Why Cigarette Smoking is Not a Sin for Others. Just a Sin for You.

Here is the general outline of a talk I gave on August 24, 2010 at Collegiate Reformed Fellowship. Reposting it again three years later for obvious reasons.

My point this evening is not that smoking cigarettes is a sin everywhere and for everyone, under any conceivable circumstance. My thesis is a great deal simpler than that. I simply want to argue that smoking cigarettes is a sin for you.

Here are my seven reasons:

1. The Bible says that you should honor your father and mother (Ex. 20:12), and I have to confess that in all my years of being a pastor have never met a kid who took up smoking because he was really eager to honor his father and mother.

2. The Scriptures teach that maturity is a matter of discernment (Heb. 5:14), and this discernment is a function of long practice. If you were to make a list of ten Christians you really respect as having this kind of discernment, all over the age of fifty, and you asked them all whether they thought you taking up smoking at the age of 18 (or younger) was a good idea, what percentage do you think would offer you a light? Is that percentage somewhere close to zero? Does that thought experiment tell you anything?

3. The process of sanctification largely consists of learning to tell the lusts of your body no (Rom. 8:13-14). Jesus teaches us that the one who is faithful over little will be made faithful over much. We can flip this reasoning around, and say that if someone is faithless with a lesser amount, he should not promote himself to the place where he has more to be faithless with. If you can’t run with men, how will you run with horses (Jer. 12:5)? Do you really think you need additional desires to be undisciplined with?

4. A worldview consists of far more than the thoughts you think in your head. A biblical worldview consists of four elements—two of them propositional, and two of them enacted. The two propositional elements are catechesis and narrative. What doctrine do you hold, and what story do you tell? The two enacted elements are liturgy/symbol and lifestyle. An integrated worldview is one in which all four spokes of this wheel are balanced. You ought not to be carving a spoke that does not fit in our axle.

5. You are not C.S. Lewis.

6. Smoking reveals the method of a self-serving ethic. The way others are to view your liberty is not the same way that you should view your liberty. Other Christians should let you do what you want unless the Bible forbids it. That’s how we guard against legalism. But you should use your liberty differently—you should be asking what the reasons are for doing it, and not what the reasons are for prohibiting it. Liberty is intended by God for you to use as an instrument for loving others (Gal. 5:13), and not as an instrument for suiting yourself.

7. And last, my interest in discipleship of young men and women is to find and cultivate leaders. To look for such leadership abilities in the midst of these contagions of herd behavior is like looking for a redwood tree in the pumpkin patch. The motto of the future leaders of the Church will not be, “Guys, wait up!” Neither will it be, “Ooo, where did you get those?” We want to baptize the nations, bringing them to Christ, and so we should not be occupying ourselves with variations on the game of monkey see/monkey do.

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Ben Bowman
Guest

Great point in number 4. Forgetting who I am and whose I am is usually the precursor to attempting to write a chapter into the story that God is authoring. I’m also reminded of James 4:17. When you know the right thing and don’t do it, it is sin.

RFB
Guest
RFB

As a teenage nominal Christian I took up smoking mostly if not entirely through your alluded to peer influence. Without excusing the practice this was a different time; the greatest percentage of males smoked, including my dad and all my uncles. All of the men surrounding me were either WWII veterans (father, uncles, etc) or guys enroute or returning from military/RVN service (also my destination). Smoking in those days was not a government declared biohazard and cultural sin; it was just a common affect of life. Smoking back then was as normal as, dare I say it, hats on ladies… Read more »

Doug Shuffield
Guest
Doug Shuffield

So why would you not apply this to the drinking of beer or wine? Just saying…

– Doug

Mark B. Hanson
Guest
Mark B. Hanson

Doug – One easy reason is that cigarettes were not given to “gladden the hearts of men” as wine was – they are not Biblically called a blessing. Besides, he’s talking to guys who are too young to drink yet (mostly, anyway).
[blockquote][/blockquote]
But I could see an article to some of the grownup YRR crowd along the same line: “Why craft beer is not a sin for others. Just for you.”

Mark B. Hanson
Guest
Mark B. Hanson

Sigh. No edit capability to fix my previous…

timbushong
Member

I have yet to hear someone describe their cigarettes in cigar-like categories:

“Oh man–hints of nutmeg and coffee, toasted to perfection, with a peppery finish–wow. What a powerhouse!”

