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Is Smoking a Sin?

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1 Corinthians 6:19-20
by Cooper Abrams

posted 1-10-2008

    INTRO: I was raised in Eastern North Carolina in the Flue Cured Tobacco Belt and the home of all the large tobacco companies. I know a lot about tobacco. As a boy I worked in the summer in "putting in" tobacco which means to harvest and cure it for market. Our family looked forward to tobacco season because it paid well, a whole five dollars a day for "handers, loopers, truckers" and seven dollars for "primers." The money I made each summer enabled me to buy my school clothes for the coming year. Tobacco was the cash crop of Eastern NC and most farmers and the towns in that country depended on it for their major part of their income. At about 15 years old I started smoking as many other teenagers did. At school lunch cost a quarter which was the price of a pack of cigarettes in the 50's and often I would take my lunch money and buy cigarettes. At our high school we were allowed to smoke at a special "smoking tree" on the play ground. I smoked until 1974 when I was 33 years old, which was two years after I received Christ as my Savior.

              Smoking is not a popular subject to preach on or even address in a Sermon. In the South where so many people smoke and many have made their living producing tobacco if you mention it in preaching some people will take offense. I have occasionally mentioned it in the pulpit in my preaching, I have never preached a whole message addressing the subject. It is a taboo subject in most churches.

              Yet, smoking is on a lot of people's minds and people have strong opinions about it. Several times in messages I used have my personal experience as an illustration of how God helped me to overcome smoking. I used the illustration seeking to encourage others in letting God help them overcome difficult problems in their lives. Almost every time I got some negative feed comments after the message from the smokers. Generally, the comments are:


      1. The Bible has nothing to say about smoking.
      2. It only hurts me and no one else.
      3. I need to smoke because it calms my nerves.
      4. It gives me pleasure and hurts no one else.
      5. I know someone who smoked all their lives and did not get cancer.


              Of course all these statements are false except that smoking does give a degree of pleasure.

               Biblically the matter is very simple even though many would not like to think so. The subject however is complicated in practice as you are dealing with an addiction that is enjoyed by many people and something that provides the income a good number of professing Christians who either produce it or work in tobacco factories.

               It is a matter close to my heart and I am not a stranger to the effects of smoking. My sister Lelia died a horrible death over a three year period at 47 years old from lung cancer the doctors said was caused by cigarettes. My father also died from emphysema partly caused by smoking after years using cigarettes and cigars. My grandmother died at 76 smoking at least a pack of Lucky Strikes a day and had a terrible hacking cough. Clearly smoking shorten her life. They all knew that smoking was harmful and several times when I tried to urge them to quit because I was concerned for their health, they became angry and offended, telling me to mind my own business. For twenty years I do not remember any time I did not see my dad without a cigar in his mouth or in his hand. My sister smoked constantly lighting one cigarette with another. All died untimely deaths and I miss them and believe they would still be here if they had not smoked. Both my two younger brothers are presently smokers and I know they are headed for the same fate. (2005 brother has quit!)

              Over the years as a pastor I have been by the bed side of many people who were dying as a result of smoking and I have conducted many of their funerals. I have watched people whose lungs were so badly damaged they could not live without oxygen, remove the oxygen tube, coughing and gasping for breath light a cigarette and smoke it between their rasping coughs. I have seen the horrible pain caused as tobacco caused cancer in its final stages as it ate through the bodies of people coming through the skin. I have seen the doctors increase the doses of morpheme until it had little or no effect on their pain. I have watched the pain of smokers having ugly fits of coughing and yet in a few minutes later light another cigarette. I actually have seen people put a cigarette to their trichotomy because tobacco caused cancer had destroyed their throats and they could no longer breath through their mouth or nose. It is no fun to watch someone dying from cancer or heart disease when you know was totally preventable and was caused by their addiction to cigarettes. When I see a young or a middle age person smoking I see their future and it concerns me deeply to know what probably lies ahead for them. Tobacco is a slow but merciless killer that first debilitates its victim and them methodically destroys their lives all the while giving their prey a murderous pleasure.

