The Bible And Drugs 

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Introduction

Our area of the country has been ravaged by the scourge of drug abuse.

When I first moved to Kentucky, a friend of my father was speaking with him about life in Hazard. His advice?

“Tell your son not to move to Hazard, it’s the drug center of America!”

I am thankful that I did move to this area, and I am thankful for all of the addicts that we are blessed to work with.

In this article, I want to examine a very important question: what does the Bible teach about drugs?  

The Medicinal Use Of Drugs

The Scriptures are clear that God has placed medicines into the world for the good of mankind. Contrary to much speculation in the religious world, the Bible teaches that there is a legitimate medicinal use of drugs.

One of my favorite examples of this is from the story of King Hezekiah.

Being sick and near to death, the king prayed to the Lord. Having mercy on the king of Judah, the Lord told Israel the Prophet how to heal him:

Isaiah 38:21-Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a lump of figs, and apply it as a poultice on the boil, and he shall recover.”

Did you notice that? God instructed Isaiah to make medicine to heal the king.

The Scriptures are full of references to medicines of various kinds.

For example:

“In the figurative account of the evil case of Judah and Israel because of their backsliding (Jer 30:13), the prophet says they have had no rephu’ah, or “healing medicines.” Later on (Jer 46:11), when pronouncing the futility of the contest of Neco against Nebuchadrezzar, Jeremiah compares Egypt to an incurably sick woman going up to Gilead to take balm as a medicine, without any benefit. In Ezekiel’s vision of the trees of life, the leaves are said (the King James Version) to be for medicine, the Revised Version (British and American) reads “healing,” thereby assimilating the language to that in Re 22:2, “leaves of the tree …. for the healing of the nations” (compare Eze 47:12). Very few specific remedies are mentioned in the Bible. “Balm of Gilead” is said to be an anodyne (Jer 8:22; compare Jer 51:8). The love-fruits, “mandrakes” (Ge 30:14) and “caperberry” (Ec 12:5 margin), myrrh, anise, rue, cummin, the “oil and wine” of the Good Samaritan, soap and sodic carbonate (“natron,” called by mistake “nitre”) as cleansers, and Hezekiah’s “fig poultice” nearly exhaust the catalogue. In the Apocrypha we have the heart, liver and gall of Tobit’s fish (Tobit 6:7). In the Egyptian pharmacopoeia are the names of many plants which cannot be identified, but most of the remedies used by them were dietetic, such as honey, milk, meal, oil, vinegar, wine. The Babylonian medicines, as far as they can be identified, are similar. In the Mishna we have references to wormwood, poppy, hemlock, aconite and other drugs. The apothecary mentioned in the King James Version (Ex 30:25, etc.) was a maker of perfumes, not of medicines. Among the fellahin many common plants are used as folk-remedies, but they put most confidence in amulets or charms, which are worn by most Palestinian peasants to ward off or to heal diseases.” (Alexander Macalister, “Medicine,” in James Orr, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 117347-117366 (Kindle Edition); Osnova)

“Medical care in biblical times frequently employed the use of different kinds of salves and ointments. Olive oil was used widely, either alone or as an ingredient in ointments. The use of oil for the treatment of wounds is mentioned in Isa. 1: 6 and Luke 10: 34. Oil also became a symbol of medicine, and its use was coupled with prayer for the ill (Mark 6: 13; James 5: 14). Herbs and various products obtained from many different plants were among the most popular of ancient medicines. These were applied to the body as a poultice, or, in many cases, taken by mouth. Frankincense and myrrh—gum resins obtained from trees—were commonly used to treat a variety of diseases, although their main use was in perfumes and incense. Wine was commonly thought to have medicinal value. One of its uses was to alleviate pain and discomfort. Wine, mixed with gall and myrrh, was offered to Jesus prior to His crucifixion, but He refused to drink it (Matt. 27: 34; Mark 15: 23). Wine also was used to sooth stomach and intestinal disorders (1 Tim. 5: 23) and to treat a variety of other physical problems. Beer was also widely used as an ingredient in several medicines, especially by the Babylonians….When Leah suffered a temporary period of sterility, she sent her son, Reuben, to the field to obtain mandrakes. Her barren sister, Rachel, also asked for some of the mandrakes (Gen. 30: 9-24). The root of the mandrake was widely used in the ancient world to promote conception, although there is no reason to believe it was truly effective. It was also used as a narcotic.” (Kenneth Eakins, “Diseases,” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary,14729-14755 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: Holman Reference)

The writer of Proverbs teaches us about the importance of alcohol as a remedy for those who are suffering and near death:

Proverbs 31:6-8-6 Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to those who are bitter of heart. 7 Let him drink and forget his poverty, And remember his misery no more. 8 Open your mouth for the speechless, In the cause of all who are appointed to die.

