Is Smoking a Sin?

by Tony Warren

This 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 have not 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 which is preached against by many Pastors today, and in some cases it is actually condoned.

While no one in our day who is in their right mind would ever say smoking is a good thing, incredibly many theologians have nevertheless taken the indefensible position that 'this' doesn't mean it's a bad thing either. They place smoking into some sort of cosmic 'grey area,' and categorize it as a matter of conscience. When one chooses to look at things more from a personal rights viewpoint rather than strictly the scriptures, 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 scripture 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.

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.

James 4:17

It is clear that deliberately doing something which is injurious to others is sin. But one might ask, '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 as if you went about poisoning yourself. For we glorify God in our body, which belongs to the Lord. Therefore, to defile or poison that body, is a sin or transgression against God to whom it belongs.

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 we should seek to live clean and Holy lives both in reverence to the Lord and as an example to others showing that we are different from the world. To smoke (which we know hurts this body which is the Lord's), is desecration of the Lord's Temple. The problem (as I see it) is not one of doing what we know is right, but one of 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 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 an accurate assessment.

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. They will often retort that, 'it's their body and they have Christian liberty to do with it what they want.' 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, 7:22-23). 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 vice. 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.

Matthew 15:10-11

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 misapplication on three levels.

One, they are taking this out of context for their own selfish purposes. Jesus is not saying that you can put poisons into your body, because it doesn't defile you (which is the logical conclusion drawn from their use of this verse this way), but Jesus is saying that it is their doctrines which defile them, not neglecting to wash your hands before meals. In no way is Jesus putting forth a principle that people have liberty to take poisons into their body, nor is he proclaiming that doing so is not a sin. That is a ridiculous use of this passage, and what's more, most 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 gluttony or over-eating is a transgression of God's law, and it just as clearly warns about over-drinking or drunkenness. 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 it harms 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, which is sin. So this passage in no way absolves man from sin in his smoking.

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 sin. For the health problems related to long term smoking are well documented.

It is Addictive
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 those addicted usually 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 vice.

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.

Philippians 4:13

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.

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, it's 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 applies:

Romans 14:15-16

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.

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.

It 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!' Romans 14:23

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.

Isaiah 65:2

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 also sin.

Proverbs 9:6

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 hurt them.

Psalms 35:7

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.

Hebrews 13:18

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.

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 sin.

Smoking 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.



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, ' 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.

The Victory
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 the Lord.

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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