Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 1, No.6 Page 6 June 1999

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Tobacco And The Christian

By Matt Thomas

In the April 8, 1998 issue of the widely circulated USA Today newspaper, an insert dedicated to Major League Baseball featured a cover report entitled, “Baseball’s Tobacco War.”  Inserted were two pictures of a former MLB player named Bill Tuttle, who was known to chew tobacco regularly.  One picture showed him in his prime, young and strong, in uniform, clasping a Louisville Slugger with a wad of tobacco bulging from his cheek.  The other picture showed him as he was in 1998, with face half eroded from cancer, and skin transplanted from his chest which stretched from his ear to his neck.  He has lost his senses of taste and hearing.  He can hardly speak, and sits in his Anoka, Minnesota home dying a slow and painful death.  The cancer originated in the cheek where Tuttle placed his chewing tobacco.  Similarly, many can share a story of a close relative or friend whose life has been negatively affected or cut short due to smoking tobacco.

Despite warnings from the Surgeon General, thousands of habitual smokers pay a heavy price (not just monetarily) for their smoking each year, as they die from heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema and other respiratory ailments.  The moral issue about ‘chewing’ and smoking is not found in the question, “Is smoking or ‘chewing’ harmful to the body?” -- for even the chewers and smokers will admit that the substances are harmful.  Rather, the question should be, “Is using tobacco in accordance with the Christian lifestyle?”  The Bible does not directly condemn the smoking or chewing of tobacco.  Thus, in light of several Bible passages which speak on the marks of the Christian life, Christians must ask “Can one be an effective worker for the Lord while using tobacco products?”  And “What effect will it have upon me and those whom I influence?”  I will now offer several reasons why Christians should not use tobacco.

First, one’s motives in using tobacco must be honestly investigated.  Why smoke?  Why chew?  All the reasons and excuses afforded can be melted down into two true motives.  The first is that the user may desire to improve their “image.”  Many begin smoking or chewing in order to fit in with the crowd.  There is an appealing image which tobacco companies impress on young minds.  The image portrays smokers and chewers as healthy, good-looking, fun-loving people who not only seem to escape any consequences from the use of their product, but actually benefit from its use.  Young people do not try smoking or chewing because they have a natural craving for cigarettes or chew.  And it is doubtful that young people think that using tobacco would improve their health!  Ads are designed to make using tobacco look sophisticated, grown-up, appealing!  But they are also designed to fool people into trying the product.  When is the last time you saw a cigarette ad showing a person hooked up to oxygen, slowly dying of emphysema or lung cancer?

The second motive for many to smoke or chew is caused by a lack of self-control.  Tobacco products contain a drug called nicotine.  Nicotine is a harmful drug that takes you up -- then drops you flat!  When nicotine gets into the system, it makes you want more, and soon the user becomes addicted.  Because of this, it takes a lot of self-control to break a tobacco habit.  Tobacco then controls the user.

Both of these motives for using tobacco are condemned in the Bible.  In Romans 12:1-2, the apostle Paul wrote:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  (2) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Two things are found in this passage which are significant to the issue.  First, Christians are to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.  Christians are to honor their physical bodies, using them to glorify God as a living sacrifice.  Paul also said in another place,

 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you . . . therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Putting harmful substances into your body does not fit the description of the terms “holy,” “acceptable” or “glorify.”  Second, verse 2 of Romans 12 warns Christians not to conform to the ways of the world, but be transformed by thinking differently.  The Christian does not worry about “image,” and does not concern himself with being “popular.”  The Christian is to desire approval from God, not men.  In fact, Paul instructs that we think differently than the rest of the world, seeking not to conform to man’s standards, but to God’s!  Romans 12:1-2 not only teaches Christians to take care of their bodies for God’s sake, but also to avoid participating in the habits and thoughts of worldly people.

Second, faithful Christians must consider the consequences of their actions toward those whom they influence -- brethren, peers, family.  Like it or not, Christians are closely scrutinized by others.  People often seek ways to accuse.  For this reason, Christians must be aware of the influence they have upon others.  Peter said,

“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12).

It is generally understood that there is a stigma attached to using tobacco products that is inconsistent with Christian character.  If you were to ask 100 non-Christian people about what they thought would characterize a Christian, it is doubtful that smoking and chewing would be listed.  A large portion of our society views the use of tobacco products as “a dirty habit.” Let’s face it, second-hand smoke and “spittoons” are not exactly an effective way to attract people to Christ.  Since Christians are called to avoid conformity with the world, and to “come out from among them” (2 Cor. 6:17), is it wise for Christians to use tobacco?  What’s more, how would a tobacco user explain to children, or to new Christians that their habits were harmless, pure and responsible behavior?

Third, Christians should not use tobacco because every Christian is extremely valuable to the work of the Lord here on this earth.  Every Christian has the responsibility to teach and influence those around them.  There are many lost souls which each Christian has the opportunity to reach with the Gospel.  To put it plainly, Christians are too valuable to the world of lost souls to be cutting their own lives short by high-risk habits.  They are also too valuable to loved ones.  To continue to smoke or chew, though one knows the great responsibility to others that comes with being a Christian, shows a lack of discernment and a lack of responsibility toward his significant role in bearing fruit in God’s vineyard.

Fourth, there are some rhetorical questions that every concerned Christian should consider.  The answers will speak for themselves: “Is it harmful to my body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)?”  “Is it responsible stewardship of my body, which is God’s (1 Corinthians 6:20)?”  “Does it destroy my influence with others (1 Peter 2:11-12)?”  “Will I be able to control the habit (1 Corinthians 9:27)?”  “What will be gained (1 Thessalonians 5:21)?”  “Does it give the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22)?”  “Would Jesus smoke or chew (1 Peter 2:21)?”  “Would you feel comfortable offering a smoke or dip to a Christian?  If not, why not?”  “Would you feel comfortable bringing a visitor to worship if the elders or preachers were outside smoking or spitting in the parking lot?  If not, why not?”  These questions, along with an understanding of the value and influence of each Christian, should be enough evidence to persuade an open and honest mind that using tobacco products are not conducive to Christian character.  Nor do they make Christians more effective in influencing lives or saving souls.

Combining God’s wisdom with good common sense is a recipe for righteous living that’s hard to beat.  Christians should avoid using tobacco products!

(Some information was obtained from the American Cancer Society:  (website: www.cancer.org toll-free: 1-800-ACS-2345)


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