God made us the way we are suppose to be, there's no need to give anyone any kind of medication then. That would be an insult to God.

Third Side Of The Story

19

Third Side Of The Story 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

3

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.

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