              I have also watched professing Christians living spiritually defeated lives because of smoking. They knew it was wrong and because they could not overcome it they were affected spiritually. I have seen them as they tried to justify their sin gradually develop a rebellious spirit. I have seen it destroy people's faith in God because they were controlled by their addiction and could not seem to overcome it. I have seen professing Christian farmers who made most of their income by raising tobacco lie to themselves and to other claiming there was nothing wrong with smoking. In all my years as a pastor I have never seen any spiritually strong or mature Christian who smoked.


    Smoking Not Only Harms Ones Health It Also Destroys a Christian's Testimony for the Lord.

              There is another aspect of this matter that is as serious as the health problems smoking causes and that is the ruined testimony of smokers who profess Christ as Savior. I have never known a Christian who was a smoker who was a real soul winner for Christ, nor one who showed forth a true commitment to Christ. Many profess they love the Lord, but their defeated lives controlled by their addiction to cigarettes places a serious question mark over their professed love for Christ. The truth is a smoker is an addict in much the same way as an alcoholic and is spiritually defeated.

              My first encounter with the matter of smoking affecting one's testimony occurred shortly after I was saved. The testimony that it effected was my own. I was a young Christian and though in my mind I did not think smoking was proper it did not bother me that much. Although I was not a heavy smoker, using only about fifteen cigarettes a day, I had sinus problems and lots of respiratory health illness and I wanted to quit smoking because I thought it might help my suffering. But I was strongly addicted to cigarettes and I failed each time I tried to quit. In January of 1972 God saved me and began to change my life. I became faithful in attending church after I was saved, but I continued to smoke.

               One event stands out in my mind that affected me happened one Sunday between Sunday School and the morning service at our church. I went to end of the hall that led out of the church to get a drink of water. The door to the outside had a large window and I saw one of the deacons of our church coming across the parking lot rapidly taking puffs on his cigarette as he hurried to enter the church. My immediate thought was....this is a deacon in our church and he is smoking! This is a terrible thing. In my mind it was really a bad thing for the man who was a deacon to be smoking. It bothered me greatly and honestly, from that day on I had no respect for this deacon in our church. Every time I saw him I thought. . . hypocrite! Amazingly, I considered him to be a hypocrite....and yet I smoked too! He appeared to be in good health, but within a year of this happening he died suddenly of a massive heart attack. In about six months later I was elected as a deacon to replace him in our church.

              A close friend of mine name Pete Butler and I were saved about the same time. We began to work with the youth in our church and lead a boy's group. That was when it began to get really hard for me as I was under deep conviction about my smoking. I had for years wanted to quit because of my health, but now it dawned on me that smoking was a bad testimony in front of my son and these boys that Pete and I were seeking to lead to Christ. I came under heavy conviction and could find no peace. I tried, I really tried hard to quit, but each time I failed. I was like the fellow in the TV commercial advertising a system to quit smoking. He said "I have quit a thousand times." I had too. I prayed about it in earnest, but I could get no victory over it. Looking back I know the reason now. The reason I could not quit was even though I did want to and knew it was wrong....deep down I enjoyed smoking and did not really want to quit! Only a smoker can understand this seeming contradiction of wanting to quit and at the same time not wanting too. I think if most smokers who have tried to quit smoking will admit it, they too really deep down do not want to quit because their addiction it brings pleasure.

