John Piper: Don't Let Your Mind Go to Pot
By John Piper - Desiringgod On January 16, 2014
Marijuana is ordinarily used as a mood-altering, mind-altering drug. The aim is to create a kind of euphoria. The effects vary widely from person to person. All you have to do is Google, "What does Marijuana feel like?" People don't smoke it to get unhappy. It produces a temporary state that is felt to be better than ordinary life. That's why it's called a "high" and not a low.
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So the first comparison one might be inclined to make is with caffeine. Most people drink coffee because caffeine has a pleasant effect. But there is a difference. Marijuana temporarily impairs the reliable processing of surrounding reality. Caffeine ordinarily sharpens that processing.
Most coffee drinkers hope to stay awake, do their jobs more reliably, and drive more safely. It is certainly possible to abuse caffeine, but, as a natural stimulant, it is most commonly used not as an escape from reality, but as an effort to interact responsibly with reality.
Even those who advocate most strongly for the legalization of marijuana concede the impaired functioning that research has shown:
The short-term effects of marijuana include immediate, temporary changes in thoughts, perceptions, and information processing. The cognitive process most clearly affected by marijuana is short-term memory. In laboratory studies, subjects under the influence of marijuana have no trouble remembering things they learned previously. However, they display diminished capacity to learn and recall new information. This diminishment only lasts for the duration of the intoxication. There is no convincing evidence that heavy long-term marijuana use permanently impairs memory or other cognitive functions.
Other studies suggest that the effect on diminished brain function is more lasting, especially for teenagers.
Thus, unlike caffeine, marijuana is not generally thought of as an empowering drug that enables you to be a more alert dad, or a more aware mother, or a more competent employee. Rather, for most users, it is a recreational escape, which produces diminished accuracy of observation, memory, and reasoning. And it may have lasting negative effects on the mind's ability to do what God created it to do.
Your Body Is Not Your Own
In view of this, there are at least two biblical truths that would lead us away from the recreational use of marijuana. The first is that, for the Christian, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. That simple teaching, in context, should have a huge effect.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
When my mother told me not to smoke, for example, or not to have sex before marriage, because my body was the temple of the Holy Spirit, it clicked. That made sense. It was an immovable barrier between me and self-destruction. My body belonged to God. It was not for my recreational use in just any way I pleased. It was for his glory.
If I were raising kids again today, I would say, "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. You are not your own. You were bought with Jesus's blood. Ask, Is this making Jesus look like the treasure he is?" I would ask this about smoking, about drunkenness, about recreational marijuana, about sedentary indolence, about overeating, about banal TV watching, and lots of other things.
And I would add: "The body is meant for the Lord, and the Lord for the body" (1 Corinthians 6:13). Keep it clean and ready for his use. Don't dull your God-given powers of seeing clearly, and observing accurately, and thinking soundly, and remembering helpfully. I would ask, "Can you commend Christ authentically to your friends during a marijuana high?"
Your Mind Is Invaluable
The second biblical truth that would incline us away from the recreational use of marijuana is that God gave us minds and hearts to know him and love him and discern his will. "Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature" (1 Corinthians 14:20). Don't become an experienced sinner to learn the folly of sin. Be willing to be an inexperienced baby when it comes to sharing in mind-clouding drugs. Be ruthlessly clear-headed. Let the herd stampede over the cliff without you. Use your mind to warn them, not join them.
In regard to drunkenness - and a marijuana high is a kind of drunkenness - the Bible says, "In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things" (Proverbs 23:32-33). In other words, it leads away from the kind of sober-mindedness and self-control that is essential in using the mind for the glory of God.
What About Medicinal Use?
But having said that, I doubt that we should oppose a regulated medical use of marijuana, controlled by appropriate physician oversight and prescriptions. Many drugs are sold by prescription which, if they were abused, would be even more destructive than marijuana. I have a friend who shared with me very soberly that his son had a longstanding injury, and that the only relief he could get was from a small dosage of marijuana.
But the point here is mainly to say that those who live to make much of Christ will want to turn away from marijuana and other destructive, mood-altering drugs, and move toward clear-eyed seeing and lucid thinking for the glory of God.