Following Jesus means that every day we have to make choices. We have to decide what actions in life are an expression of the faith that the Holy Spirit has created in us–and which are not. As youth leaders, part of our job is equipping Christian young people to make faithful choices. We must do more than tell them what’s right and what’s wrong; we must equip them to evaluate life choices faithfully. We should also be prepared to comfort them with the Gospel whenever God’s Word produces repentance for past sins.
There are two big benefits to this approach. First, you can never teach on every subject–so at some point your youth will encounter a dilemma that they’re not prepared for, if they aren’t equipped to think it through. Second, people are much more willing to own an idea if they arrive at it themselves. Consider how Nathan approached David in 2 Samuel 12. He could have busted into the room and told David that he’s an adulterer. If he had done so, David might have been very defensive. Instead, he helped David recognize his own guilt before delivering God’s Word of Law.
I live in Colorado, a state that now allows recreational marijuana use. As a church, we decided that we should address it, but how? We could have just told people not to smoke pot. However, we decided to use it as a teaching opportunity. We came up with three questions that people could ask themselves in order to guide them to a faithful decision on whether or not to use recreational marijuana. An action must pass all three questions to be permissible. Below, you’ll see how we applied the three questions to recreational marijuana use. I encourage you to think about teaching these three questions to your youth, in order to help them process through not just recreational marijuana use, but a whole range of issues.
1. Is it prohibited by God’s Word?
a. God’s Word does not directly address marijuana use. However, since getting high is in some ways similar to being drunk, we can look at how the Bible treats alcohol. It frequently tells us that drunkenness is a sin (Ephesians 5:18) and harmful to us. We are to be self-controlled (Titus 2:6) and sober-minded (1 Peter 5:8).Getting drunk or getting high would go against that.
b. However, could marijuana be used in small amounts, just as alcohol is not prohibited in moderation? Good question. While this might work out in theory, the practical answer is no.While the amount of alcohol consumed from a beverage can be regulated, it is almost impossible to control the amount of THC consumed from using marijuana, unless you’re going to get very scientific about it. So, if you use it, you’re almost certainly going to get high.
2. Is it prohibited by law (Romans 13:1)?
a. Yes. Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational use of the drug, but it remains illegal under federal law as a Schedule I substance according to the Controlled Substances Act. While you’re not likely to get in trouble for it if you live in CO or WA and abide by state laws, using marijuana is still illegal in the United States.
3. Is it beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12)?
a. There’s a myth that smoking marijuana isn’t harmful, so I want to lay down some facts. If you check out the government’s site on drug abuse (http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana), you’ll find that marijuana is potentially addictive and impairs your judgment while under the influence. Nothing new there. However, you may not know that it can also permanently lower your IQ by 8 points. It’s also associated with lower life satisfaction, poor health and less career success. Snap. In addition, it’s a waste of money and your use of the drug may tempt others around you to sin. If you make a “Pros and Cons” chart in your head, there’s a lot on the Con side and pretty much just “It’s fun” on the Pro side.
So there you go. Using recreational marijuana failed all three questions. Plus, we didn’t force it on people–we equipped them to make the decision faithfully, according to Biblical principles. We took this approach not because we were afraid to speak truth, but because there’s value in equipping Christians to apply Biblical theology to
everyday life. With recreational marijuana, the case against using it is so clear-cut that a person would have to propose an extremely creative justification or simply be apathetic in order to arrive at the conclusion that it’s okay. In that event, speaking some truth in love to that person would be in order.
If your youth get in the habit of using these questions, I guarantee that at some point they will discover that they have been sinning. This sudden realization can bring on a whole wave of guilt. Because of this reality, I encourage you to teach a fourth question (from Romans 10:9); “Do I believe that ‘Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the Dead?’ Then God’s forgiveness is for me!” We must be intentional about teaching youth to hear, speak and live in the Gospel–which frees us from our sin! The Gospel is so fundamental to our faith that it’s easy for us to forget the need to teach people to keep coming back to it (I even forgot to include it in my initial draft of this article), so stay focused on it.
I hope you’ll consider teaching these questions, or something similar, to your youth. If you keep bringing out these questions when dealing with tough issues, you’ll create a culture in which Christian youth go to God’s Word for faithful guidance and forgiveness.