Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!
Is Smoking a Sin?
-by Tony Warren
question is one which is asked much more frequently in modern times since more Pastors are taking a hands off approach to Church correction. You are more likely to hear things like, 'it's a matter of Christian liberty, so use your individual conscience.' In light of this attitude, it is possible that many Christians who smoke may not have even considered this an issue, or not even realized that it could be sin. This is no doubt (in part) due to it not being something that is preached against by Pastors today. And in some instances it is actually condoned by saying the Bible does not specifically speak of smoking "as if" there must be a specific line in deuteronomy, "Thou Shalt Not smoke." If that is what we seek, we won't find it, but the scriptures do cover the subject in principle. The concientious Christian must examine the whole of scripture to discern the conflict between this addiction and their faith.
While no one in their right mind in our day would ever say that smoking is a good thing, incredibly many theologians have nevertheless taken the indefensible position that 'this' doesn't mean that it is a bad thing either. They curiously place smoking into some sort of cosmic 'grey area' and categorize it as a matter of conscience. They choose to look at things more from a personal rights viewpoint, rather than from a strict scriptural point of view. So it is easy to blur the line between good and bad. Humanly speaking, it's easier to label a theologian judgmental, than it is to examine the evidence against smoking and commend Biblical judgment. Because when searching through the Bible and considering all of the pertinent facts, I believe that the only 'honest' answer that we can come to regarding this question is Yes. Smoking is a sin. And it is a sin on multiple levels. Let's just consider a few:
(A) It is a Detriment to the Body
Considering the universal Medical opinion, I don't know anyone who could legitimately argue today that smoking is not injurious to one's health. The fact is, nine out of ten lung cancer victims are smokers. The scientific evidence is that smokers have a three to one chance of heart attack, over non-smokers. Even smoking in (so-called) moderation, on the average, will shorten one's life span by many years.
Not only is it harmful to the smoker, but the preponderance of evidence is that it is also harmful to others through what is called 'second-hand smoke.' A Christian who Knows that other people may be harmed by their smoking, and yet chooses to indulge in this act simply to pleasure himself, has spiritual issues beyond and above the issue of smoking.
So it is clear that deliberately doing something which is injurious to others is sin. But the objection might be posed, "what if they smoke in total isolation from others, would that still be sin?" The answer I believe is yes, for smoking is a sin against the body, which is the Lord's. Just as a Christian
wouldn't knowingly harm others because he understands that it is a sin to do so, likewise, one can not knowingly harm himself, because that would be just as much a sin. It is the same thing as if you set about to poison yourself. For we glorify God in our body, which belongs to the Lord. Therefore, to defile by poisoning that body, is a sin or transgression against God, to whom it belongs.
- "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."
1st Corinthians 6:19-20
We are to regard our Body as a holy vessel of the Lord, literally! For He has both bought us, and dwells within this vessel. Our body is not our own, and thus we should seek to live clean and Holy lives both in reverence to the Lord, and as an example to others illustrating to them that we are different from the world. It's ahrd to believe, but there are actually Christians who protest using this verse declaring that while 1st Cor. 6:19 does relate to believers and their bodies, the sins Paul wrote about there had nothing to do with harming or mistreating the body, but sexual sin. This "as if" physically harming the body bought by Christ wasn't in itself just as much a sinful act as physical fornication. The fact is, the Apostle is speaking of the body and how it doesn't belong to us, but to the Lord. So how one could go from there to claiming it's not revalent to harming that same Lord's body is mind boggling. It is pertinent to avoiding all sins of the body, in any lust, because it is bought with a price. One can be addicted to cigarettes as easily as to sex, drugs or money. To smoke (which we know hurts this body which is the Lord's) is to disrespect the Lord's Holy Temple. Like the buyers and sellers of the Lord's Temple that Christ cast out (Matthew 21:12-13), the "point" was their improper use of the Temple. Are we to think that if they had sold sandals instead of Doves then it would have been fine with Christ? The problem (as I see it) is not one of doing what we know is right, but one of our own selfishness, or of doing what we want. A problem of trading what is the prudent and righteous thing to do, for the physical and temporal carnal pleasures of a few puffs of smoke. Many are simply unwilling to give that up, even for the cause of Christ. Yes, I know that this is a harsh way to put it, but I believe in many instances, this is a very accurate assessment.
- "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
- For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
It is somewhat of a spiritual dichotomy, because most non-Christians won't even attempt to pretend that smoking is not harmful. But the Christian often will play that game. Others will retort that, "it's my body and I have Christian liberty to do with it what I want." This contrasted with God's declaration that we are 'not' our own, but are bought with a price and belong to Him (1st Corinthians 6:19-20, 1st Corinthians 7:22-23). As such we should use it to serve the Lord, not ourselves. Unfortunately, the Christian who is supposed to be more honest than the world, seems to go to great lengths to justify himself in desperately attempting to ease his conscience and hold onto this shortcoming. And one of their favorite verses to hold up in support of their vice is Matthew chapter fifteen. This is used as an 'end-all' proof text for their liberty to smoke.
They joy in pointing out that what Jesus was teaching is that what a man consumes does not defile him. Therefore, they reason that the consumption of cigarettes cannot defile a man. However, this is a misapplication of this passage on three levels.
- "And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
- Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."
One, they are taking this out of context for their own selfish
purposes. Jesus is not saying that you can put poison into your body,
because it doesn't defile you (which is the logical conclusion drawn
from their use of this verse this way). Jesus is saying that it is
the doctrines that come out of your mouth that defiles you, not
neglecting to wash your hands before meals. In no way is Christ putting
forth a principle that Christians have liberty to take poisons into their
body, nor is he proclaiming that doing so is not a sin. That would be a
ridiculous use of this passage. And what's more, most rational people
know it. They are simply looking to 'rationalize' away their actions.
Two, in fact the scriptures do clearly warn about doing things to
harm our body, and so this passage cannot possibly be contradicting
other scriptures. For example scripture tells us that killing ourselves
is a transgression of God's law. Also that gluttony or over-eating is a
lust against the body. And it just as clearly warns about over-drinking
or drunkenness as another vice. And so we can not in any way remove
guilt of sin by arrogantly declaring that we have 'Christian liberty' to
put into our bodies anything that we want, when we know it is harmful to
us. The 'truth' is, we don't have Christian liberty to do so, we have
Christian responsibility not to.
Three, if Christ was indeed saying this, it would negate the
spiritual, about defiling ourselves by putting something into our
mouths which will bring damnation to us (as in the communion).
1st Corinthians 11:29
How is this passage true if what goes in the body means nothing? The
answer of course is, this is true, because that was never what Jesus
meant when He spoke of what defiles a man. Eating unworthily 'is' a
sin, because sin begins in the mind. The sin is in the thought to
commit the act itself, not in the substance that is eaten. Likewise,
the sin is in the mind to commit the act of smoking, knowing what it
does to the body, and to others. It is not in smoke. Smoke is no more
sin than a communion wafer is sin, but it is the act of smoking itself,
or of eating unworthily, or of poisoning oneself that is sin. So this
passage in no way absolves man from sin in his smoking.
- "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh
damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body."
The question is, "does smoking harm the body, and is harming the body a sin?" When we answer that question honestly, then and only then will we stop rationalizing away this sin. For the health problems related to long term smoking are well documented.
(B) It is an Addiction
Some people claim that Smoking does not involve a fundamental moral issue,
but they are wrong in that also. For at it's root is the sin of lust to
bondage. To protect what has grown to be no less than 'sacred moments'
of smoking pleasures, people will deny that smoking is harmful, or even
addictive. The reason for these illogical declarations come from their
inability to discern their addiction, nor to look at themselves honestly.
In many instances they do not want to face the actual extent of their
enslavement to tobacco and nicotine. And make no mistake, it is an
enslavement, even though some of those addicted may actually profess ability to stop
smoking whenever they want. Because to confess that they cannot would be
to admit enslavement, and thus to admit that it is a sin. Frequently
they do not realize the extent of their bondage because they have never
faced the real prospect of it's loss. But in looking at this honestly,
we face the fact that we actually 'like these type sins,' which we
subconsciously consider insignificant in the big scheme of things.
The very 'fact' that even attempting to quit smoking is a very hard thing
to do is reason enough that it is a sin which all Christians should be
against. But the pride in rationalization can be blinding. The truth is,
quitting smoking is known to be one of the most difficult things in this
world to do. Research has shown 'conclusively' that nicotine is one of
the most addictive substances on the planet, even more addictive than
heroin some say. Such information should make us all sit up, take notice,
and wonder how anyone professing Christianity could 'biblically' justify
or condone the use of this substance. Yet, many professed Christians
routinely attempt to do it, and just as routinely become indignant that
any Theologian would actually say it is wrong for them to indulge in this
1st Corinthians 6:12
Anything which one cannot stop doing makes him a slave to it. For all
intents and purposes it becomes his 'god' which he is dependent upon.
i.e., in bondage he serves it, rather than our Lord. In a word, idolatry.
Whether psychologically or physiologically addicted, it is idolatry. We
cannot serve two masters, whether alcohol, smoking, or any other addictive
substance, and to say it is not sin (considering the facts), is just plain
sticking one's head in the 'proverbial' sand. Christians should treat the
smoking addiction like any other sin. We confess it as sin (as opposed to
claiming we have no sin), and we tackle it in the strength of Christ. We
lay this burden down at the foot of the cross.
- "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient:
all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of
Even though it is difficult, and withdrawal may take time before one is no
longer desiring the puffs from cigarettes, we as Christians are to look
to God from whom comes our help. And anyone who says cigarettes are not
addicting are kidding themselves. And if it 'is' addicting, then it is
a sin, because it makes man a slave to this substance. And Blessed is
the man who can face these truths honestly.
- "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
(C) It is a bad Witness and a cause for the Brethren to Stumble
Even if a Christian were convinced that they could smoke without sinning
(I cannot imagine how), knowing what they do about cigarettes, its
addictive properties, and the probability of a weaker brethren emulating
and being brought into addictive bondage by smoking, it would still be a
sin. Because the true Christian should for the sake of the weaker
brethren, not smoke. And we won't, except our hearts be hardened, or
we be so addicted that we must. Again, we are our brothers keeper, and
we love the brethren as ourselves.
1st John 3:14
If we love our brother, we desire the best for them as we do for ourselves.
Most people who smoke wish that they would have never started smoking, and
though they rationalize it and justify it, I'm sure that deep down they
realize that it is a dirty, addictive habit. So why would a Christian
want to continue to smoke, knowing that by their witness as a Christian,
they are encouraging others to start? i.e., the weaker brother sees other
Christians doing it, and feel justified in picking up the habit. That is
not the witness that a true Christian wants to put forth. The principle
- "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we
love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death."
We cannot destroy a weaker brethren even if we think we can be justified
in doing it ourselves. If something were lawful, and yet causes our
weaker brethren to fall, for his sake we cannot do it. And it is sin if
we do. For we are living examples.
- "But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou
not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
- Let not then your good be evil spoken of:"
2nd Thessalonians 3:9
Christians are an example to the brethren and to the world, and that
example in no way should include smoking cigarettes that a weaker
brethren might stumble and fall. And if we take the attitude that it's
not our fault and we don't really care if they do, then again, we have
more spiritual issues than smoking to contend with.
- "Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample
unto you to follow us."
(D) It is Not to the Glory of God
If I may relate a story, there was a woman who had been smoking for a
long while and when told it was not a good witness protested to her
Pastor that she didn't think smoking was a sin. The Pastor asked her
if smoking was something that she would be embarrassed about doing if
the Lord returned today and met her face to face? She thought on that
a while, and had to reluctantly admit that it would indeed be
embarrassing. For up until that point, she had not realized that she
was not addressing the issue 'honestly.' But when it came to Christ
watching her puff on a cigarette face to face, she understood 'personally'
the sin. We should all look at things that way, realizing that Christ
'is' watching us, and there should be no difference in what we are
embarrassed about now, or when Christ returns. The old adage applies,
'When in doubt, leave it out!'
Another Christian admitted that smoking was a bad habit, a foolish habit,
and even a habit which might be harmful, but still insisted that it is
not a sin, and thus not really a big moral issue. No, they weren't Roman
catholic, but their ideas about sin were just as illogical. Because when
did a bad habit, a foolish habit, and a harmful habit, become not a sin?
Such rationalizing leaves you wondering if you have missed something
somewhere. Whatever is a 'bad' thing to do, is automatically antithetical
to doing the Good thing, and is thus sin. Bad means that which is not
good, or that which is in error or wrong to do.
- "And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth
not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
The problem with man is that he walks after his own thoughts, doing what is
right in his own eyes, and not 'bowing' or surrendering to authority of
scripture. To do what is 'not good' rather than what is the good thing.
But whatever is not good, is bad, and thus sin. Likewise, whatever is a
foolish thing to do, is automatically the incorrect thing to do, and is
- "I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people,
which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;"
When we go in the way of understanding, we are not foolish, and consider
all of God's Word on a matter. Anything we do which is harmful to
ourselves or to others must be confessed sin. If we smoke, knowing
it can harm others, it is as if we have set out poison for them. In
the Biblical vernacular, as if we have set devices, nets or traps to
- "Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding."
When we harm people without a reason, we are committing transgression (sin)
against them. And so for all these reasons, to say that smoking is bad, is
foolish, and is harmful to ourselves and others, and yet insist it is not
sin is simply, biblically ridiculous. Would a true believer be able to
smoke with a clear conscience knowing all we know about the harm that it
does to both us, and those around us? I don't know. But I do know that
he 'shouldn't' have a clear conscience doing it.
- "For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which
without cause they have digged for my soul."
How could we smoke and have a clear conscience knowing that we are slowly
poisoning our body, and harming others, and that it is an addicting
substance? How could we have a clear conscience knowing that we are a
witness to others that this is an appropriate way for a Christian to
act? It's a good question.
- "Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all
things willing to live honestly."
1st Corinthians 10:31
This is a command of God, not a suggestion. Smoking is not to the Glory
of the Lord, and is therefore, sin. A transgression of God's law that
'whatever we do, do all to the Glory of God.' So again, those
choosing to rationalize away that smoking is sin, must be throwing
God's word behind the back, or trampling it under foot. Because there
is no way that smoking can be seen as to the Glory of God. Thus it is
- "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to
the glory of God."
(E) It is Rooted in Paganism
The historical aspects of smoking is not germane to whether it is Biblically
permissible, and thus to this article, but it is interesting that there is
no record of any Christian ever smoking in scripture. It was probably unknown
to believers in Biblical times. If it was, it would have been seen as the
diverse rites and customs of the gentile or heathen nations.
Another interesting thing is that most false religions all over the world,
from the very beginning, mimic the Christian religion, whether in their
burnings that supposedly take prayers to their gods in the smoke, of building
temples, or praying, or of human sacrifice to their god, it is a imitating
the one true faith (and that is not by accident). It's not some cosmic
coincidence, nor reason to doubt there is one God (as anthropologists insist),
it is because Satan is the false or 'substitute' Christ. The antichrist who
was/is/and will be the great deceiver of man through false or substitute
religion. Scripture is replete with prophesy and evidence of this. Smoking
in religious practices is just another of his devices to try and make a
mockery out of the true Religion.
As far as anyone knows, smoking began as a religious rite of the Mayans. They
were a people who used it in their worship of false gods, and who practiced
human sacrifice. The American Indians, who many believe were their progeny,
believed that the smoke carried the messages from whoever was smoking, to
the spirit world. Much like the ceremonial burning of incense in Israel
signified the prayers, or as in revelation of prayers being taken in the
smoke before God. We see this same mimic of Christian belief that smoking
carries the prayers to the spirits in the false religion of Buddhism. It is
not insignificant that many of the pagan customs which have infiltrated the
Churches, have their roots in the false religions of these cultures.
