The Bible and the Bong

Posted on September 25, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Entertainment, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , |


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As an American child born in the 80s, I was taught, “just say no” to drugs. A few years later, I actually won an essay contest sponsored by the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program for regurgitating the horrors of a drugs (alcohol and cigarettes too). But you know where I never learned about drugs – church. Why is that? Just what does the Bible have to say about narcotics?

I didn’t find ‘Mary Jane’ in the NIV index. Instead, I decided to go to the second source of all knowledge, Google, though Facebook may have worked too.  A quick search will show you that a lot of people have put time into this topic on both sides of the spectrum (leading me to wonder why they don’t have more important things to fret over, another topic though). What I found is that those in favor of legalization most commonly cited Gen 1:11, Gen 1:29, Gen 3:18, Ex 30:22, Psalms 104:14, Prov 15:17, and Rev 22:2. Many Christian advocates claim ‘if God made it, it must be good,’ a foolish argument Paul warns us about. I also realized why the King James Bible is still in circulation. These people will suffer through all the ‘thou’s, ‘shalt,’s and ‘cometh’s in exchange for keeping the word ‘herb,’ which has been replaced by ‘plant,’ ‘tree’ and ‘vegetation’ in more recent translations. Didn’t matter to me.

Gen 1:11 is God creating vegetation, which is followed up in 1:29 and 3:18 with Him explicitly giving them to man for food. Nothing there about God and Adam chillin’ in Eden getting high, munching on Cheetos.

On to the Exodus verse discussing anointing oil. The argument here is that the Hebrew word for fragrant cane or calamus (Kaneh-bosem) is similar to the Hebrew word for cannabis. This word is repeated in other books such as Ezekiel. Regardless, the context is not about using the plant, whatever it was, for getting high.

This pattern continues for the other verses listed above. The purpose of the word, herb or plant whichever you prefer, is never about smokin’ the reefer. It refers to praising the Lord for his blessings, eating and keeping good company, or breaking the curse God placed on man in Genesis.

Personally, I don’t find it unreasonable to believe the Hebrews used cannabis (or other ‘herbs’) considering ancient and current nomadic cultures use it for clothing, rope, medicine, paper, and the list continues. God did give the land to man to rule and subdue it. The real focus should be on what the Bible says about altering your mind with substances.

In Prov 23:29-35 the word for wine is the Hebrew mesekh, a wine mixture that contained extra ingredients to enhance the high of the alcohol. Similarly, the wine offered to Christ on while He hung beaten, tortured, and suffocating on a cross was soured wine, or one that acted as an anodyne, which He did not drink. (If ever anyone needed a stiff drink, it was then.) But, we also know that the first miracle Jesus preformed was turning water into wine, so clearly He wasn’t against drinking wine all together.

It appears to me He recognizes there is a line that should not be crossed.  The proverbial line is when your actions impede sound judgment (the Greek word Paul used was nepho). Any substance that prevents you from keeping your body a temple of Christ, affects your relationship with others, hurts finances, or has negative impacts on other responsibilities such as school or work, would qualify.

Does this lead to me to believe it’s okay to have a joint? No. Peter wrote, “Show proper respect to everyone, love to the family of believers, fear God, and honor the emperor” (1 Pet 2:17).  Our laws state it is illegal to use drugs, and while I don’t personally politically agree with these laws, I believe as Christians we are called to keep them while they do not infringe on basic liberties (a topic for another day).

So, though the Bible doesn’t explicitly prohibit hitting the crack pipe or snorting a line, if using drugs prevents you from sound judgement, there’s a problem. And maybe it’s my naïveté, but short of drugs for medicinal purposes, I don’t really see the point of using them if you have to remain of temperate mind.


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