Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Christians & Drugs – What the Bible Does Not Say

Does God have a policy on drugs? Or, is this the one area in which we lack His clear or known opinion? Has God spoken in the Bible about His policy on drugs? Or, is the Bible lacking clear guidance? Does the Bible only guide us away from extremes or does it guide us toward an extreme? Does the Bible only direct us in large matters or does it guide us in everything? Is there any area of our lives that God does not care about? Is the issue of drugs a gray area? In matters that we see as gray, what would wisdom do?

Before we begin to answer these questions, both sides must observe a few Biblical rules. God totally disapproves of arguing (Philippians 2:14). Further, in the spiritual family, God totally disapproves of “demonizing” your spiritual brother/sister on either side (James 4:11). No Christian is ever called to judge another Christian (James 4:12). But, every Christian is called to judge whether certain behaviors are wise or unwise, right or wrong (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). Most importantly, if you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, you and your opinions are crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20). Therefore, we are called to race each other to the depth of humility that Christ demonstrated  (Philippians 2:3-4). If any of us are going to analyze God’s word on such a sensitive topic, both sides have a moral obligation to obey these rules (God’s rules), without exception. After all, multitudes of lives hang in the balance on this very issue. And, while the enemy is having a field day with it, he continues to reign if we bow to him by dividing each other, instead of bowing to Christ along with each other. So, let’s bow before God together.

Before we study in-depth what the Bible actually says, we must first expose what it does not say. Too many Christians fail to read God’s word enough to know which human quotes to rely on and which ones to not. And, I have lost count of the number of pastors who have used unreliable quotes with surprising confidence. If any of the quotes I'm about to share make you bristle with disbelief that they are absent from the Bible, just pause and search for them yourself. With today’s online technology, the search is rather easy. So, please search and you will find that none of the following quotes are supported by the Bible:
  • "The Bible really doesn't speak about drugs"
  • “Marijuana is natural, therefore God made it for us to consume”
  • “The Bible says ‘everything is permissible!’”
  • “The Bible teaches ‘everything in moderation’”
  • "Wine is not a drug"
  • “If you drink alcohol in private it won’t affect your witness”
  • “Wine is nothing but evil”
  • “The Bible says drinking is a sin”
  • “Jesus said, ‘Judge not, period’”
  • “Jesus drank alcohol”
  • “The Bible only says getting drunk is wrong”
  • “There’s nothing in the Bible that says it is wrong to drink alcohol”
  • “Paul told Timothy to drink”
  • “On this issue the Bible does not say ‘thou shalt not’”
  • “The Bible never teaches abstinence”
  • “Jesus died to give us freedom to drink”
  • “If you don’t drink, you are judgmental or self-righteous”
  • “You need to drink in order to have a relevant witness”
Every single one of these quotes have little to no basis in the Bible. However, they are used quite frequently in the Church and by Christians. But, opinions behind these quotes are not well-grounded. As with every issue, any opinion is a waste if the God of scripture does not explicitly back it. If these conclusions strike you as extreme, I invite you to read on and journey with us through scripture for the next several posts to determine together why they are. As we do, remember our God is extreme in that He is holy, and He calls us to be as well. So, with what the Bible does not say behind us, let’s examine together what the Bible actually does say about God’s policy on drugs of all types.

The first thing that we have to recognize is that drugs are always a matter of flesh. And, flesh is always an enemy of God’s spirit (Galatians 5:17). Christians are called towards constant alignment and reconciliation with the opinions of God on every matter. And, God is not flesh. God is spirit (John 4:24). And, while we are only partly flesh, it is our flesh that is our corruption – it must not be indulged. These principles alone should answer the vast majority of questions that we consider gray. And, if something remains gray for us, remember that nothing is gray with an omniscient God. Gray areas for mankind represent lack of spiritual knowledge. God is spirit – ultimate Spirit. Therefore, for God, there are no spiritual gray areas. And, on this issue, as with all, for Him it is black and white. And, God's view-point is that with which we are called to ultimately align.