When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, He instructed us about the important medicinal use of drugs:

Luke 10:34-So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

The Samaritan used oils and wines to bring healing to the man who had been injured.

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he instructed him about the importance of using medicine:

1 Timothy 5:23-No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.

Timothy (like many in our day and age) did not want to take medicine that was needed. Yet Paul encouraged him to do so!

It is interesting to notice that the ‘wine” in this verse may have had reference to regular grape-juice, or to fermented wine. Ancient physicians often wrote of the medicinal use of both:

“It is generally assumed that the wine Paul recommended to Timothy was alcoholic. But this is by no means certain, for two reasons. First, because the term oinos (“ wine”), as we have shown, was used in a generic way to denote either fermented or unfermented wine. Second, because there are historical testimonies attesting the use of unfermented wine for medical purposes. Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) recommends the use of a sweet grape juice, called glukus in Greek, because, he says, “though called wine [oinos], it has not the effect of wine . . . and does not intoxicate like ordinary wine.” 7 Athenaeus, the Grammarian (A.D. 280), specifically counsels the use of unfermented “sweet wine” (glukon oinon) for stomach disorders. He writes: “Let him take sweet wine, either mixed with water or warmed, especially that kind called protropos, the sweet Lesbian glukus, as being good for the stomach; for sweet wine [oinos] does not make the head heavy.” 8 Here we have advice which sounds strikingly similar to that of Paul, with the difference that Athenaeus qualifies the kind of wine recommended, namely, the sweet wine, called “lesbian” because its alcoholic potency had been removed. A similar advice regarding the medical use of wine is given by Pliny (A. D. 79), a contemporary of Paul and author of the celebrated Natural History. He recommends using a boiled, unfermented wine called adynamon for sick persons “for whom it is feared that wine may be harmful.” 9 He also recommends to avoid the side effects of alcohol by using wines whose alcohol content had been removed through filtration: “Wines are most beneficial when all their potency has been overcome by the strainer.”” (Samuele Bacchiocchi, WINE IN THE BIBLE A BIBLICAL STUDY ON THE USE OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES, 920-936 (Kindle Edition); Biblical Perspectives)

Regardless of whether the alcohol here was alcoholic or non-alcoholic, the point is that it was used as MEDICINE.

Further, doesn’t the Apostle Paul himself refer to the legitimacy of medicine when he writes these words to the Colossians?

Colossians 4:14-Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.

From these Scriptures (and many others could be referenced), we see that the Bible authorizes the legitimate use of medicines.

The Recreational Use Of Drugs

While the Bible is clear that the legitimate medicinal use of drugs is acceptable before God, they are also very clear that the recreational abuse of drugs is sinful.

Let’s notice a few Scriptures which discuss this.

Ephesians 5:18-And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,

The word “drunk” is from a Greek word that basically means “intoxicated” or “inebriated.”

