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“What are the Concerns for Christians Regarding ‘Legalized’ Marijuana?”

The chief concern for Christians in all things is to glorify God. Scripture says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV). The issue of legalized marijuana is no different. The answer was simple when the use of marijuana was illegal in all states. Since God’s will for us is to be subject to the authority which He has ordained (Romans 13:1), that settled the matter for Christians.

Now that some states have legalized the use of marijuana, the issue is becoming more complex. We now have separate authorities (federal and state), both ordained by God, but with conflicting laws. We aren’t going to delve into constitutional authority in this article; we’ll leave that to the lawyers and courts to figure out.

This article also isn’t primarily about cannabis as a medical treatment. Opinion is divided on the risks and benefits of such treatment. Some doctors think it useful to treat seizures, chronic pain, or the nausea produced by chemotherapy, for example. There are even some cannabis-based medicines that do not include the high-inducing chemical THC.  A Christian suffering serious illness will obviously consult his conscience as well as his doctor in making an informed decision on such matters.

This article is about the recreational use of marijuana, which is now legal in four states (and more are considering it). Our main concern, as Christians, is the spiritual side of the issue. As with the use of alcohol, there is no Scripture verse to which one can point to definitively answer the question, so we are left with applying various statements of God’s Word to this topic. We start with this one from Genesis 1:12 (ESV): “The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” Among the plants which God created and called good was the marijuana plant. The plant, of itself, therefore is not sinful.

This, however, does not mean that every use necessarily glorifies God. As was mentioned in a previous article on the use of alcohol (April 2016), any use of marijuana that results in the dissipation of spiritual discernment
(“getting high”) does not glorify God (see Ephesians 5:18). Neither does any use that results in any harm, whether physical or spiritual, to our neighbor (see Exodus 20:13 and 1 Corinthians 8:9-11). Many will argue that marijuana affects only the individual using it, and therefore doesn’t fall into either of the above categories. That’s the same argument that many use about alcohol. Yet, it doesn’t hurt anybody until it does, and then it’s too late. It doesn’t result in the dissipation of spiritual discernment until it does, and then it’s too late.

The main reason that “recreational” marijuana use is an issue is that the salvation of your soul is an issue to your God. He takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner (Ezekiel 33:11). Whatever is a danger to the gracious will of God, our salvation, is certainly something about which the Christian should think seriously. A little bit of oblivion, a little bit of pleasure, a little bit of fun is not worth giving up heaven. God valued your presence in heaven so highly that He gave His only-begotten Son to suffer death and hell for you. If you or someone you know has been caught up in the reckless abuse of marijuana, know that there is forgiveness from God for Jesus’ sake. God’s desire is for you to turn from your sin and to find release from all your burdens and pains in heaven, not in a joint.

Please speak with your pastor about this if you have further questions. As in every other circumstance of life, God has placed him in your life to help you as you strive to live to God’s glory.

Frank Gantt is pastor of St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lemmon, South Dakota.