The Heart of Getting High
A couple of weeks ago, I handed out an anonymous survey in our youth group–around 45 students filled it out. Seventy percent of students said they have seen someone “smoke or use” marijuana-related products at school. Sixty-five percent of students said that at least some of their friends “smoke or use” marijuana products. Fifty-six percent of those students said that they have been offered marijuana-related products–that’s one in two.
According to a national survey performed by Michigan State University in 2016, 9.4 percent of 8th graders reported marijuana use in the past year and 5.4 percent in the past month (current use). Among 10th graders, 23.9 percent had used marijuana in the past year and 14.0 percent in the past month. Rates of use among 12th graders were higher still–35.6 percent had used marijuana during the year prior to the survey and 22.5 percent used in the past month. Six percent said they used marijuana daily or near-daily.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, numbers are still gradually increasing. The influence of marijuana in our nation, specifically among young people, is significant and growing. This is an issue we must look at for the sake of our youth, our children, maybe even some in this room tonight. Some of us are behind the times–unaware of what is going on. I must admit that I’m even out of the loop–things have changed dramatically since I graduated from high school in 2010. These are things parents and church members need to know, especially as we minister to the youth around us.
Marijuana takes many forms and is consumed many different ways. Long gone are the days of the classic doobie (Doobie Brothers). Marijuana is still smoked, but the plants have developed. Modern techniques have experimented with different strains and species to increase the THC content. THC is the compound in marijuana that creates the psychoactive effect on the brain. The oils are extracted from the plant (including high levels of THC) and used to produce edibles (food), wax which is a form that can be smoked from a vape pen, some the size of a USB cartridge. These are the more popular forms used among young people, because it is easier to take a bite out of a brownie than pull out a bong and take a hit. It’s easier to hide.
But there are health consequences. The New England Journal of Medicine conducted a study in 2014 on the Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use–and this is a summary of their findings. It impairs short term memory, making it difficult to learn and to retain information, especially for adolescents who are in a stage of intense brain development. It impairs motor coordination, interfering with driving skills and increasing the risk of injuries. It is the drug most associated with car accidents, outside of alcohol. It alters judgment, increasing the risk of strange sexual behavior. In high doses, it can induce paranoia and psychosis (mental disorder–disconnection from reality).
Marijuana has often been called the gateway drug that leads to addiction, even addiction to more serious drugs. Studies show that ten percent of people who start smoking marijuana as a teenager become addicted to more serious drugs later in life. Marijuana use has been linked in a few recent studies to an increased risk of an aggressive type of testicular cancer in young men.
Then there are legal consequences. Yes, marijuana is legal for both medicinal and recreational use in the state of California, thanks to Prop 64 passed in 2016, effective January 1, 2018. But although marijuana is legal, there are still a lot of restrictions. The legal age of consumption is 21. It cannot be consumed in public, unless a government authorized vendor. It cannot be smoked within 1,000 feet of any school. The legal limit is 28.5g. (flower) and 8g. (concentrate). Needless to say, most of the marijuana consumption you see in public, at schools, is illegal–a misdemeanor, or even worse, a felony.
Bo Sivilay, resident FBC deputy in the local sheriff department, gave me a true scenario. Two seniors in high school, one 18 and the other 17–the 18-year-old got some weed from his brother, who purchased it legally. He and the 17-year-old friend smoke and get caught by law enforcement. An 18-year-old who distributes marijuana to a minor (17 or younger) is charged with a felony–punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison and the 17-year-old receives a misdemeanor (according to California Health and Safety Code: Section 11361). There are some serious legal consequences for the use of marijuana.
The big questions for us is, “What does the Bible say?” Is consuming marijuana-related products sinful? Is this a “Christian freedoms” issue or gray area? What does the Bible say? Some have misused the Bible to defend their marijuana use.
When I was evangelizing at the beach with our youth (and Eddie Roman), there was a homeless man, and as he opened his jacket and showed us his baggy, he asked if we wanted some? When I responded no, and that we were there to share the Gospel with him, he said that he was a Christian.
“Didn’t God say that He gave ‘every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you’ (Genesis 1:29)? What he got wrong was that He did–but this happened before the events of Genesis chapter 3, when man sinned and as a result the ground is cursed (verses 17 to 19). Plant life changed, and instead of bearing all of the fruit of the garden of Eden, the ground bears thorns and thistles–plants that are definitely inedible and not good for food. “Why don’t you take a handful of poison oak?”
What does the Bible say? There isn’t a verse that says, “Don’t smoke weed, and don’t eat it either.” We have to apply Biblical wisdom, principles, and theology to this issue. I believe the Bible speaks clearly and gives us enough to say that consuming marijuana recreationally, in whatever form, at whatever age, is sin. Just as a side note, I will not be addressing the medicinal use of marijuana–I believe that is a different issue. If you want to know more on that, talk to the elders, specifically Rod Shackelford.
