WHAT WE TALK ABOUT
Biblical. Practical. Relevant.
The Bible broken down into plain language with direct application to meet you where you are.
The Bible broken down into plain language with direct application to meet you where you are.
We’re in week three of our eight-week series, “Can A Christian _______?” where we’re searching for biblical answers about what is or isn’t okay for a follower of Jesus. We jumped into the first week of this series by looking in-depth at what freedom in Christ was – and was not – by studying Galatians 5. Last week, we answered the question, “Can A Christian Drink Socially?” from Ephesians 5:15-21.
So that brings us to the next question we’re going to try to address biblically: CAN A CHRISTIAN USE MARIJUANA RECREATIONALLY?
First things first - why is this even a relevant question? Well, in case you’ve been living under a rock since like, the 60s, let me tell you.
Can I make a bold prediction? Marijuana, in all forms, will be completely legal in all 50 states in our lifetime. That’s why answering this question biblically is so important! We needed an answer yesterday. Churches should have addressed this. Christians should have asked this. But everyone kept quiet and ignored the cultural revolution freight train barreling straight for them, hoping silence would derail it. But it didn’t. It just left people in the dark. And for so long the easy way out was, “Marijuana is illegal. Christians can't participate in breaking the law. Therefore, Christians can't use marijuana.” That obviously isn't the case anymore so that answer is as useful as ice to an Eskimo. Relevant? You better believe it is.
Before we move on, let's look at what marijuana is, what it does, and how it works.
WHAT IS IT? Marijuana includes the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant CANNABIS SATIVA.
WHAT DOES IT DO? THC alters brain function and distorts reality. This results in alterations in perception, mood, and consciousness.
HOW DOES IT WORK? THC targets specific brain cell receptors that ordinarily react to natural THC-like chemicals in the brain. THC over activates these receptors, which produces a mind-altering “high.”
Now let’s get real. THC is the main reason people use marijuana recreationally. Being high is the goal. It alters cognitive and physical functions, distorts reality and is physically pleasing to most people.
((Medicinal marijuana, the majority of the time, removes THC and has been found helpful to treat people with a number of different conditions. We’re not going to get into that conversation, though, because it deserves it's own attention.))
Now that we've got some background information, let's look to Scripture to try to answer our question: Can A Christian Use Marijuana Recreationally?
1 Corinthians 6:12: “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.
Let me remind you of the three answers the Bible is going to give us for questions like this: YES, NO, and MAYBE.
A yes means that Christians have the freedom to participate in whatever is in question. A yes is not always free and clear, however. Once the Bible affirms the Can I question, we have the responsibility to move on to the Should I question. Just because we can doesn't always mean we should.
A no is always no. What God says Christians cannot take part in, Christians do not take part in. Really simple.
A maybe is tricky. These come up when dealing with a question that the Bible doesn't specifically mention. To answer these questions, we lean on biblical principles and allow them to determine our response.
So then, according to 1 Corinthians 6:12, Can A Christian Use Marijuana Recreationally? Well, we don’t see a direct affirmation. That means it’s not a yes. But we also don’t see a definitive no. Uh oh, folks. We’re dealing with our first maybe, which means we're going to have to look for and rely on biblical principles to come to our conclusion. I believe 1 Corinthians 6:12 holds the answer we're looking for. But in order to fully understand it, you need to be aware of two things:
First, the culture of the people the Apostle Paul is writing to. The city of Corinth was a port city. And being a port city meant that Corinth was filled with wealth as well as cultural and religious diversity. Corinth was also known for being the place to party. Want to leave your inhibitions behind and indulge in all the drinking and sex you can handle? If so, Corinth was your spot – the Mecca of all things worldly.
But the Gospel moved through that place and a number of Corinthians trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Check out 1 Corinthians 1:2:
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
The Gospel transformed these Corinthians, setting them free from trying to earn their standing with God (LEGALISM) and free from indulging in the enslaving sin that engulfed their culture (LICENSE).
Now here’s the thing about becoming a follower of Jesus. Once you turn from your sin and trust in who Jesus is and what He’s has done to pay for your sin, IMMEDIATELY your position before God is changed from sinful to righteous, from enemy to ally, from alien to son or daughter all because of Jesus. This is called JUSTIFICATION. JESUS MAKES YOU JUST AS IF YOU HAD NEVER SINNED.
God, through Paul, spells this out for the Corinthians (and for us) in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
(9) Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor men who practice homosexuality, (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
While JUSTIFICATION immediately changes your position with God, it does not instantly transform your posture. In other words, you still have to battle your sin nature. That won’t go away until either you die or Jesus comes back, whichever happens first. Once you become a Christian, the Spirit of God begins to shape and mold you into looking like Jesus (in the way you think, in what you say, in how you act) and that’s a NEVER-ENDING PROCESS called SANCTIFICATION. And often times during that process, we forget who we are and whose we are and revert back to the slavery that characterized our lives before Jesus.
