Recently, I met with a father who is facing a phenomenon that is all too common. His teenage son asked a question that he found difficult to answer. The particular question he faced went something like this:
“Dad, I know smoking pot is illegal, but that seems to be changing in some states. If it were legal for a person of my age – would it still be bad?”
Normally the teen follows this question with a summary quote of a study that compares the effects of marijuana and alcohol on the brain and body. The common conclusion is – marijuana seems safer than alcohol. Typically, the proactive teen can even produce a couple of studies that seem to conclude that marijuana even has some health benefits.
The dad I had lunch with was quick to produce a verse. He mentioned Ephesian 5:18 where Paul warns us, “do not get drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit”. Dad proceed to take the principle of the verse and make application to marijuana, prescription drugs, etc.
Let me quickly say, “way to go dad!” you are showing your child your faith in the authority of scripture in your home – that’s awesome. In addition to this I would recommend you go a step further – ask a better question. Rather than simply asking, “is it bad?”, a better question would be, “why do you think people want to use marijuana?”. There are a number of reasons the honest teen will give for an attraction to the substance. It may be boredom, curiosity or peer pressure, however more often than not I am hearing teens say that they are tempted to smoke pot as a way of dealing with stress. Since that is the primary reason I am given I will show you how I address that response.
Stress in short spurts it can be helpful in that it gives us a dose of adrenaline for use in our natural, “fight of flight” response to a threat. It can energize us to tackle things properly. However prolonged stress is typically a form of what the Bible calls – worry. When a Christian is worried it should send them into a time of analysis. First, we should acknowledge that all worry is sin. Second we ask the following questions:
- What specifically am I stressed about?
- Are there practical things I can do to better the situation?
- Are there things out of my control that I should trust God’s sovereignty about?
- Am I acting in love toward all the parties involved – friends and enemies?
- Is there any area that I need to store up or offer forgiveness toward someone?
- Am I thinking on things that are true (Phillipians 4:8) or am I imagining things that I don’t have evidence of?
When we wrestle through such questions we typically find that we are humbled, driven near to God, and our stress (or worry) is turned into sense of peace and confidence in our Lord. The enemy offers a myriad of substances as an alternative to dealing with stress biblically – marijuana is one. Mood altering substances can become a crutch that keeps us from addressing the real problem.
More broadly – healthy things can also become crutches. Working out, for example, can serve to clear your mind, give you a burst of endorphins and enable you to do the hard work of biblical analysis. If, however, working out becomes an end in itself – it will also become a crutch and a replacement to working through your stresses biblically.
When addressing the question of recreation drug or alcohol use – consider a similar paradigm of questions depending on the teens response. If they are using primarily due to peer pressure, you want them to better understand what God’s word has to say concerning friendships.
When you deal with the issues of life this way it will not eliminate the temptation your kids face entirely but it will reduce a 10 temptation down to perhaps a 4, which is more manageable. In conclusion, remember – ask better questions.