However, I believe the Bible speaks clearly and gives us enough to say that consuming marijuana recreationally, in whatever form, at whatever age, is sin. But I want to say more than that. Sin (all sin, by the way) is more than an external issue. You will need more than external consequences to deal with this issue. Said a different way–sin is a heart issue that manifests itself in external actions, so to really deal with the issue, you must address the heart.
We must do more than scare the tar out of young people with statistics. We must do more than tell kids, “Just say no.” Parents, we must say more than, “I’m so disappointed in you. I can’t believe you would do something like this. You need to know there are consequences for your actions. Now go to your room–you’re grounded for three months.”
Hear me–discipline is good. The law is our aid in administering justice. The health issues are real and there are consequences for poor decisions. But we know there is more to the issue. We must get to the heart with the Gospel. The only way they will change is if they turn from the sin in their heart to the Savior. You’ve heard this illustration before–when you want to get rid of weeds, you don’t just cut off the branches. You don’t just pluck the leaves, you pull the thing out by the what? The root!
Getting high is not an external issue that is dealt with by external consequences. It’s a heart issue that needs to be addressed at the heart level. There are four heart issues that I see at “The Heart of Getting High,” and the Bible addresses all of them. So that is what we are going to look at tonight.
And by the way, just because you have never done drugs doesn’t mean that you are off the hook. You might have the same heart issues, but they manifest themselves differently. Don’t think that if you don’t do drugs, this message doesn’t apply to you–I encourage you to allow the Word to open your heart to see if these issues exist in you. Don’t think for a second that you are in any way better, or more superior, than the drug addict. We are all sinners in need of a Savior (more on this at the end).
First Heart of Rebellion
There is no question, even in our culture, that drugs are associated with rebellion. From Hippies at Woodstock protesting the war, to gangs in the drug trade rebelling against the DEA . . . from Bob Marley and “I Shot the Sheriff” to “Ten Crack Commandments” by The Notorious B.I.G. Cultural icons, rebels in society waving both a banner of rebellion and drugs–their message has not changed. I couldn’t have summarized it better than Snoop Dogg . . .
“So what we get drunk
So what we smoke weed
We’re just having fun
We don’t care who sees
So what we go out
That’s how it’s supposed to be
Living young and wild and free”
This is not the message of the Bible. Romans 13:1 to 2, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”
First Peter 2:13 to 17 says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil but use it as bondslaves of God. 17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”
And finally, Titus 3:1, “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed.” A Christian is not a rebel. We should not be known for rebellion to authority but rather the opposite–submission to government as evidence of our submission to Christ.
Ask a young person, “Why do you smoke marijuana?” Is it because it’s illegal? Is it because someone told you, “No touch,” and everything within you wants to touch anyway? Is it to stick it to your parents? Teachers? Coaches? Campus security? Police? Is it because you are just unwilling to submit?
When I was in high school, I played football so our PE teacher was the football coach. Well, we had given him a hard time, so he got mad and we had to do ten minutes of wall squats. My friend Eric just looked him in the eye and said, “No.” Coach told him either do it or he would go to the office for suspension. Eric said, “No.” Coach said he would be suspended from the team–and actually, he was suspended from school.
And by the way, Eric’s rebellion didn’t end there–I found out later that he has been in and out of jail, had multiple DUIs, been in bar fights. Eric still can’t submit to authority–the rebel never wins. Those who do not submit to government authority do not submit to God. And those who do not submit to God will be judged accordingly. This is an important lesson for young people to learn. There are earthly and eternal consequences for rebellion (remember Romans 13:1 to 2).
We must deal with the heart of rebellion as early as it starts, teaching our young children to submit to authority, to obey mommy and daddy, because it is good to submit to teachers, coaches, school administration staff, police officers. God does not call us to something He didn’t do. The Son, Jesus Christ, submitted to the will of His Father and to government authority. He is a perfect example. Following Him means that we rid ourselves of a heart of rebellion and submit to authority.
Second Heart of Idolatry
You know the commandments–“You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall not worship them (an idol)” (Exodus 20:3 and 4). Often, especially when it relates to addictive drugs, the drug becomes an idol that rules over the heart. “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).
First Corinthians 3:16 to 17, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” Our bodies were not made for drug abuse–they were not made to serve another master. They were made for worship, and worship of God alone.
It is so easy for substance to become a master, an idol. It starts with a small compromise–one hit, one high. The chemical reaction comprising the high is addictive. Your body naturally wants more, and now you are willing to compromise more. Next time two hits, next time three–then when that fix doesn’t work, move on to the next drug. The spiraling effect continues. Now substance is your master.