              Pete and I both smoked and we made a pact together that we would quit and for two or three weeks we both did. One Saturday morning he and I planned to go down to the Tar River which was nearby to prepare a place we planned to have our boys camp out the next week. I got up early and ate breakfast and drank a cup of coffee. There is nothing like having a smoke after a good meal and a cup of coffee and I was craving a cigarette. I walked over to my wife's father county store to wait for Pete who was coming to pick me up. There on the shelf was those Salem cigarettes I had smoked for so many years. The urge to smoke was so great and I was having a real "nicotine fit" and I gave in and I brought a pack hurriedly lifting one to my mouth. I took a deep draw on the "weed" and although for a moment it made me dizzy the old pleasure came back. I fought really hard to ignore my failure and put it out of my mind. Pete arrived and we headed for the river. Without thinking, falling back to my old habits, I took the pack of Salem's out of my pocket and as I stuck the smoke to my lips I offered Pete one. What happened next I will never forget. Pete just looked at me with surprise and disgust. In a raised voice he said, "Cooper! I do not believe you are offering me a cigarette!" The conviction that griped my heart at that moment was overpowering. I felt like the lowest person on earth. I have failed my friend and I have most of all failed the Lord. I took the cigarette from my mouth and threw it and the pack out the window of the truck in from of Linwood Joyner's house there on Highway 97. I have never smoked since. The Lord did not give up on me and that day God answered my prayers and through Him I overcame that additive habit and grew closer to the Lord. As I look back I know that if I had not continued to seek God's help I would have never overcome smoking and would not today be a Gospel preacher and pastor. I knew I was a bad testimony for the Lord and a bad example to my son, my wife, my church and those youth I worked with. I knew too that Christ suffered for my every sin and every time I lit up and smoked I caused Him pain 2000 years ago. My spiritual relationship with the Lord would never have grown and it would have prevented the Lord from using me. I would have remained a defeated Christian really unfit for the Lord's use. Thank God He loved me enough to deliver me from that sin. By the way that was twenty six years ago and I have not had any respiratory problems since and all my allegories cleared up.

              That is certainly a long introduction, but I want you to know that I know of what I speak. I have been there and done that. Yes, without a doubt smoking is sin, but it can be overcome and God can take it from us if we allow Him too. This message is not meant to be scornful or condemning, but it comes from my heart, from the Word of God to help those who are under this addiction. Maybe someone who reads this or hears the message will be encouraged and will overcome this sin and they too will grow closer to the Lord.

              I want you also to understand that during this time it was the word of God that brought me under conviction about this matter and the biblical principles were always on my mind.

              Over the years I have had so many people tell me, "Well, smoking is not in the Bible. God does not say it is wrong." Well, dear friend, using the endearing term that John used to address those to whom he wrote his Epistle, "Beloved," that just ain't so. Smoking is certainly a sin and God does condemn smoking in His word." Let us see what God says:



      " "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 Godís."


              The word used for "temple" is naosvv "naos" nah-os' which means a shrine. The word is the one used of the temple at Jerusalem that contained the Holy place and the Holy of Holies which was the dwelling place of God. In the Old Testament the word applies to the inward parts of the temple were the two areas of the temple where only the priests entered. Outside the entrance there was a large laver and before the priest could enter he would wash and cleanse himself before he could enter. To violate the holiness of that place was a serious sin punishable by instant death. This is the symbol that God uses to explain this relationship a believer has to the Lord. By saying that our bodies were the temple of God, Paul was teaching that our bodies should be places free of any sin and separated to the Lord's service. Our bodies are to be clean and free of any sinful habit wholly dedicated unto Him.

              The verse says that our bodies are the dwelling place of God the Holy Spirit. This teaches the clear doctrine that all believers receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and are indwelled by the Him. Romans 8:9 says "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." If a person is saved they have received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and if they have not the Holy Spirit that are not saved. The context of 1 Corinthians 6 is that God is addressing sin within a believer's person's life. I have a question for the person who says it is not a sin to smoke. Do you think that Jesus Christ would smoke or that He is pleased with you when you do? Do you think it proper to pollute your body which is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit? Well, I think if we are honest and believe God we know that 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 clearly teaches it is sinful to harm our bodies.

              How would you apply God's instruction when He tells us, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom. 12:1-2). The only sacrifice that was acceptable to God was one without spot or blemish. How can we presently ourselves as a sacrifice that is holy, meaning separated from sin, if we are addicted to tobacco and destroying our health. How can we attempt to be transformed by the renewing of your minds when we have no regard for our testimony, our personal health or the health and spiritual welfare of others? How can we prove what is God's good, acceptable and perfect will of God with pack of cigarettes in our pocket?

              Is smoking a sin? You bet it is!