As we search for more direct evidence of God’s opinion, remember that it is not always communicated with the phrase, “thou shalt not.” For example, we know full well that polygamy (having multiple spouses) is against God’s will. But, you won’t find a verse in the Bible that says anything like, “thou shalt not have more than one spouse.” In fact, the Bible never explicitly condemns polygamy. So, how did we ultimately conclude that polygamy is so unwise? God did not have to say “thou shalt not” in order to communicate his preference of wisdom. His preferences are communicated in so many other ways. For example, on polygamy, we have the examples of Adam and Eve, scriptures on marriage, the qualifications of elders and deacons, etc. And, it is clear that, while the Bible does not condemn it, God does not approve of polygamy. If we can search scripture to find God’s preference on the wise position on polygamy, can’t we also do this with regards to the wise position on drugs? Before we move from this point, remind yourself over and over of this example regarding polygamy. Because, the way in which we arrived at our Biblical opinions on polygamy are righteous and should instruct and rebuke us in how we approach any topic of morality, especially those that we are too blind to see in any shade other than gray.

So, how from scripture can we discern God’s policy on drugs? Well, did you know that wine is a “narcotic”? Yes, today we have both legal narcotics and illegal narcotics. Unfortunately, we rarely speak of wine in such terms in our culture. But, narcotic is a defined term for a specific class of drugs. According to the dictionary, a narcotic is “an addictive drug that reduces pain, alters mood and behavior, and usually induces narcosis (sleep and/or stupor).” The scientific classification of wine is narcotic. And, as addiction goes, alcohol is one of the more addictive of all narcotics by almost every measure – more addictive than even marijuana (another narcotic). Therefore, it stands to reason that what the Bible says about wine should instruct us regarding God’s opinion on other addictive narcotics and drugs in general. The principles that apply to wine should apply to other narcotics and vice-versa. 

Therefore, the scriptures to use to discern His policy on drugs are the 230 verses that address alcohol. These verses detail for us God’s holistic policy on drugs. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Christians never study all of these verses, which span both Testaments. And, the vast majority of pastors refuse to preach on them either. Do you really know what all 230 verses reveal on the subject? For example, allow me to list just a few of the instructive subtopics on alcohol from the Bible. As you read this list, count how many of them you can explain with sufficient detail so as to determine God’s opinion: 
  • “New wine” versus other wines
  • “Mixing bowls”
  • “Mixed wine”
  • Drinking rules for priests
  • Passover meal and the Lord’s Supper
  • The Nazirite vow
  • “Wineskins”
  • The Recabites
  • John the Baptist
  • Daniel
  • Hebrews in the wilderness
  • Qualifications for Elders
  • The marriage at Cana
  • “Stumbling blocks”
If you can’t adequately explain some of the above, then your knowledge of scripture on this subject is probably less than it should be – you are probably missing something that you should know about God’s opinion. And, if your pastor refuses to ever preach on these topics such that God's opinion remains unclear to you, then you might need to discern why that is.

What do you think is God’s opinion of us indulging our flesh with addictive narcotics for recreation? How does wine compare in alcohol content with other alcoholic beverages? How does wine compare with marijuana or heroin? What is God’s (not man’s) definition of “drunk”? Does God approve of getting a “buzz”?

In the next blog post, we will answer these and many others from scripture. In doing so, we will begin to actually examine what the literal Hebrew and Greek words mean in the Bible. Until then, I will leave you with this truth. Even in countries where other drugs are legal, alcohol kills more people and is the oil that fuels more violent crimes than all other drugs combined. This is clearly an effective tool of God’s enemy. The enemy’s fingerprint is to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). But, the fingerprint of God is wisdom. Therefore, with all matters of moral gray, if given the choice we should ask, “What would Wisdom do?”

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