Cigarette smoking is so common in society. Some of us are disgusted by it, do not understand how anybody can do it given the health benefits and find it just absurd. Others feel the same way, and yet do it anyway. Typically people who smoke cigarettes really wish they could quit, and are constantly telling themselves that they need to quit. But ultimately they find that they cannot. Some Christians who have been born again carry over these previous addictions and still smoke cigarettes. Is this something that they have to strive against? Is smoking cigarettes a sin?
This may surprise you, but cigarette smoking is destructive to the body. I personally know people who died of smoking. It corrodes ones’ lungs and often leads to cancer, emphysema, and every manner of long and short term negative health effects. Cigarette smoking literally destroys ones’ body. But the Bible tells us that the body is a temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The Holy Spirit dwells inside of you. You are not your own and you need to not destroy your body but glorify God with your body.
Perhaps one of the worst bodily and psychological effects is the addictive nature of cigarette smoking. Through cigarette smoking, you are allowing yourself to become a slave to the flesh, not crucifying the flesh but doing everything that it demands that you do. Now I hear you saying that this addition is so powerful. Who can overcome it? Paul replies, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
But, you may say, cigarettes alter your mood. They make you feel so much better and you just cannot get through your day without them. But that is just the manner of psychological addiction. You become angry precisely because you do not have a cigarette. Cigarette smoking creates problems and fools you into thinking that you need it to solve that problem. Far from encouraging mood altering substances, Paul said, “do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18).
Somebody who is filled with the Spirit will recognize that smoking diverts money. I live in New York, and cigarettes cost $10 per pack. People used to say that if cigarettes ever rose to that price, they would quit. But tobacco companies knew otherwise. They could raise the price to $20 a pack overnight and people would begrudgingly buy it. The problem with this is that Christians are not called to waste their money. Christ told us to sell our possessions and give the money to the poor (Luke 12:33).
In response, many people will say, “famous Christians people smoked.” That is true, there are many famous Christians throughout history who have smoked cigarettes. CS Lewis smoked (although pipe tobacco which may be a bit different than cigarette smoking). Doesn’t that legitimatize cigarette smoking? Well, I suppose that depends. Whose word are we following? The inerrant, inspired, and authoritative word of God. I do not care if the Pope smokes cigarettes (he doesn’t, as far as I know) or if your favorite preacher smokes cigarettes. They are guilty sinners just like the rest of us and we cannot measure ourselves by them. What does the word of God say?
Some may rebut, “It is commonplace, it is something that so many people do.” I have even been told that he smoked because he was a “child of his generation.” Indeed, you are. That is your problem. Children of this generation are children of wrath, satisfying the desires of the flesh (Ephesians 2:3) and children of the devil (1 John 3:10). We cannot claim to be children of God and children of our generation. If you are a born again Christian, it does not matter what society does or what is commonplace.
For some, this may raise the question, “Fast food is bad for you and we do not think that is a sin.” But the fact is that gluttony is a sin (Proverbs 28:7). Gluttony is no less severe than being a drunkard or smoking cigarettes. I guess this makes one wonder if eating fast food once in awhile is okay. I do not see why not. Similarly if there were some way to smoke non-addictive pipe tobacco once in awhile, I am not sure if I could mount the same case against it that I have here. But yes, gluttony is a sin just like cigarette smoking is. Further, and critically, drawing a parallel to a similar behavior does not negate the Scripture. God’s truth is God’s truth. Do not look for loopholes in it. Obey it with fear and trembling.
Now I may have spoken hard words about cigarette smoking. But does being addicted compromise salvation? The answer is no. If you have thrown yourself on the mercy of God and repented of your sin, you have therefore been conformed to the image of the Son (Romans 8:29) and stand before God without sin. Christ died for that sin. But you have been born again, literally made a new creature by the supernatural work of God (2 Corinthians 5:17). You hate the sin in your life and you strive rigorously against it. You will overcome this weakness, not by the power of the flesh, but by the power of the Spirit, because of he who said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
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