That’s exactly what’s going on in the Corinthian church. That’s the first thing you need to know.
And that brings us to the second thing you need to know about these Corinthian Christians: THEIR MOTTO. Look at 1 Corinthians 6:12 again:
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.
There are two sets of quotations in there. Do you see that? Who is Paul quoting? An Old Testament prophet? Jesus? No and no. Paul is quoting the Corinthian Church! Somewhere along the way, the Corinthians had forgotten who they were and whose they were. They had forgotten about what Jesus freed them from and began to use their position in Christ as license to get away with anything they pleased!
Many of you have been taught that this verse says that in Christ everything is permissible. But that's not Paul’s declaration. Paul doesn't believe - he is not teaching - that every action is lawful for a follower of Jesus. He’s quoting the Corinthian’s motto in order to point out their error and correct their thinking.
So Paul is addressing sinful people, who had been made just as if they had never sinned, yet had fallen back into the slavery of their sin, using their position in Christ as a license to justify their actions.
Now, this one verse actually plays out in four parts:
PART 1: “All things are lawful for me…”
Remember, these were justified Corinthian Christians who had begun to abuse their freedom in Christ as a license to do whatever they pleased. So they were literally saying, “In Christ, there is nothing hindering me from doing anything.” Do you see how warped that thinking is?
If you go on to read the rest of this chapter, Paul specifically tells the Corinthians they do not have the freedom to indulge in sexual immortality. And just before he said that, he told them that the sexually immoral would not inherit the kingdom of God. And yet these folks are saying that in Christ all things were lawful or permissible!
PART 2: …but not all things are helpful.
Paul responds to the Corinthian motto by gently reminding these folks of what freedom in Christ is and what it means. Because of who Jesus is and because of what Jesus has done, those who trust in Him are set free from anything that would prevent them from worshipping Him and have the responsibility to serve others through love. Anything that contradicts those two principles of Gospel freedom should be cast aside because they enslave the person who practices them.
PART 3: “All things are lawful for me…”
Paul repeats the Corinthian Church’s motto, but this time with extreme sarcasm. Why sarcasm? If you read chapter 5 you'll see that these Corinthian Christians had gone off the deep end. They were proud of the fact that they were “tolerant” of incest inside their own church! The Corinthians were proclaiming that in Christ they had the power to act on literally everything. Nothing was off limits. So Paul sarcastically points out their error, in order to show them how far into left field they had drifted.
PART 4: …but I will not be dominated by anything.
Paul makes it clear that he will allow nothing to rule over his life, he will allow nothing to possess power over him, he will allow nothing to rob him of the freedom Jesus offers only to return to the bondage of slavery. A Christian cannot participate in anything they please. And using Jesus' sacrifice to justify sinful behavior is a serious offense.
So let me paraphrase this verse for you, as it plays out, in four parts.
PART 1: You say that in Christ you have the power to do anything you please.
PART 2: But I say you are abusing and forfeiting your freedom and drifting back into enslavement because what you’re doing is not rooted in worship or motivated by love and service.
PART 3: And yet you still say that in Christ you have the power to do anything you please.
PART 4: But I say by using your freedom in Christ to justify sinful, enslaving behavior, you’re proving you possess no power at all, but that your sinfulness possesses power over you. You don’t have it. IT HAS YOU.
Anything that possesses power over you that is not named Jesus Christ is to be avoided like the plague. And guess what folks? The very nature of marijuana’s chemical makeup affects your brain in such a way where it alters cognitive and physical ability nearly the instant it’s inhaled or ingested. You don't have it. It has you.
So, Can A Christian Smoke Marijuana Recreationally? Absolutely, positively, conclusively, definitively, unequivocally, NO. Why? 1 Corinthians 6:12 one last time:
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful.
Using marijuana recreationally does not promote genuine, unfiltered worship of God because it distorts reality. It does not take the responsibility to love and serve others seriously because it alters your ability to do so. Using marijuana is a violation of your freedom in Christ.
“All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.
From the moment it’s introduced, marijuana has you. You don’t have it. The chemicals dominate; possess power over you. The goal of being high dominates; possesses power over you. Marijuana is enslaving in both the short term and the long term. Using marijuana is a violation of your freedom in Christ.
The only things that a freedom-in-Christ-practicing Christian should partake in are things that do not hinder genuine worship and things that don’t belittle the responsibility of serving others through love. Marijuana does both. And so Christians do not have the freedom to use it recreationally, because doing so is placing yourself under its power and choosing to return to the slavery Jesus paid the ultimate price to free you from.
My prayer for us is that God change our hearts and our minds so that everything we do (or don't do) would be for the sake of the Gospel and for His glory.