Nor have I heard anyone describe their favorite cigar in cigarette-like categories, either:

“I need a cigar!”

Cigarettes are cigars’ (and pipes’) stinky, filthy dirty, punk, white trash 3rd cousins once-removed.

Seth B.
Guest
Seth B.

I don’t smoke cigarettes, except socially, i. e. if the group I’m with happens to be smoking and they offer I’ll accept. What’s your take on that? This means that I smoke a cigarette maybe once a year or so.

I’m just as unconvinced of all this as I was three years ago. Why is citing C S Lewis at all relevant?

RL Seward
Guest
RL Seward

My father gave me permission to smoke when I was 13. He said, “You can smoke if you want to, but you have to buy your own cigarettes. No one buys mine for me.” One of the best things he ever said to me. If he had said anything else, I would be a pack a day smoker now, because I would have considered my father a hypocrite because he was a pack a day person and many7 13 year olds don’t get along with their fathers. I’ve never lit up ande it was 100% my decision.

Moor
Guest
Moor

I assume this applies to habitual smoking rather than what we might call “recreational”? As in, the twice-a-year cigarette is most likely not sin, but the quasi or fully-addictive habitual daily half-pack is? I suppose I also assume that the relative sinfulness of the twice-a-year variety has a lot to do with the context. As in, around impressionable youth in the church = bad, but around long-term buddies who won’t be compromised = fine. Yes?

Ben Brophy
Guest

Why just cigarettes? are cigars and pipes ok because Spurgeon smoked them? That is also my defense for my pipe smoking.

prayersofadoration
Member

Re. C. S. Lewis: link. Check out his writing gear: pen, paper, glasses, tea, smoke.

Larson
Guest
Larson

Not arguing with any of these points – I think they’re dead on – especially to a young college student crowd. When I was a college student I was guilty of ignoring this wisdom. However, there are a few scenarios in my life where I do and, I believe, should smoke. I don’t regularly smoke cigarettes – can’t remember the last time I bought a pack. Scenario #1 – over the years I’ve hosted a lot of concerts – touring bands and usually most of the band members are not Christians. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forged… Read more »

Jane
Member

Larson, I’m not trying to be contentious nor do I wish to criticize your behavior, but while I find your reasoning pretty convincing in the first case, in the second, why can’t you just join the people who are going outside for a smoke, without joining in the smoke?

I suppose I’m assuming one should avoid smoking cigarettes as much as reasonably possible, and maybe that isn’t your assumption. But under that assumption, it seems like no bridges would be burned if you simply stepped outside with your friends but didn’t light up.

Bike Bubba
Guest

Speaking to “Larson’s” comment, I’ve got to note that I’ve forged many a friendship with smokers and even shared the Gospel a touch near the smoking area without ever lighting up. One of the best ways to figure out what’s really going on in a factory, by the way, is to visit the smokers. It’s not just a nicotine fix, but a social release. And they don’t demand you light up. Maybe if you were ministering to “native Americans” and were asked to smoke a peace pipe, but I’m under the impression that even in that situation, it’s not necessary.

Dustan Chevalier
Guest
Dustan Chevalier

My point this evening is not that choosing not to smoke cigarettes is a sin everywhere and for everyone, under any conceivable circumstance. My thesis is a great deal simpler than that. I simply want to argue that not smoking cigarettes is a sin for you. Here are my seven reasons: 1. The Bible says that you should honor your father and mother (Ex. 20:12), and I have to confess that it’s a hard to case to make to say that God’s intention in this principle is for every child everywhere to come to conclusions identical to his parents’. Parents… Read more »

DanielBlowes
Guest
DanielBlowes

Anti cigarette smoking is just as worldly as cigarette smoking; 50 yrs ago the world loved cigarettes and now the abortion loving, homosexuality loving, illegal drug loving world HATES cigarettes.. And so does the worldly Church.. Smoking TOO much ( as eating TOO much etc) is bad for you, non Christians who do not have a Spirit of self control should not smoke. Most of the Christian men who rail against smoking look like they are 6 months pregnant; they have not controlled their food intake and so shouldn’t attempt adult pleasures. Self righteousness IS the ONE evil we should… Read more »

Nick Abraham
Guest

Based on your logic and argument, with which I agree, could the same them be said for alcohol?

