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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


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 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


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.




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 replied to Catherine's comment

buy local and/or from verifiably responsible producers

Brett Fox


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


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.

Keith Mason


Keith Mason commented…

I agree with some parts of this article but when he writes..

'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.'

I've never owned a Car. I've also always taken public transportation (to my job which I use to provide for me, my wife and support the ministries I'm involved with in my spare time). I resent Mark's narrow cultural mindset which he slips in between quoting bible passages which betrays the real tone of his article here. That now its 'legal' its about matching up to his particular flavour of what it means to be a man.

Like Mark I grew up in an environment where drugs were relatively common, especially pot, like Mark I never got involved in it. People have to come to their own conclusions about this and in the Christian worldview we too often co-opt into whats 'legal' and whats not. Their will be a massive spectrum of responses to this change in law and we can't expect every Christian to have the same perspective.

What Mark said is nothing but his own opinion rather than something rooted in scripture. I don't intend to ever smoke pot but this article is all sorts of wrong.



Azzure commented…

There is some recent medical science that gives a compelling reason why young men (or women) should avoid smoking pot. It goes along with the "it's just stupid" line of thinking. As a parent, I hate to see the next generation decimated by stupidity. Tobacco leads to cancer, pot leads to mind decay and becoming mindless sheep easily led astray. I would like your feedback on this study. Also, young mens brains mature until early 20's so, I think the chance for serious damage is higher for them. Here are two links.

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