Now that marijuana has been legalized for recreational use in Colorado as well as for medical use in numerous other states, the issue is now one of the hot buttons in the culture and political wars, with frequent mentions in the news.
Many pro-marijuana folks have tried to support the idea that the Bible is silent on the issue of recreational drug use and that it’s OK for Christians to indulge. “After all, the Bible is OK with drinking alcohol in moderation, so what’s the problem with a little weed?” some have asked.
Actually, the topic of psychotropic (aka psychoactive) drugs is indeed mentioned — and mentioned unfavorably, I might add — in the NT.
Here’s the scoop:
The Works of the Flesh vs. the Fruit of the Spirit
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:16-24 (emphasis mine)
Look familiar? This same set of verses were the foundational passage for my doctrinal exploration of the issue of homosexuality in a previous article. But in this case, we’re looking at a different word, obviously the one I highlighted: sorcery, a very interesting word in the Greek:
- sorcery (pharmakeia)
- from pharmakon (a drug, i.e. spell-giving potion)
- the use or the administering of drugs
- sorcery, magical arts, often found in connection with idolatry and fostered by it
- metaph. the deceptions and seductions of idolatry
The use of psychotropic drugs was well-known in ancient times. Here’s what I found on Wikipedia:
“An entheogen (“generating the divine within”) is a psychoactive substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context. Entheogens can supplement many diverse practices for transcendence, and revelation, including meditation, psychonautics, psychedelic and visionary art, psychedelic therapy, and magic.
“Entheogens have been used in a ritualized context for thousands of years; their religious significance is well established in anthropological and modern evidences. Examples of traditional entheogens include: peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, uncured tobacco, cannabis, ayahuasca, Salvia divinorum, Tabernanthe iboga, Ipomoea tricolor, and Amanita muscaria.
“With the advent of organic chemistry, there now exist many synthetic substances with similar psychoactive properties, many derived from these plants. Many pure active compounds with psychoactive properties have been isolated from these organisms and chemically synthesized … Entheogens may be compounded through the work of a shaman or apothecary in a tea, admixture, or potion…” from the Wikipedia.com article on entheogens (emphasis mine)
Back in Paul’s day, recreational use of psychotropic drugs was virtually unknown — the use of such drugs — especially hallucinogenic ones — have always been conceptually linked with the practices of shamans, witches, sorcerers, and idolatrous temple worship of various false gods.
Here are pertinent points that sum up what the Bible has to say on the matter of whether or not believers should be using marijuana and other such drugs:
- The Bible says to “walk in the Spirit” and that by doing so “we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”
- The list of the works of the flesh includes a word defined as the use of psychoactive drugs, with or without the the attending practice of sorcery and witchcraft.
- No matter how you might care to interpret the phrase “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God,” one thing we can all agree on is that whatever it is, it isn’t a good thing, so these are behaviors that God obviously disapproves of and should be avoided.
- Ergo, the use of drugs, whether for occult or recreational use, is not something we as Christians should be doing.
As for the medical use of marijuana, I have no scriptural basis to approve or disapprove the practice. However, my own personal opinion is that each believer facing whatever health challenges for which marijuana might alleviate the symptoms — pain relief from terminal cancer or treatment of glaucoma come to mind — should be led by the Spirit as to whether or not marijuana-based treatment options are a viable option for them spiritually.
Thanks for reading!