Reuben K.
Guest
Reuben K.

Just weighing in here as the plant biologist, (that was fun to say!) -Not many plants are as toxic as good ol’ Tobacco. They actually did make rat and pest poison out of it before the development of more affordable synthetic pesticides. There are so many other lovely plants and plant products to be content with: wine, beer, coffee every now and then, tea of camilla sinensis and herbal varieties such as mint or hops or chamomile; colas, chocolate, culinary spices, eucalyptus; the list goes on and on, and not only are all of them NOT toxic, some are actually… Read more »

oldfatslow
Guest

I never smoked cigs, but cigars and pipes –
especially pipes were my choice. I suffer
the effects of smoking now – bad disks in
my neck. Still, of all the things in the
world that are bad for you that I wish weren’t,
smoking heads the list.

ofs

Larson
Guest
Larson

Hi Jane – re: “why can’t you just join the smokers w/out smoking?” My wife and I were talking about this while we were sharing an afternoon coffee and cookie today. She recalled an scene from an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee where his guest, Larry David, says that his wife complains that when she’s having her morning coffee and he’s having his morning tea (because he no longer drinks coffee), that he’s not really participating in the experience. If I came inside for an afternoon coffee & cookie w/my wife and I just sat there… Read more »

Larson
Guest
Larson

Hi Bike Bubba – re: “they don’t demand you light up” – you’re absolutely right. It probably wouldn’t be a very big deal or any deal at all if I chose not to smoke. But I also wouldn’t be sharing a smoke with them and “sharing a smoke” with them is my goal. Like breaking bread, I believe sharing a smoke is more meaningful than just chatting at them while they smoke. Does that make sense?

James Bradshaw
Member

Remember, what is sin is sin whether you KNOW it is or not!! Jesus will not judge you on your good intentions but whether you fulfilled the law by doing what He says regarding every little thing. If they one day discover that drinking Coke causes cancer in laboratory rats, then all people who were fans of its luscious sweetness prior to that discovery will STILL GO TO HELL! That’s why it’s better to just not do much of anything but sit home and pray incessantly. You never know for sure what will tick Him off, and given His track… Read more »

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

I’m not buying the comparisons between smoking and eating, or for that matter, alcohol. How much of deliberately sucking smoke into your lungs sounds like just enough and not too much? Never mind “what we know now” (well, ok I wouldn’t entirely never mind it either)just think about what it is you’re actually doing. How does/did it ever seem other than ridiculous? Sin or not I’m not quite sure I see any controversy about it being a dumb idea, C.S. Lewis not withstanding.

RFB
Guest
RFB

Mr. Bradshaw, It is increasing apparent that your posts have a pattern, methinks. (Hamlet, Act III, scene II) ;>)

Elliot
Guest
Elliot

JohnM – sometimes in the morning I crack open a chicken egg (that came out of another chicken in a less than pleasant fashion) and pour out the runny, slimy contents into a hot skillet. After it’s no longer runny (just squishy) I put it in my mouth, chew, and swallow it. Tell me that doesn’t sound ridiculous. I don’t smoke (very often), but I would be wary of calling something dumb just on the basis that it’s bizarre. I think this post offers some pretty good alternative arguments, though.

Elise
Guest
Elise

And just for some fun, a song by Willie Nelson Now I’m a fellow with a heart of gold With the ways of a gentleman I’ve been told A kind of a fellow that wouldn’t even harm a flea But if me and a certain character met That guy that invented the cigarette I’d murder that son of a gun in the first degree That ain’t that I don’t smoke myself And I don’t reckon they’ll injure your health I’ve smoked ’em all my life and I ain’t dead yet But nicotine slaves are all the same At a pheasant… Read more »

Ted
Guest
Ted

Would this wisdom apply to tattoos?

