By: Jon Meerdink
Following the November elections, marijuana is now legal in some way shape or form (either for medical use, recreational use, or mere possession) in twenty-two of the fifty states. The time, therefore, has long since passed for Christians to take a position on the drug and its use, if not as a body of believers, then at least as individuals.
Simply put, is there any way a Christian can use marijuana with a clear conscience?
While this method is by no means definitive, I believe there are a handful of questions a Christian can ask to shape their opinion on the drug one way or another. There may be more things to consider, and this is without a doubt an ongoing, ever-changing discussion. That said, there are a few things that must be considered before a Christian should light up, either for recreational or medicinal use.
First of all, is it legal for a Christian to smoke marijuana? While twenty-two states allow the drug in some form, only a handful fully allow its use for recreational and medicinal purposes. Regardless of moral or ethical considerations, illegal activities are (perhaps obviously) off limits for Christians, in light of Romans 13. Unless a government’s laws come into conflict with Scripture, we are bound by them and obligated to uphold them to the best of our abilities.
Secondly, Christians must consider the health ramifications of marijuana use. Genesis 1:29 notes that God has given us “every seed-bearing plant” for food and, presumably, for other beneficial uses as well. But is marijuana use beneficial? That’s a matter of some debate.
Proponents (especially those advocating for its medical use) will say the benefits of marijuana are many, and therefore the drug should be used when appropriate. But others disagree, including the U.S Institute of Medicine and the British College of Physicians, who independently concluded that the medical benefits of smoked marijuana are difficult to classify at best, although a prescription drug version may be beneficial. When weighing the health matters of recreational or medical marijuana use, Christians should also keep in mind 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, which calls our bodies “a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you” and later exhorts us to “honor God with your body.”
Thirdly, a Christian should ask simply if marijuana use for any reason is wise. An action may be legally and morally neutral, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. For instance, there are no legal or moral restrictions against hitting oneself in the face with a hammer, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to do so. Jesus also spoke of things being wise and unwise while morally neutral. Matthew 7:24-27 may be the best example of this, when Jesus tells the parable of the wise and foolish builders. While it may not have been immoral or illegal for the foolish builder to construct a house with a sand foundation, it was definitely unwise, and he paid the price for his foolishness.
An action may be legally and morally neutral, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
The principle same may be true of using marijuana. While it may be (by some views) a morally neutral act and a legal one in some states, the ramifications of its use on one’s mental state and relationships with others should be weighed heavily.
Relationships, in fact, may be the largest consideration a Christian must make when it comes to marijuana use. We’re told often that Christianity is about “a relationship, not a religion,” and if that’s true, maintaining that relationship should be our highest priority. Jesus said the greatest commandment was that a believer “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” In light of that command, the Christian should consider the effect of marijuana use on their relationship with God. Does it strengthen it? Does it dovetail with the command to be “alert and self-controlled” at all times?
A Christian’s relationship with God, however, is not their only key relationship. God, obviously, must come first, but a Christian is also part of a larger body, and their individual actions affect the health of the body as a whole. Paul spends most of 1 Corinthians 8-10 dealing with the issue of food sacrificed to idols, a matter that had divided the early Corinthian church sharply. Ultimately, he concludes that for the believer, “‘Everything is permissible’ – but not everthing is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible” – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” (verses 23-24).
While the issue at hand is obviously different, the principle in question holds true. Christians should be conscious of the effect their potential marijuana use could have on other Christians. Does your freedom to use a drug cause another believer to stumble? Does it change their opinion of you negatively? Will it stress your relationship unnecessarily? All worthwhile questions to consider before using marijuana.
Finally, Christians must consider the impact potential marijuana use might have on their relationship with a non-believer. If Christians are the light of the world, it’s vital that our light not be dimmed by any easily avoidable issues. Would marijuana use draw us closer to non-believers? Would it still allow us to be seen (as much as is possible) as “blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation” (Philippians 2:15)?
In summary, it may be possible that American Christians will soon find themselves in a world where marijuana use is no longer legally restricted anywhere. With that reality in mind, considering these six questions may be helpful in determining if a Christian should use marijuana:
Is it legal where I live?
Is it a healthy decision?
Is it a wise choice?
Does smoking marijuana strengthen my relationship with God?
Will it improve my relationship with other believers?
Could it negatively affect how non-believers view me?
While there may never be a catch-all answer, these questions will hopefully at least get a questioning Christian started down the path toward a well-reasoned, satisfying decision.