The wheels turn and things change again. This November, the people of Colorado and Washington elected to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. What was recently criminal behavior is now protected. Screenwriters have been quick to fall in step, and pot use is now being portrayed on TV shows as a civil liberty. The ‘joint’, something that used to be associated with stoners is now a symbol of libertarian democracy. “Don’t step on me” meets “don’t touch my stash.”
As American society considers the legitimacy of marijuana use, we as Christians need to shape a thoroughly biblical response. Is smoking marijuana permissible for the believer? Is this drug really any different from alcohol, or caffeine even? I believe the answers are ‘no’ and ‘yes’ respectively. And to get these answers, we turn to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,” (Ephesians 5:17–18, ESV)
Paul argues against drunkenness, not only because of the inevitable debauchery, but because it relinquishes control to a foreign power. The Christian is supposed to be under the direction (filled) of the Holy Spirit. We become progressively more like Jesus when we are obedient to the internal work that the Spirit does in us. As he prompts our conscience, and mends our thinking, we are sanctified. The mind is where God changes us. Our transformation from reprobate into righteousness is through the renewal of the mind (Romans 12:2).
Drunkenness is a sin because it denies God’s claim to our thinking and cedes control of our minds to something other than him. Rather than being in the grip of the Spirit, we are in the grip of some substance. Does this make alcohol unlawful? No. It’s quite possible to consume alcohol and not become drunk. Many faithful Christians consume moderate amounts and do not slip under its influence.
And this is where alcohol and marijuana prove their difference. While it is possible to swallow wine and stay sober it is impossible to inhale marijuana and not get high. Smoking pot is going to alter the mind—moderation will not avoid this. Taking a single drag is choosing to snatch your mind from God’s control and allowing something else to direct your way. Marijuana has many troubling effects on a person, but none is more serious than this.
I see marijuana use as a direct threat to sanctification and an impediment to our relationship with God. From my perspective, Christians have no business with it.