J
Guest
J

Am I the only one that feels somewhat like we are all various kinds of piranha living in a glorious fish tank that has golden trim and diamond spotted rocks. And Doug comes over to it a couple times a day and drops in a dead carcass upon which we commence to fighting over. And then Doug sits back and laughs maniacally and plans the next feeding. And don’t any of you take that scenario to be saying ANYTHING about Doug. He is merely a spectator in this reality. My scenario is only to be understood in light of our… Read more »

J Stricklin
Guest

I’ve always enjoyed Bob Newhart’s perspective on smoking.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7YBaiJMnik

Katecho
Member

Is money a blessing or a curse? Is alcohol a blessing or a curse? Is tobacco a blessing or a curse? The answer is yes. Each of these is a blessing or a curse. All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. — 1 Cor 6:12 Doug is addressing the immature; the young man who wants to want. A fine wine or a fine cigar to share with friends is a powerful image of success and generous fellowship. But if the immature… Read more »

DanielBlowes
Guest
DanielBlowes

Very good, katecho.. We must be careful what we do in front of weaker brothers.

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

Elliot,

But I will tell you eating food is not ridiculous, even if you manage to make it sound bizarre, which you mostly have to go out of your way to do. What you don’t have to go out of your way to do is find the point. Smoking on the other hand is one of those things that might have made sense as a sort of semi-funny gag the first time somebody did it but lost any easily discernible point after that.

Joey Wells
Guest
Joey Wells

Yes. I agree that any christian who can’t keep from attaching all the cultural baggage Pastor Wilson does to the cigarette itself should not smoke it. If, however, the taste and smell of the meat honestly doesn’t remind you of the idol it was sacrificed to….

Jane
Member

Good point, JohnM. Cooking and eating an egg sounds ridiculous if you use ridiculous language to describe it, but it isn’t actually ridiculous. Lighting something on fire and sticking it in your mouth in order to suck the smoke into your lungs is ridiculous by the normal standards of what is generally considered ridiculous, and it only doesn’t seem so because we’ve grown accustomed to doing so or seeing others do it.

Everything ridiculous isn’t wrong, but it’s worth asking if the ridiculousness might arise from some aspect of wrongness.

kyriosity
Member

Y’all say “ridiculous” like it’s a bad thing. Read the post previous to this one for some ridiculousness. How ridiculous is it that landing on a clunk like goat can point to beauty and glory ? How ridiculous is the cross? How ridiculous is grace? How ridiculous are all manner of things in this world (including Elliot’s breakfast)? We should pretty much be busting a gut all the time in the midst of such hilarity! Now if you can make an argument that lighting something on fire and sucking smoke through it is a perversion, then we’d have a basis… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I adore smoking cigarettes. I love smoking more than chocolate, more than a caramel frappucino, more than any other pleasure of the flesh that comes to mind. Smoking makes me feel witty, cosmopolitan, deep and profound on the one hand, sparkling with sophistication on the other. A cigarette rewards me for past labors and girds my loins for new ones. It calms me when anxious, soothes me when sad, wakes me when sleepy, revives me when torpid. If there is a sexier scene in the movies than when Paul Henreid lights two cigarettes and hands one to Bette Davis in… Read more »

Jane
Member

Valerie, my point was that “ridiculous” (similar to “gag reflex”) CAN be a pointer to something being not right. Not that ridiculous is always bad. But remember that the root of “ridiculous” is “inspiring ridicule” — scripturally, the concept of inspiring ridicule for all the right reasons is alive and well. And “that’s a weird thing to do with a plant you find lying around” and “but isn’t breathing smoke generally considered bad for you?” at least arguably constitute ridicule for the right reasons. Arguably I say, not definitely.

Katecho
Member

The sweet or soothing aroma of burnt things is not entirely unbiblical.

For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of hosts. — Malachi 1:11

Matt
Guest
Matt

Pardon, but doesn’t most of the argument clear up once you realize the OP is addressed not to everyone, but only to a small group? I kind of wonder from where comes the issue. Cigarette smoking, at least, is deader than a doornail among all but the lower classes, who aren’t likely to care what anyone tells them about it.

Jane
Member

The sweet or soothing aroma of burnt things is not entirely unbiblical. But I thought we were talking about cigarettes? How’d we get on sweet, soothing aromas? ;) Pardon, but doesn’t most of the argument clear up once you realize the OP is addressed not to everyone, but only to a small group? Definitely. But as for the cigarette smoking dying out, I think the specific group he’s dealing with might be a bunch of young people who have decided that because much resistance is too tinged with legalism, it is an expression of their freedom and maturity to do… Read more »

Robin Phillips
Guest

Why doesn’t the fact that smoking is unhealthy and can lead to lung cancer feature as one of your reasons?