“There are several Greek terms which are translated ‘drunk,’ ‘drunken,’ and ‘drunkenness’ in the New Testament. Along with several others, W.E. Vine makes an interesting distinction in regard to methusko. He defines it as ‘to make drunk, or to grow drunk (an inceptive verb, marking the process of the state expressed in methuo), to become intoxicated, Luke 12:45; Ephesians 5:18; I Thessalonians 5:17a.’ Robert Young, along with W.A. Haynes, defines it as ‘to begin to be softened.’ S.T. Bloomfield views the term as meaning, ‘to moisten, or to be moistened with liquor, and in a figurative sense, to be saturated with drink.’ E.W. Bullinger says methusko means, ‘to grow drunk (marking the beginning of methuo.’) The renowned Joseph Henry Thayer states that the term means ‘to get drunk, become intoxicated.’ These definitions clearly establish beyond a doubt that drunkenness is something that can grow, progress from one state to another, be considered as a state of becoming softened, and, therefore, that it is the beginning of even an advanced degree. The implication is that persons begin to be drunk when they begin to drink. No doubt the reason that some fail to see this fact is because of what they literally see. They have built into their systems the idea that persons must be staggering or in a stupor to be drunk. If they see them in such condition, they consider them as drunk, and otherwise they do not. This is not, however, the basis upon which the Bible determines drunkenness. Medical science also testifies in regard to alcoholic influence.” (W.D. Jeffcoat, The Bible And “Social” Drinking: In-Depth Research Of A Universal Problem, 106-107; Huntsville, Alabama; Publishing Designs, Inc.)

What is really fascinating is that in the original language of the phrase “do not be drunk,”, there is an incentive verb that is used.

The significance of this is in realizing that the incentive verb means “to mark the beginning of a process.”

“2. Ingressive (Inceptive, Inchoative) Aorist…The aorist tense may be used to stress the beginning of an action or the entrance into a state.” (Daniel B. Wallace, The Basics Of New Testament Syntax: An Intermediate Greek Grammar, 5263 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)

“The inceptive imperfect expresses the initiation of an action in the past (‘I began to loose’).” (David Alan Black, Learn To Read New Testament Greek,1145 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; B&H Academic)

“inceptive…Giving emphasis to the beginning of the verbal action (Lat. inceptivus, ‘starting’). This term often appears in connection with the aorist (see 2 Cor 8:9) or imperfect-tense verbs (see Mt. 3:5). Also called inchoative, incipient or ingressive.” (Mathew S. Demoss, Pocket Dictionary For The Study Of New Testament Greek, 779 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press)

Paul is telling the Ephesians, “Do not even begin the process of becoming intoxicated.”

In other words, “Don’t even take the first drink!”

Consider another passage of Scripture which teaches us about God’s condemnation of recreational drug abuse.

Titus 2:11-14-11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Paul says that God desires His people to live “soberly.”

The word here literally means to be “free from the influence of intoxicants” (W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 55472 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Thomas Nelson Publishers).

Didn’t God make this clear in the Old Testament Scriptures as well?

Proverbs 23:29-35-29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? 30 Those who linger long at the wine, Those who go in search of mixed wine. 31 Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly; 32 At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper. 33 Your eyes will see strange things, And your heart will utter perverse things. 34 Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, Or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: 35 “They have struck me, but I was not hurt; They have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”

Solomon makes it clear about the best way to deal with drugs and alcohol: do not even look on them!

In our studies, we should also investigate this passage from the Book of Revelation:

Revelation 9:20-21-20 But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. 21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

Someone says, “Mark, what does this have to do with drugs?”

If you have a NKJV of the Bible, you will notice that it has a footnote with the word “sorceries” that says, “Or drugs.”

What is the significance of this word?

“One of the items Paul also includes in his list is “sorcery”. So, what is sorcery? Some Bible translations use the word “Witchcraft”. From the English context it is difficult to determine exactly what this refers to considering today’s terminology. This is where it useful to use a Greek Lexicon (dictionary) to examine more closely the intention of the meaning as used in the New Testament compared with non-Biblical definitions. A non-biblical definition indicates the witchcraft uses herbalism or the “magical art of botanicals” and that a “pharmakis” is an “herbalist”. 28 Now let us compare this secular (non-religious) definition to the Bible. Sorcery comes from the root Greek word “pharmakeia” that, again, is also translated as “witchcraft” in other verses of the Bible. These words are misleading in today’s vocabulary but the Greek root sounds a lot like our English word “Pharmacy” (as in a place where you get medicine from a doctor). To get a clearer picture it is important to read the definition from scholars. The respected Strong’s concordance, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the New Testament, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon and others have the following definitions29: 1) primarily signified “the use of medicine, drugs, spells;” 2) “medication” i.e. (by extension) magic (literally or figuratively) 3) the use or the administering of drugs 4) poisoning 5) properly, a sorcerer; used of people using drugs and “religious incantations” to drug people into living by their illusions 6) sorcery, magical arts, often found in connection with idolatry…The first observation is that Revelation 9: 21 is not associating “witchcraft” in the modern definition of “spells and magic” but places this unique sin between two very universal common and physical and fleshly crimes. If you read the newspaper headlines today is very easy to associate illegal drug use with “murders, rape/ promiscuity, and stealing”. I argue from context that because sorcery is between these two items, this has more to do with the latter definition of drug use as opposed to “spells” in the traditional fairy tale sense or strict occult definition.” (The Doors of Deception?: The Bible, Marijuana, and Recreational Drugs, 587-652 (Kindle Edition)

