That’s the subject of my latest essay over at The Gospel Coalition.  Here’s my concluding paragraphs:

Yet the more interesting cases come closer to us. Consider the interrelationship between caffeine and marijuana. On the one hand, many of us rely on caffeine to fuel our work obsessions. Caffeine abuses reveal an overworked, exhausted culture that refuses to rest. A cup of tea is a wonderful gift. Five cups a day may signify unhealthy dependency.

On the other hand, recreational marijuana use seems can engender something resembling sloth. Proper relaxation is a sort of satisfaction—”a job well done”—not a form of escape. Cannabis use may undercut this rest, or at least short-circuit it.

Sloth and overwork are symptoms of the same diseased understanding of how we labor. Some people will strap themselves to and die on the wheel of performance, while others escape their troubles by medicating themselves. In that sense, drugs are (ab)used to therapeutically fill a gap that is felt without being articulated.

Drug use of various kinds highlights our culture’s fundamental commitments and raises questions about how we interact with those commitments as Christians. Just how far does the therapeutic mentality infiltrate our churches? The fastest-growing segment of drug use seems to be painkillers and prescription medicines. Such “white collar” abuses reveal the same sort of escapist mentality that marijuana may foster in different social contexts.

Expanding the framework for evaluating marijuana implicates us all. But the gospel of Jesus Christ creates churches where we carry one another’s burdens. We admonish one another by observing the ways we have failed in our discipleship because we idolize performance and success. Then we begin the process of repenting for our own sins and ensuring that a gospel-centered judgment about whether to use marijuana will actually sound like good news.

I approached the piece as something of an exercise in moral reasoning.  It’s underdeveloped in a lot of ways, but I am attempting to expand some of my earlier thoughts on the body into new areas.  Make of all of it what you will.


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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. Love it. I’d really like to see a follow-up that discusses nicotine and sugar, two substances frequently abused in self-medication.


  2. DomesticIntellectual March 9, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Really like where you are going with this. For the last couple of years I’ve been working through what it means to be a good steward of my body and it has caused me to look at all kinds of consumption, including sugar, and issues of sleep deprivation, etc. in the light of living by faith. My thoughts are very tangled still, but I think this is a conversation that needs to be part of the larger discussions of intimacy, community, and discipleship.


  3. Weirdly enough, the arguments you lay out here are similar arguments to Josef Pieper (Who I was reading this week), that both of these elements are idols, and we must find a mean inbetween. Caffeine and Cannabis are simply physical forms which illustrate to us in physical terms the actuality of the problem.


  4. Maranatha John March 31, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Pretty cool. You know how abuse of drugs can all be traced back to selfishness- the need to gratify the flesh and satisfy ourselves. This is what happened to Babylon, and the Bible says that it became the habitation of devils. It’s this same spirit of wantonness that causes people to go into sexual immorality. Fornication and adultery is the norm of the day. This needs to change. So keep spreading the word. And those of you who are following, wanna recommend Dag Heward-Mills’ “All about fornication”. It’ll help you parachute out of the perversity that has plagued our generation.


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