Alcohol, Marijuana, and the College Student
Q: I’m a college student that has never smoked and has never been drunk. I feel strongly against getting drunk so I always stop drinking when I feel myself begin to drift off a little bit.
I have two questions. First, is it wrong to drink and not get drunk while at a party? The reason why I drink is not to escape problems or because I need alcohol to have fun. I do it occasionally because I do enjoy the socializing and games that are associated with it; is that wrong?
Second, is it wrong to smoke marijuana if the intent is not to escape troubles? If alcohol is acceptable to consume as long as the intent isn’t misuse, why wouldn’t marijuana be the same since it’s not a hallucinogenic substance? I’ve had friends tell me weed helps them focus and relax, and that doesn’t seem like an “evil” substance to me.
A: You’ll not find many self-professed Lutherans who promote alcoholic abstinence. Most of us take the attitude that moderate use of a legal substance is not wrong. We read in Scripture that God used wine not only sacramentally (as the means of giving His Son’s blood for us to drink) but also celebratorily, as in the Passover celebration and at the wedding in Cana.
Note that the first two of these examples involve religious celebration while the final is essentially secular. Yet even at this party, the Lord Himself provides wine ... good wine ... lots of good wine! He realized that most of the guests would drink enough to elevate their already high spirits and some might even go too far, yet He gave it as His gift.
Of course, He didn’t force it on anyone who didn’t want to drink and He certainly didn’t encourage anyone drinking to do so to oblivion. He also didn’t have to worry that one of the guests would leave the party bombed and drive his car into a minivan full of children, nor was he providing alcohol contrary to the law of the land.
Now when you as about drinking as “a college student,” I realize that traditional students don’t normally reach the legal age for alcohol consumption until sometime during their junior years. Are you asking about drinking as a minor, contrary to state law (and maybe campus rules, as well)? If so, I cannot approve — nor does Scripture. For even if it’s not “fair” or if younger people can drink in other countries, your “governing authorities” to whom God requires you to “be subject (Romans 13:1)” say otherwise.
Current marijuana laws make the answer even more simple, in response to your second question: “Yes, it’s wrong. Period.” Even if pot’s benefits completely overshadowed its liabilities (and the debate is open on this), those “governing authorities” have said, “Thou shalt not do weed, neither shalt thou grow it nor shalt thou distribute it.” And the apostle, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says, “That’s the breaks.” Or something like that.
Of course, if marijuana were legal here, as it is in some countries, you’d need to do a lot more research. For one thing, does weed really help you “focus and relax”? Relax? Quite likely — unless you’re smoking it illegally. Then, it might make you paranoid about getting busted. Focus? Um, yeah, but likely more on water dripping from a faucet, fish swimming in an aquarium, or a repetitious drum riff on the stereo than on your calculus homework.
Also, contrary to what you’ve been told, marijuana is classified as an hallucinogen — albeit mild compared to substances such as LSD. However, even the weed available when I was in college could actively deceive your perceptions and most of what’s sold and used now has much higher THC levels.
See previous articles, including Christian Use of Drugs and Alcohol, Two Wines? Too Much!, and Mushrooms: Magic or Menace? as you continue to think about what’s allowed and what’s truly profitable for you. You can also get a good look a the Scripture vs. moralism arguments in Father Hollywood’s Alcohol, Christianity, and Truth.
I hope this helps you determine what is good and right for you — both now, as a student, and later, as you continue living a responsible Christian life as an adult. God bless you.
Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.
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Walter Snyder is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author of the book What Do Lutherans Believe, and writer of numerous published devotions, prayers, and sermons.
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