God On Cannabis – What Does the Bible Actually Say?

Bible and Cannabis

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21

When it comes to the Bible, the authors rarely pull their punches when it comes to sin. In fact, it’s pretty common to find lists like the one above scattered throughout the Bible – in both the Old and the New Testament scriptures – full of specific sins that are condemned by God.

This verse in Galatians lists sexual sins, general sins like “impurity” and “discord”, and very specific sins like “idolatry, witchcraft, jealousy, drunkenness and orgies”, among others that, if you’re guilty of them, will keep you from inheriting the kingdom of God.

Pretty strong stuff.

But there are other verses with similar listings of sins, like these:

For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. Matt. 15:19

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Cor. 6:9-10

Outside [of God’s Kingdom] are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. Rev. 22:15

These are pretty specific, and a few of the sins listed in our earlier Galatians passage are repeated in these, along with a few new sins added in, like adultery, murder, and the practice of swindling.

It almost makes you long for those simpler times when all we had to remember were those 10 commandments God gave us in the old days, doesn’t it?

But, hopefully you’ll notice that, in all of these lists of sins that will keep you out of God’s Kingdom, there is one that is noticeably missing: The “sin” of using cannabis.

Now, I know that there are many people who will react negatively to that observation. I can almost hear them now: “But, our body is a temple! We can’t abuse our bodies with drugs and expect God to look the other way!”

Or, something like that, anyway.

So, what about that objection? Well, technically, this response references a statement in 1 Corinthians where Paul says that we should not engage in fornication, or unite ourselves with a prostitute:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. 1 Cor. 6:15-18

So, specifically, the whole “our body is God’s temple” argument is more about sexual intercourse with prostitutes than about using cannabis. Although, it is fair to suggest that using cannabis, or any other potentially mind-altering substance, could qualify as something that “profanes the Temple of God” as the Apostle Paul’s warn us against doing.

But the problem is, no one has proven that cannabis is sinful, or that using it qualifies as “profaning God’s temple.”

My point is simply this: If using cannabis, or any other drug, is a sin, then why isn’t it mentioned in the scriptures?

Is it because people in Biblical days hadn’t discovered hemp or cannabis yet? Hardly. In fact, there are many references to ancient cultures using hemp and cannabis for worship, and for healing.

According to Dr. Sula Benet, for example, the plant “kaneh” mentioned five times in the Old Testament scriptures was a reference to “cannabis” and served as an active ingredient in the holy anointing oil used by priests in both the Tabernacle and the Temple worship. Some mainstream scholars reject this notion, but Benet’s conclusions are based on her expertise in ancient Hebrew languages and culture, and if nothing else suggests the possibility that cannabis was considered a normative part of Jewish culture.

Other ancient cultures incorporated cannabis and hemp in their worship, including the Scythians who employed a ceremonial practice of eating cannabis going back to the 5th century BC, as confirmed by both modern archaeology and by ancient reports from Herodotus, a Greek historian who lived during that time period.

So, ancient cultures, including the Old Testament Jewish people, had an awareness of cannabis and hemp, and used it in a variety of ways: making rope and clothing out of hemp, and incorporating cannabis oil into their religious ceremonies.

If using cannabis was a sin, why wasn’t it denounced? Better yet, why is it that the only mentions are innocuous at worse or positive at best? It just doesn’t follow that either the Jewish believers or the Christians followers considered cannabis use to be sinful.

Of course, any substance can be abused or misused, and the Bible does speak out against this type of behavior. For example, the Bible affirms the practice of drinking wine and consuming alcohol see 1 Tim. 5:23; Eccl. 9:7. I mean, Jesus’s first miracle was to turn water into really strong wine at a party for goodness sake. But the Bible also speaks out against being drunk on wine or abusing alcohol see Eph. 5:18; 1 Pet. 4:3.

In other words, drinking alcohol isn’t a sin in itself, but over-using it, or abusing it to the point of drunkenness, is a sin.

Of course, we might just as easily say the same thing about using cannabis. The scriptures do not speak out against using it, but we might ascertain that using it to excess would be considered sinful, or at least frowned upon.

And, we could say the very same things, about tobacco, or even pizza or cheeseburgers. Almost anything we partake in could become sinful for us, or harmful to our health and well-being, if not used in moderation.

But, we haven’t considered the fact that Jesus introduces yet another way of looking at questions like this. Instead of treating the things that we take into our bodies as being sinful, or as making us impure, Jesus suggests something radically contradictory:

It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person. Matt. 15:11

A few verses later, Peter has to ask Jesus to clarify what he means exactly, because this idea was so counter to his way of thinking:

But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person… v. 15-20

Did you notice that? Jesus says that it’s not what goes into our bodies – food, drink, smoke – that defiles us, but what comes out of us, and then he lists those sins that mirror what we’ve read in other Bible passages above.

So, stay with me here, according to Jesus Christ it’s possible to drink, smoke and eat all sorts of things and still not be a “sinner”, and it’s possible to abstain from drinking, using or eating things and still be someone who has a sinful heart.

If we drink alcohol, we are no more sinful, or less sinful than someone who does not.

If we consume cannabis, we are not any more or less sinful than those who don’t.

Bottom line: What we take into our bodies is not what makes us guilty of sin, it’s what in our hearts that matters.

Someone can love Jesus and obey His commands to love others as He has loved us, and still use cannabis, or not. That has nothing to do with anything, in Jesus’s mind.

Another person can never drink a drop of alcohol, or use cannabis in any way, and still be the most hateful, selfish, unloving person you have ever met.

What matters then is not whether you use cannabis, or you don’t use it. That is literally between you and God. What matters is simply whether or not you love others as Christ has loved you.

Let’s also remember that there are many new cannabis-related medicines on the market today that have helped children with epilepsy to live normal lives, and people with cancer to recover faster from the side effects of chemotherapy, and dozens of other positive outcomes, all due to CBD, a medicinal oil derived from cannabis that does not produce any psychoactive effects.

For the record: no Christian should ever be against the use of these CBD-based medicines being used to provide a better quality of life for people who are suffering horribly from a variety of ailments. These medicines are natural, organic, and plant-based remedies that are safer and often more effective than synthetic drugs or other narcotics prescribed by doctors.

So, instead of making our lists of right and wrongs to hold one another to some outward standard of holiness, why don’t we follow the rule of love which, according to Jesus, and to the Apostle Paul, “keeps no record of wrongs” 1 Cor. 13:5.

Rather than return to the old ways of law-keeping, which Jesus came to fulfill and make obsolete, why don’t we focus more on the greatest command of all, which is to love God and love others as we have been loved?

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Gal. 5:6

Keith Giles
Keith Giles
Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. He is now a best selling author and co-hosts the "Heretic Happy Hour" podcast on iTunes, Spotify and Podbean. He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.

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