Please notice that the word used here condemns the illicit use of “pharmakeia.”

It is also interesting to notice that the Apostle John puts this idea of “pharmakeia” into the category of sin that some people refuse to repent of.

Scripture is clear that God approves the legitimate medicinal use of drugs, and that He condemns the recreational abuse of them.

Is Drug Addiction A Disease?

Several believe that alcohol and drug addiction is a disease.

I am not a doctor (I’m a soul man).

However, I know of several doctors and nurses who do not subscribe to the ‘addiction is a disease’ mentality.

One nurse told me that she doesn’t accept that for the simple reason that the word “disease” had reference to a virus or bacteria that caused a systematic breakdown of the body.

Furthermore, where in the Scriptures does God rebuke people for being sick?

To be completely honest, I am suspicious of the way that several addictions and conditions are presently being characterized as a “disease.”

For example:

“Today’s cultural elite, including those in the healing arts, basically no longer think of man in spiritual terms, of morality, character, self-understanding, repentance, and forgiveness. Rather, most of today’s experts look at man and see a soulless animal whose behavior problems are mostly genetic or organic in origin and, in any event, usually manageable with drugs….Are you an angry volcano inside? You may have “intermittent explosive disorder.” Hostile toward authority? You could be suffering from “oppositional defiant disorder.” Worry too much? Probably a case of “generalized anxiety disorder.” Do you suffer from “road rage”? It’s now a mental illness, according to some psychologists, called “aggressive driving spectrum disorder.” Are you a normal boy who fidgets because you don’t like shutting up and sitting still at a desk for six hours a day listening to a teacher? You may be diagnosed, as millions of American children already have been, with “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” After it became widely known that public school administrators and other nonmedical personnel were coercing multitudes of American children—between 4 and 9 million, by most estimates—into taking Ritalin and similar psychostimulant drugs, experts finally got concerned and put the brakes on the rampant overdiagnosis of ADHD.26….What about addiction? Do you compulsively get drunk when the stress seems too great? While such was once considered a moral flaw or a character weakness, it is now widely categorized as a disease—which logically would make addiction to all other drugs, legal or illegal, a “disease” as well. Are you a lying, cheating jerk? Then you have a disease—especially if you have tattoos. I’m not kidding. Research conducted at Michigan’s Center for Forensic Psychiatry has determined that “certain criminals with tattoos are more likely to suffer from anti-social personality disorder,” or ASPD…Do you get it? Everything bad, from temper tantrums, drunkenness, and road rage to “pathological lying, cheating, stealing, physical aggression and drug abuse,” is now a disease. Everything is physiological or genetic and treated with drugs. Nothing is your fault. You’re an innocent victim. Furthermore, many of us like it that way. We like the idea that whatever is wrong with us amounts to an organic disorder, that there’s no sin, no weakness, no deficit of character on our part. Our egos love that; it comforts us.” (David Kupelian, How Evil Works: Understanding And Overcoming The Destructive Forces That Are Transforming America, 104-107 (Kindle Edition); New York, N.Y.; Threshold Editors)

Whether or not addiction may be classified as a “disease,” it doesn’t change the fact that addicts often need medical help as well as spiritual. When a person abuses drugs, it can have severe effects upon the body.

As such, said persons may need medical help.

Furthermore, it is possible that the body of an addict may become physically dependent on a certain substance, which is my further medical aid may be necessary.

Regardless, let’s be sure that we understand that according to the Scriptures, the recreational abuse of drugs is sinful.

