Is it OK to smoke or drink occasionally?

Question

I have two questions, but in a way I think I probably know the answer. The first: Is having an occasional alcoholic drink once in a while all right if you don’t get drunk? The second: How about the occasional use of marijuana and cigarettes?

Answer

The way you frame your questions suggests that you think these things are not the same. I agree.

Two points are accepted by all Christians: First, that we should not consume anything which harms our bodies, and second, that we should never become intoxicated. All the rest requires judgment. Now of the substances you mention — alcohol, tobacco and marijuana — some Christians think it wisest to stay away from all three, while others allow the moderate use of alcohol. One difference between alcohol and marijuana is that although a person may have a glass of wine without getting drunk, getting high is the whole reason for smoking a joint. In fact, the more experience with marijuana one has had, the less it takes to get high.

Another difference among the three substances is that although even small quantities of tobacco and marijuana are harmful — a problem even with the therapeutic uses of marijuana — small quantities of alcohol may produce limited health benefits without harm. That’s why Paul advised Timothy to take a little wine with his meals for his ailing stomach (1 Timothy 5:23). For such reasons, most of the Christian denominations do permit moderate use of alcohol, but urge abstention from the other two substances, especially marijuana.

However, even if your denomination permits the moderate use of alcohol, you should avoid it if you find that you get drunk easily, that you have difficulty practicing moderation, that the use of it impairs your judgment, that you are changing your way of life to accommodate it, that you are becoming dependent upon it, that you dislike people who don’t use it — or, of course, if you are under the legal age.

Grace and peace,

PROFESSOR THEOPHILUS

Copyright 2002 Professor Theophilus. All rights reserved.

About the Author

J. Budziszewski

Professor J. Budziszewski is the author of more than a dozen books, including How to Stay Christian in College, Ask Me Anything, Ask Me Anything 2, What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, and The Line Through the Heart. He teaches government and philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin.