The "Foul Weed"- Smoking and the Bible

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"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

In 1995, humor columnist Dave Barry gave a poignant description of smoking his first cigarette at age 15: "Arguments against smoking: 'Its a repulsive addiction that slowly but surely turns you into a gasping, gray skinned, tumor-ridden invalid, hacking up brownish gobs of toxic waste from your one remaining lung.' Arguments for smoking: 'Other teenagers are doing it' Case closed! Let's light up!" (1)

Some of you may recall a series of messages we did a few years ago entitled "Issues of Life." These teachings dealt with issues such as abortion and the death penalty. This particular study could have very easily been a part of that series. Addressing the dangers of tobacco use is perfectly in step with the pro life message. Unfortunately, many government leaders who take admirable stands on issues related to life and morality also maintain close ties to the tobacco industry. In fact, my home state of Tennessee happens to be one of the nation's top tobacco producers, and many local farmers are dependant upon the industry for their livelihood. It is hopeful that healthier alternatives will emerge for them. It is inconsistent to be both pro life and pro tobacco.

Let me say up front: I do not condemn people who smoke. At some point in our lives, we have all been in bondage to something. Obviously, the Bible does not specifically address the subject of tobacco, as it was not used in those days. However, a number of Biblical principals to come into play. As previously mentioned, we our not our own. We are bought with a price. Our bodies are God's temples and we are to maintain and use them to His glory (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We are also not to allow things to addict or enslave us (1 Corinthians 3 :17; 9: 27; 1 Thessalonians 4:4.) In my lifetime, I have had three family members die from smoking related illnesses, so my anti-tobacco convictions were forged early on. Studies show that tobacco kills one out of every three people who use it. Every 10 seconds, a person dies from tobacco use. Is this consistent with the abundant life that Jesus came to give us?

Some have said "If God didn't mean for us to smoke, why did He create tobacco"? Let's follow this logic to its conclusion: God also made hemlock, but does that mean He wants us to put it into our bodies? God desires for us to live in a way that lengthens our lives, not shortens them (Psalm 91:16; Proverbs 4:10.) Anything that kills, steals, or destroys is the work of the enemy, not God (John 10:10). Others have said "Isn't tobacco use a personal choice? If people want to kill themselves, isn't that their own business?" The truth is, like other forms of self destructive behavior, that tobacco use ultimately affects all of us in some way or another. The harmful effects of second hand smoke on non-smokers, especially children, is well known. There are also serious financial consequences stemming from lost work hours, and skyrocketing health insurance rates. This is why a growing number of companies are refusing to hire people who smoke.

Nicotine, the addictive element in tobacco, is a toxic substance itself. In fact, it has been used in the past as an insecticide. It is also a highly addictive drug (yes, nicotine is classified as a drug by the FDA.) In fact, tobacco, as well as alcohol, are both more addictive and more physically harmful than many illegal drugs. Tobacco smoke contains 103 other known poisons, and 43 proven cancer causing agents. Friend, can we honestly say that we are honoring God with our bodies, while we put things like this into them? Certainly, Jesus is our healer, but God does expect us to take common sense care of our bodies: "...he who does not use his endeavors to heal himself is brother to him who commits suicide (Proverbs 18:9, Amplified Bible)."

Its been said that smoking won't send you to Hell, but it will make you smell like you've been there! At the same time, if smoking, or any other unhealthy lifestyle, winds up cutting your life short, your rewards will be diminished, because you didn't finish your race. Addictions of any kind can be very hard to overcome. I know a number of people who were instantly delivered from their smoking habits upon receiving prayer. However, I have also known others for whom overcoming the addiction has been a real and ongoing struggle. I do not claim to know why this is, but regardless, the key to overcoming any sort of bondage is Jesus Christ! Whether deliverance comes instantly or gradually, His promise remains the same: His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Ultimately, the issue goes deeper than outward things such as smoking. Sin takes different forms for different people. For some, it is easy to smugly point a judgmental finger at people with visible vices such as smoking and drinking. However, what about the faults and weaknesses in our own lives? For many of us (myself included) overeating is a real area of weakness. For others, it might be gossip, worrying, negative work attitudes, anger issues or countless other things. ALL have sinned, and come short of God's glory (Romans 3:23). None of us are any less in need of God's mercy and forgiveness than anyone else. That is where we begin, by surrendering our lives, with all of our sins, faults and failings into Jesus' loving arms. We have His solemn promise that no one who comes to Him in sincere faith will be turned away (John 6:37). Why not open your heart to Him right now?

2006 JHB

(1) Barry, Dave "Teen smokers,too, get cool toxic waste, blackened lungs" Asbury Park Press 17 September, 1995 , p. 03 quoted in Myers, David G. Psychology: Sixth Edition Holland, Michigan: Hope College

Tobacco statistics were taken from

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