Should Christians Smoke Pot or Not?

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.

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

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.

See Also

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).

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?

View Comments (2)
  • I think smoking pot (Getting high in general) is as much of a non-Christian thing as drinking to get drunk.
    That being said, I also believe that we are meant to distinguish ourselves from the world. The world will smoke pot to overcome sadness or to feel something. A shortcut so they don’t have to deal with something. Shouldn’t we as Christians push through that with no aid from alcohol or drugs? Isn’t that a HUGE part of what differentiates us from many people who don’t follow Christ? When you think of a terrible, troubled world you think of drugs, alcohol, getting high and drunk, ruining their lives more and more. I’m rambling now but basically I think we shouldn’t smoke pot so that we are different from this world.

  • 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.

    Second, 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.

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