Interview with

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Audio Transcript

A couple of emails have come in asking, is it wrong for a Christian to smoke marijuana? Assuming that for them, it’s legal, either for medical use or because of the legislation of the state they live in, how would you answer them, Pastor John?

I don’t know a lot about marijuana. I am not an expert on it. I have read a little and listened to some comments about it in the news. Here is the way I approach it as a novice, and yet I think we can have some solid biblical guidance here.

Marijuana vs. Caffeine

Marijuana is ordinarily thought of and used as a mood-altering drug that creates a kind of pleasant euphoria. It is not generally thought of as making one more attentive to reality, but more oblivious of reality. In that sense, I don’t believe you can compare it to caffeine. I can imagine somebody saying, “Well, what is wrong with marijuana? It’s like caffeine. They are both mood altering drugs. You drink your coffee in the morning to alter your mood, and I use my marijuana to alter my mood. They do the same thing.” Well, not exactly, because one of the effects of coffee is that it makes you more alert to reality. If caffeine didn’t do that, I think we should run away from it. In fact, I think it is possible to sin with caffeine.

“Marijuana has lasting negative effects on the mind’s ability to do what God created it to do.”

There is a significant difference in the mind being sharpened instead of made more blunt or more out of touch with reality. I don't think marijuana is generally thought of as an empowering drug that enables you to be a more competent dad, a more competent mother, a more competent employee, or a more competent citizen. It is rather a recreational escape, and from the little I have read, over time it becomes a destructive force in the brain. It has lasting negative effects on the mind’s ability to do what God created it to do.

Temple of the Holy Spirit

If all that is true, then the principle from the Bible that I think would lead a Christian away from the recreational use of marijuana would be that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. That simple teaching had a huge effect on me as a kid. If was raising kids again today, I would say that about smoking. I would say it about excessive use of alcohol. I would say it about marijuana or lots of other things. I would say, “Your body is sacred. God is for your body. Your body is for the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:13). Keep your mind clear and able to think because Paul said, ‘Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature’ (1 Corinthians 14:20). That is, be sharp — be on top of it.”

The root here is that God gave us minds to know him and he gave us hearts to love him. A Christian is going to want to turn away from anything we do that would numb, dull, or distract our mind away from the growing capacities to know him better and love him more. That is the way the Bible talks about drunkenness, and I think marijuana is in that same category. It says about drunkenness, “In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things” (Proverbs 23:32–33). In other words, it leads away from the kind of sober, self-control use of the mind for the glory of God.

“A Christian is going to want to turn away from anything that numbs, dulls, or distracts our mind away from love God more.”

Having said that I think a Christian is going to turn away from these kinds of destructive, mood-altering drugs and move toward lucid, clear thinking for the glory of God, I would not oppose a kind of medical use of marijuana that is controlled by appropriate physician oversight and prescriptions. We have lots of drugs that are sold by prescription that, if they were abused, would be as destructive or even more destructive than marijuana.

I had a friend who shared with me, very soberly one time, that he had a son who had a long standing old ankle injury. He said, “I know from his experience that the only relief he can get is with a slight use of marijuana.” So, if there were a way to use marijuana the way we use aspirin or the way we use an antibiotic — with careful oversight — in principle, I wouldn’t oppose that.