There are biblical principles that must be applied to smoking?
God has commanded us (not suggested to us), that we strive to live Holy lives.
The fact is, even economically, cigarettes costs so much that it causes an
unjustifiable financial impact for any Christian. i.e., is this the best
way to use the mammon which God has put in our care? To quite literally burn
it up in the fire? Obviously, it is not, and is both a waste time, and of our
resources. Christians are the faithful stewards of what God has given them
(Matthew 25:14-30), and our body, money, and time, are not our own, but the
Lord's. This is what those who have their eyes so focused on themselves,
refuse to understand about this issue.
That smoke defiles the body is readily seen. Looking at the lungs of a
person who has smoked for any length of time, we see that they are 'black'
with the collection of this smoke pollution. Can we honestly say this is
God Glorifying? Not with a straight face! And the health care expenses
after years of smoking increase exponentially. The Longer you smoke, the
more health problems you will have, and it is all avoidable simply by
'denying ourselves,' for the Cause of Christ.
So, does smoking mean that a person is not a Christian? Certainly not.
That is not the question here. The question we are addressing is, '..is
smoking a sin?' And in that regard, there is one thing we can say with
absolute certainty, and that is that smoking is not to the Glory of God in
any way whatsoever. It is a detriment to the body, it is an extremely
addictive substance which makes a slave out of those who use it, it is a
bad witness for the cause of Christ, it may be harmful to others, and it
is a cause for our weaker brethren to stumble. Therefore, it is without
question, a sin. And anyone claiming that it is not, is 'lying' to
themselves. God tells us that if we've broken just one single commandment,
we stand guilty of the whole law of God. Which means there are no
insignificant sins. If we know that it is sin, then we should pray that
we would be delivered from it. There isn't one good thing about smoking.
What that ultimately means to us depends upon if we would rather do the
will of God, or our own will.
We will never gain the victory over smoking so long as we keep telling
ourselves that we have some 'God given right' to pollute our body with
this substance. Victory over any sin starts with recognizing it for what
it is, confessing it as sin, and repenting of it.
"How do we get the victory over it?" For starters, we must not
coddle it, or make excuses for it, but confess that it is indeed sin.
Confession, repentance, and our need for the strength of Christ in
overcoming it, is paramount. We set our hearts on things above, and pray
the Lord will, "forgive us sinners, and give us the strength to gain
the victory in this trial." So many people leave the Lord out in
their attempt to overcome evil, and that is a big mistake. Prayer is
expressly 'for' these type situations, where we can take our problems
directly to the throne of God and Him who can solve them.
If thy hand offend thee, cut if off. In other words, we break away from
that which is an offense. We throw those cigarettes away, not leave them
around the house as a temptation. We cut it off leaving no avenue
for further tempting, and we lean upon the Lord for our strength.
2nd Corinthians 12:9
We don't need smoking, God's Grace is enough for us. Our weakness for
cigarettes will be manifest as we grow realizing strength in the Lord.
The power of God working within us to alleviate the pressure to smoke.
All to His glory. The strength in humility, wherein we will no longer boast
that, 'I like smoking, so no one is going to tell me what to do!' The
strength wherein we put Christ first, and ourselves last. The strength
wherein we love our neighbor as ourselves, and wherein our concern
for them far outweighs our concern for our own pleasure. In this we will
find that giving up smoking is not giving up liberty, nor is it some sort
of prideful defeat. On the contrary, it is a realization of true Christian
liberty, and bountiful spoil in true victory. If we Glory, let us glory in
- "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my
strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather
glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
We pray that the Lord who is Gracious above all will give you the wisdom
and understanding to discern the truth of His Holy Word for our lives
Copyright ©2001 Tony Warren
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