Use of marijuana hasn’t traditionally been a “gray area” for Christians. The drug was illegal, so it was off-limits to those who are “subject to the governing authorities” (Rom. 13:1). But as recreational marijuana becomes legal in more states, some Christians are having conversations about whether there could be an acceptable use.
Pastors Joshua Ryan Butler and Thomas Terry offered thoughts on how they shepherd members of their churches in this area. They agree that while the Bible never mentions marijuana, it does prohibit intoxication. If one hit of marijuana makes you high, there’s no way to smoke it and obey the Bible’s commands against drunkenness.
Further, the effects of marijuana work against the kind of community we should seek in the body of Christ. Butler says that getting high “pulls you within yourself, causes you to become more disengaged, not only from people, but also from life in general.” Terry agrees and speaks from experience: “Before I was a Christian, I smoked marijuana to . . . disengage from both people and issues.” By causing users to disengage from life, marijuana works against the love of neighbor Jesus commands. Christians seeking to honor God with their lives would do well to avoid it.
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Joshua Ryan Butler: When it comes to marijuana, I think that there’s a distinction, I should say, between a prohibition category and a wisdom category. I don’t think Scripture has an explicit prohibition that says, “Hey, you just can’t,” you know. Maybe in the day when it was illegal in many states and we want to obey the laws of the land, but now that that’s gone, I don’t think it falls into an explicit biblical prohibition.
So I do think there’s kind of a biblical freedom at one level that we don’t want to set up a law or rule that the Scripture doesn’t itself place. Yet, I do think the question, in my mind, comes to kind of a category of wisdom. Even if it’s permissible to use it, is it wise to use it? Personally and pastorally, I would have some big reservations and would argue that I think it’s not wise.
Some of those would be, you know, people often make the comparison to it being like alcohol. We see that there are appropriate uses of alcohol in Scripture and all, but I do think there’s some important differences and distinctions. One of those would be I think it’s a lot harder to use weed to kind of toke up and not get the equivalent of what with alcohol would be intoxicated, right.
It seems like it’s a very low bar to reach that level of intoxication with weed. Likewise, I don’t know for every individual, but it does seem like, in our culture, the use of weed and marijuana is geared towards kind of disconnecting and disengaging from life and from people.
You see, in alcohol, even in Scripture, when it’s used appropriately and moderational, that part of the goal is community and celebration and themes of bringing people together to celebrate what God’s done, to celebrate the life that He’s given and all. Yet, in contrast to that, marijuana seems to have kind of an individualistic bent that pulls you away from people, pulls you within yourself, causes you to become more disengaged, not only from people, but also kind of from life in general.
One of my best friends growing up began smoking weed more in high school, and over the course of about three years, I saw him just fully disconnect and unplug from relationships and activities. We used to surf together, and write music together, and go on adventures together, and go outdoors. Gradually, all those things started slipping away, and he just wanted to sit in his room all day and smoke out.
I’m not saying that that’s everyone, but I do think there’s kind of a trajectory in that kind of going inward direction that is a warning sign, would suggest kind of an unwise use there.
Finally, I do think even just practically, the use of marijuana being linked over time to mental health disorders and things of that nature, I think we want to be of sound mind longterm as much as we can to be able to care for our families, our communities, our churches, our friends and not do things that could jeopardize or militate against us being able to be present to love and to serve as Christ would have us in those ways.
Thomas Terry: Yeah. That’s great. I also would put it in the category of wisdom. I could never, as a pastor, say to one of the members of my congregation, “Yeah, feel free to enjoy marijuana recreationally,” just because I also feel like you really can’t have sound mind when you’re high.
I think a lot of people give you this false idea that there’s a functional high and it just kind of keys you out and you’re okay. But I’ve never experienced that, personally. Before I was a Christian, I smoked marijuana to, like you said, disengage from both people and issues.
So I would actually ask people in my congregation, “What is the reason for the desire to unhinge from community and unhinge from reality?” And then begin to ask the more deeper and significant questions like, “Where does this desire come from?What are you experiencing in your life that is causing for you to want to escape?”
I mean, it’s the same question you would ask somebody who consistently would be intoxicated. “What is it that you are running from? What is it that you are escaping?” I think the challenge with marijuana is it’s kind of like a one hit and done, and so you’re immediately in that place of intoxication. So I also would put it in the category of wisdom.
There’s some unique challenges medicinally. Some people use it for medicinal purposes, and that I would really have to flesh that out with a member of my congregation, but in the category of recreational, I couldn’t in good conscience tell them to partake in marijuana recreationally.