Proverbs 23:29 to 35 (NASB95), “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? 30 Those who linger long over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine. 31 Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; 32 At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper. 33 Your eyes will see strange things and your mind will utter perverse things. 34 And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, or like one who lies down on the top of a mast. 35 ‘They struck me, but I did not become ill; they beat me, but I did not know it. When shall I awake? I will seek another drink.’”
Substance is a cruel master–it’s relentless, abusive. It damages the body and the mind. A great question to ask, “Is marijuana your master?”
Third Heart of Debauchery
“Well Morgan, I’m of legal age, so I’m not in rebellion. I’m not an addict–I don’t feel like the drug has mastery over me, so it’s not an idol in my life. Is it still wrong for me to get high?
Turn in your Bible to Ephesians 5:15 to 18, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”
The context of this passage is talking about living out our identity in Christ–imitating Him as children of light, not of darkness. It’s all about the conduct of a believer as those who submit to Christ through His Spirit (being Spirit-filled), not to the foolishness of the world. So look back at the passage.
Drunkenness . . . foolishness of the world . . . dissipation–dissipation, or ἀσωτία is a strong word meaning anti-salvation or hopelessness. In ancient context, it was used of the prodigal, the one who would go out and squander his wealth or waste gifts or waste time (which would fit well within our context). The idea of dissipation is “squandering or debauchery”. What are you squandering specifically in drunkenness? The mind.
Drunkenness is sinful because it is mind-squandering–surrendering control to substance rather than God, which is why the contrast is used. Don’t be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit. Children of light are Spirit-controlled, not substance controlled. So now the question becomes, does smoking marijuana produce a similar affect? Is getting high also “squandering of the mind?” Is it also surrendering control to substance?
How does THC work? THC acts on specific molecular targets on brain cells, called cannabinoid receptors. This kicks off a series of cellular reactions that ultimately lead to the “high” that users experience. The highest density of cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordination movement. During the high even with very small amounts of THC, case studies prove that marijuana intoxication impairs judgment and motor coordination.
I can cite New England Journal of Medicine, Maastricht University in Holland (extensive study of the effects on driving), the National Institute on Drug Abuse–the findings are conclusive. In one interesting case study, ten licensed pilots who all used marijuana were given eight hours of training to follow a landing pattern in a flight simulator. Each pilot smoked one marijuana joint containing 19 mg. of THC (which is a relatively small amount). Twenty-four hours later, the “high” had presumably worn off–yet all ten of the pilots made errors in landing and one of them missed the runway completely.
Let me ask, is smoking marijuana, even in controlled amounts, mind squandering? Have you surrendered control? Yes. Alcohol can be consumed in controlled amounts. You can have a glass of wine and not exceed the legal limit of 0.08 BAC and not be intoxicated. Marijuana is different–THC acts faster and with lower doses. Even when one doesn’t feel the “high,” they could very much still be “under the influence.”
Hosea 4:11 warns that “wine and new wine take away the understanding.” First Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful.” And then Titus 2:11 and 12, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” Christians are not mind-squanderers–we are mind-renewers (Romans 12:2)–submitting our mind to the Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit, not substance. Which leads us to another heart issue in smoking marijuana.
Heart of Dissatisfaction
Why do you smoke it? Why surrender your mind to this substance? One of the main reasons that people use it is that getting high provides an escape. Maybe they consider that their home life is impossibly difficult. Or the pain of life is unbearable. The anxiety overtakes me . . . I’m weary, hurting, and dissatisfied–marijuana provides relief. This is where I sympathize with the drug addict.
The Bible says in John 6:27, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.” And then the same chapter, verse 35, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.'” In Matthew 11:28 to 29 Jesus said, “’Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.'”
There was a rich man with a large estate who collected exotic animals. One day he came home with a stray dog. No one could understand why he brought home this wounded, sickly, ugly creature. He brought it into his house and cared for it, washing, combing, bandaging, feeding and giving it a home. The next morning it was gone. But that afternoon he brought back every stray dog from the neighborhood, because he knew where they could be cared for and find a home.
Isn’t that Christ? He gives us what we don’t deserve. But we think we’re the exotic animals–we deserve the care of the Master. The drug addict is the stray. But we’re all the stray who came in desperate need of help. We are no better than any other, and we need to tell others of the good news we have received. Love them the way Jesus does.
 Johnston L, O’Malley P, Miech R, Bachman J, Schulenberg J. Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use: 1975-2016: Overview: Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan; 2016.
 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)
 Nora D. Volkow, Ruben D. Baler, and Wilson M. Compton, “Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana,” The New England Journal of Medicine, June 5, 2014, , https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1402309.
 Streetdrugs: A Drug Identification Guide, Long Lake, MN: Publishers Group West, LLC, 2014, 10.
 Streetdrugs, 9.