At the conclusion of this article, I want to share a poem with you that I found on the Internet. I don’t know the name of the person who wrote it, but from what I can tell, she is a young woman who struggled (or struggles) with the terrible addiction to the drug known as meth.

My Name: “Is Meth”

I destroy homes, I tear families apart, take your children, and that’s just the start.

I’m more costly than diamonds, more precious than gold,

The sorrow I bring is a sight to behold.

If you need me, remember I’m easily found,
I live all around you – in schools and in town

I live with the rich; I live with the poor,

I live down the street, and maybe next door.

I’m made in a lab, but not like you think,

I can be made under the kitchen sink.
In your child’s closet, and even in the woods,

If this scares you to death, well it certainly should.

I have many names, but there’s one you know best,

I’m sure you’ve heard of me, my name is crystal meth.
My power is awesome; try me you’ll see,

But if you do, you may never break free.

Just try me once and I might let you go,

But try me twice, and I’ll own your soul.
When I possess you, you’ll steal and you’ll lie,

You do what you have to — just to get high.

The crimes you’ll commit for my narcotic charms

Will be worth the pleasure you’ll feel in your arms,your lungs your nose.
You’ll lie to your mother; you’ll steal from your dad,

When you see their tears, you should feel sad.

But you’ll forget your morals and how you were raised,

I’ll be your conscience, I’ll teach you my ways.
I take kids from parents, and parents from kids,

I turn people from God, and separate friends.

I’ll take everything from you, your looks and your pride,

I’ll be with you always — right by your side.
You’ll give up everything – your family, your home,

Your friends, your money, then you’ll be alone.

I’ll take and take, till you have nothing more to give,

When I’m finished with you, you’ll be lucky to live.
If you try me be warned – this is no game,

If given the chance, I’ll drive you insane.

I’ll ravish your body, I’ll control your mind,

I’ll own you completely, your soul will be mine.
The nightmares I’ll give you while lying in bed,

The voices you’ll hear, from inside your head.

The sweats, the shakes, the visions you’ll see,

I want you to know, these are all gifts from me.
But then it’s too late, and you’ll know in your heart,

That you are mine, and we shall not part.

You’ll regret that you tried me, they always do,

But you came to me, not I to you.
You knew this would happen, many times you were told,

But you challenged my power, and chose to be bold.

You could have said no, and just walked away,

If you could live that day over, now what would you say?
I’ll be your master, you will be my slave,

I’ll even go with you, when you go to your grave.

Now that you have met me, what will you do?

Will you try me or not? It’s all up to you.
I can bring you more misery than words can tell,

Come take my hand, let me lead you to heck.

(Poem Copied From: http://www.fearlessfriday.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=46227.0)

To all of my fellow Christians, please consider these words: as members of the church of Christ, we have a solemn obligation and a Divine calling to share the Gospel with drug addicts. The Great Commission is for every creature (Mark 16:15-16), and many addicts in the first century found spiritual healing through the Gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). We need to do everything in our power to help addicts, and to help the family and friends of addicts, no matter how difficult it may be.

Yes, we must be wise as we minister (Matthew 10:16), but we MUST have compassion and reach out to those who are lost (Jude 22-23).

Conclusion

The Bible does authorize the legitimate medicinal use of drugs, but it condemns the recreational abuse of them.

Instead of becoming intoxicated, God calls upon us to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). This is far greater than anything the world can offer, although the devil tries to offer cheap imitations.

God gives His Spirit to those who turn to Him for salvation (Acts 2:38; 5:32). Jesus has made salvation possible for mankind by going to the cross of Calvary and shedding His blood to save us from our sins:

Colossians 1:19-20-19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

By His death, burial, and resurrection on the third day, Jesus is able to be the Savior of all Who come to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

How may we receive the spiritual blessings that are only found in Him (Colossians 2:1-3)? The Bible tells us:

Colossians 2:11-13-11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,

The Colossians, believing in Jesus and repenting of their sins, had been buried with Christ in baptism. In that action, their sins were removed and they were able to rise to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).

Why not obey this same plan of God today?

If you are a child of God who has wandered away from the Lord, the Scriptures call upon you to stop living in sin and turn back to the Lord (Colossians 3:1-8). Why not accept His forgiveness by repentance and prayer (1 John 1:9)?

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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