From time to time I am approached by students who have sincere questions about why illegal drug use is wrong. They come to me, I suppose, because I sometimes mention in class that in my pre-Christian days (now over thirty years ago!) I used drugs myself. Here is a student’s email I recently received which is fairly representative:
I used to use drugs, mainly just marijuana, and sometimes I feel the urge to go back to that. When I became a Christian a couple of years ago, I didn’t have the urge to smoke anymore and just recently I’ve been trying to figure out where I stand on the matter…. I find that it’s not a black-and-white issue and even when I was smoking, I would think to myself “What’s the big deal?” or “How would this keep me from following Jesus?” I know the Bible has a lot to say about intoxication but that seems to be when other debauchery, sexual immorality, etc. are involved and how drunkenness/intoxication leads to those other things that separate us from God. I’m wondering if I’m missing the big picture when it comes to intoxication and following Jesus.
Indeed, what is the big deal? Well, the biggest part of the big deal is that “following Jesus” essentially means living according to Christian moral standards. As Jesus tells us, to love him is to obey him (John 14:15, 21). So to knowingly disobey God but to claim to “follow” Jesus is simply incoherent.
But perhaps this student is really wondering whether there is anything morally problematic with smoking pot or doing other illegal drugs. And this, I have discovered, is really the crux of the concern of most other students who ask me about the issue. Over the years I have developed a multi-pronged response, which I will now very briefly summarize:
- The biblical mandate to obey governing authorities – Scripture makes clear that we must obey the law (Rom. 13:1-2 and 1 Pet. 2:13-14), given that those laws do not compel us to sin. Smoking pot or using other illegal drugs is a clear violation of this biblical standard.
- The biblical mandate to care for one’s body – The apostle Paul tells us that the body is the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19). This, combined with the more basic fact that one’s body is a gift from God, implies that we have a responsibility to take care of our bodies and not cause them unnecessary harm, which, of course, is a common consequence of illegal drug use.
- The argument from lawlessness – Piggybacking on the first argument above, the point here is that habitual lawbreaking deadens moral conscience. Consistent flouting of civil laws, however “trivial” or “unfair” they might seem, nurtures a rebellious spirit and insensitivity to the demands of God-ordained authority generally.
- The argument from bad company – Since illegal drug use necessarily involves one in crime and, at least indirect, association with hard core criminals (those who deal the drugs), this risks inadvertent involvement with other illegal activities and character corruption.
- The argument from moral complicity– The drug trade is, of course, ultimately connected to the dark world of narco-terrorism, where theft, assault, sexual violence, murder, and all kinds of attacks on innocent human lives are commonplace. To financially support this underworld constitutes complicity with all of the evils it perpetrates. And, of course, to be complicit with evil is itself a form of evil.
These are my “top five” moral arguments against illegal drug use. To these I would add a couple of further observations, which may be used as supplemental arguments. One I call the “problem of sloth.” Illegal drug users tend to be slackers in their work and life commitments. I’ve never known a regular marijuana smoker who didn’t display irresponsibility of various kinds. Dope smoking diminishes industry and ambition, making one less productive than one could or should be. Finally, one could make an “argument from narcissism.” Drug use encourages self-absorption, and not just because it is all about giving oneself pleasure but also because it is necessarily secretive in nature. This encourages moral implosion and is yet another reason why illegal drug use is not the sort of activity in which a morally serious person will be involved.