A number of young Christians these days seem to use marijuana and other recreational drugs. Some of them write to ask if this kind of behavior is okay for a Christian to engage in. If you are over 35 years old, you are probably thinking "that's a no-brainer." However, given the state of teaching in today's Christian churches, for many this question has never been answered adequately. This page answers the question from what the Bible says. Another page examines medical aspects of marijuana use.
(See related articles on Godly Relationships)
Okay, so there are no verses that talk directly about marijuana. Is that surprising? Although the Bible mentions weed, it was the kind that interferes with agriculture (Genesis 3:18). Pot was something you cooked in (Numbers 11:18). The only smoking that was going on at the time the Bible was written was caused by burning wood, houses, sacrifices, and ultimately, people (at the judgment). So, smoking of cigarettes and marijuana are not mentioned in the Bible.
At this point, we need to back up a little to examine the question from a more fundamental perspective. We originally asked if it was okay for a Christian to use marijuana and other drugs. The question we need to ask first is "Who is a Christian?" Many young people believe they are Christians because their parents are Christians or they aren't Jewish, so they must be Christians.
Aren't you a Christian if you go to church and at some point went up front in response to an alter call? Jesus said that people are Christians if they believe in Him.1 Jesus also indicated that those who believed would hear His voice and follow Him.2 Part of the process of following Jesus is to repent. Repentance is a fancy Christian word that means to turn from one's sins and go in the opposite direction (righteousness). Jesus said that those who do not repent will perish.3 Jesus also indicated what kind of commitment one should make to be considered His disciple:
Then He [Jesus] said to them all: "If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? (Luke 9:23-25)
So, Jesus made it quite clear that a casual confession of "faith" isn't going to cut it. One who really believes in Jesus will follow Him as their ultimate purpose in life. Now that we have a clear understanding of who is a Christian, we can go back to the original question.
Although the Bible does not address marijuana directly, it does discuss other mind-altering drugs. Specifically, the Bible addresses the use of drugs in the book of Galatians:
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
So, where are the drugs mentioned in this verse? Actually, the word translated "sorcery" is the Greek word pharmakeia,4 from which we get the English word "pharmacy." The primary meaning is "the use or the administering of drugs" (usually associated with sorcery or idolatry). Since this verse comes from a list of things that if practiced would preclude one from heaven, this should be a reasonably strong suggestion that the Christian should not practice drug use. In addition, the book of Revelation lists drug use as one of the things for which the unrepentant will suffer the wrath of God.5
The Bible has a lot to say about alcohol. At the time, there was no hard (distilled) liquor, just wine and beer (which was more diluted at that time then it is now). Even so, the Bible has much to say about people who used wine to get drunk. One was Lot, who got drunk and slept with his daughters.6 Others sold girls to get wine to get drunk.7 The Bible warns about the bad effects of getting drunk - seeing strange sights and being confused, saying stupid things, making poor decisions, vomiting, getting involved in fights, and losing one's wealth.8 We are warned not to join with those people.9 The consequences of such behavior is judgment.10 Jesus Himself used two examples of those who will be drunk when God comes to judge the world.11 God's judgment of such behavior does not paint a pretty picture. The New Testament condemns drunkenness12 and warns that those who engage in that behavior will not inherit the kingdom of God (i.e., heaven).13
The Old Testament warns the priests not to go into God's house drunk, or they will die.14 In the New Testament, those who serve in the body of Christ are not to be addicted to wine or any other sordid thing.15 Even those who do not directly serve in the church are warned not to be addicted to wine.16 Finally, the New Testament commands us to not get drunk, but be filled with the Spirit of God:
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)
Does marijuana get one intoxicated? Even proponents of marijuana usage encourage users never to drive a motor vehicle while using marijuana.17 Why is this? Because when one use marijuana, one is legally intoxicated and incapable of clear thinking and reasonable reactions. Being intoxicated is clearly condemned in scripture. So, if one uses drugs or anything else to escape and get high, or is addicted to these substances, it is against the commands of scripture and inappropriate for Christian participation.
Besides the moral question, there is the legal question. Christians are commanded by the scriptures to be in subjection to governing authorities and submit to every human institution.18
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. (Romans 13:1-2)
The only exception to this command would be if those in authority directly contradicted the commands of God.19 Since smoking marijuana was never a command of God, Christians should not smoke marijuana where doing so is illegal.
We do have freedom in Christ, but that freedom is not to be used to sin:
The freedom of Christ is freedom to follow Him in service to others. We are not to use the law as an excuse for immorality (e.g., "I can't help that person because it is the Sabbath"20). Likewise, we are not to allow things (e.g., drugs) to bring us under their control:
We are not to be slaves of sin, engaging in fleshly desires and lusts, but we are to serve the living God.
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:11-13)
There are many who call themselves Christian, but basically serve their own desires. God will not be deceived by those who play the Christianity game. Jesus said that you will know them by their love for one another,21 and not love of self.22
Ultimately, the most important principle in the Christian life is to do what Jesus told us to do. When Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment, he answered:
And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38)
Obviously, smoking marijuana does nothing to fulfill this most important commandment. Along the same lines, Jesus said that people should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.23 However, these days, it seems that many "Christians" seek first the kingdom of self and its attendant pleasures. The scriptures predicted as much when the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
Jesus indicated that people would respond in several ways to the gospel message. In one of His parables, He indicated that there were different kinds of soils. One of the soils was filled with thorns and weeds, which choked out the ability of the crop to produce fruit. The reason why these people produced no spiritual fruit is because they were more concerned with the "worries and riches and pleasures of this life"24 than with the kingdom of God. There are many other verses25 in the Bible that condemn those who seek pleasure first instead of God's kingdom.
Many Christians make the argument that God created the herbs (including marijuana) for us:
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. (Genesis 1:29, KJV)
Marijuana smokers are especially fond of the King James version, since it uses the word "herb". However, the Hebrew word is much less specific, having the general meaning "plant," with the root word having the meaning "green." Further, the verse talks about fruit trees, indicating that the real meaning of the verse is about edible plants. So, the verse makes it clear that God created the plants for us for eating. It doesn't say anything about smoking them! Here is the more contemporary NASB translation:
Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; (Genesis 1:29, NASB)
The argument has been made that everything God created is good, and that this includes hemp. Everything God created is good,26 but all these good things can be turned into evil. Sexual relations are good within marriage,27 but adultery is evil.28 It's all sex, which was created by God for good, but not all that men do with it is good. Poisonous mushrooms are good for breaking down dead wood, but bad for eating. Hemp is good for making rope, but bad for smoking. So, now you know. Do what's right!
for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking [and smoking pot], but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14.17|NASB" target="_blank" href="http://bible.logos.com/passage/nasb/Romans%2014.17" class="lbsBibleRef">Romans 14:17)