              In verse 12 of this passage Paul says, "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 any." Here Paul makes a transition to another related subject. Earlier Paul had admonished them for specific sinful acts. Now he addresses even the matter of over indulgences. Even if smoking was not a sin, and clearly it is, it certainly falls under the heading of not being expedient. Paul explains that there are things that within themselves are not sinful, but they can lead to sin. That is what is meant by saying some things were not "expedient." Here God is placing a limitation on our indulgences. For example: It is not sinful to fish, hunt, sew, collect things, etc. Yet, if these things become an obsession and begin to control us then they become sinful. If I let my desire to fish keep me from my service to the Lord it would be sinful. If I took my tithes and offering which I should give to the Lord and spend them on my hobby it would be a sin. If my hobby hurt my testimony it would be a sin. These things within themselves would not be sinful, but when allowed to cause us to be unfaithful to the Lord it becomes sin. Clearly even if smoking were not harmful it would certainly come under the heading of being an over indulgence in us seeking pleasure and therefore a sin.

              Smoking is clearly harmful to our health and that in itself makes it a sin, however there is another reason that smoking is a sin. It not only harms our health, it hurts our testimony and controls us. Let me give you a personal example.

              A young mother was saved while I was pastor of my second church. She had never been to church in her life or never read the Bible. Thank the Lord she had neighbors who were a godly retired couple and for many years they witnessed to her. Finally, she came to church and heard the preaching of God's word and was saved. I will never forget the day she was saved. It was a joy to see her life changing and see her growing as a young Christian! She loved the Bible and everyone could see how the Lord was working in her life. She had heart trouble and the doctors told her she must stop smoking. She had a 2-3 year old daughter and she talked about her concern for her example to her daughter and her Sunday school class of primaries she had begun to work with. She was having a hard time quitting. In a prayer meeting I was taking requests. There was a break and I was waiting to see if anyone else had a prayer request. Tearfully, she suddenly stood up and asked for prayer that she would overcome smoking and began expressing how hard it was for her. There was a change in her voice toward desperation and she blurted out, "Every time I get close to quitting, three members of our church who smoke come to my mind. They are Christians and yet they smoke! I use them as an excuse and keep on smoking." You could see it was something that was seriously affecting her and she was really struggling with the bad testimony of several people in our church.

              These church members were a bad example to her and a stumbling block to this young Christian. Instead of having a testimony to uplift and support the spiritual growth of a young Christian their smoking was a hindrance that young Christians in our church had to overcome.

              Another young mother in our church who because of her background was really struggling with living for Christ. Smoking was one part of her problems. She was honestly trying and everyone could see that. We were all praying for her. God had brought conviction to her life and she wanted to obey the Lord. She had been saved only about a year and all of a sudden she just stopped coming to church and started going down hill. Being concerned for her I visited with her and she shared how she was also had been trying to quit smoking. She said she had failed miserably. She related to me that she visited one of our church trustees, who smoked and tried to hide it. She said she mentioned to him about how she was trying to quit and how hard it was. She was seeking his help, yet he then told her smoking was OK and there wasn't anything in the Bible against it, and offered her a cigarette! That was the straw that broke the camels back. Feeling totally defeated and not able to overcome this thing in her life she just gave up.

              This trustee in our church prided himself in his knowledge of the Bible. He closed his wonderfully worded prayers thanking God for how wonderful the Lord was yet he over looked 1 Cor. 6:19-20. He knew better. He had a heart attack a couple of years later and almost died. The doctor warned him that smoking was harmful, yet he refused to admit it. The Devil used this Christian man who was sinning against God and his own body to defeat this young lady who was struggling also with sin. As far as I know she never returned to church. I cannot say that he was the only cause for her failure, but he certainly had a hand in it. The last I heard she had divorced her husband, was living in sin, and her boys had gone wild and one was in jail.

              I wonder what might have happened if this trustee had offered her biblical comfort, support as a Christian brother and prayed with her instead of giving her a cigarette! This Christian man helped destroy a young babe in Christ seeking to justify his own sin.

              The first young Christian woman had a godly neighbor who prayed for her and was used of the Lord to help her overcome this sin. She was able to quit smoking and this victory in her life was only one of many more to come. That was over ten years ago and she remains today faithful to the Lord. Another good part of this story was that about a year after she was saved her husband was also saved and now her daughter who is about twelve years old.

              The second young Christian woman was crushed by the harden heart of a rebellious brother in Christ who not only would not admit his sin, but let the Devil use him to defeat this young woman. Is smoking a sin? You bet it is!


    Is Smoking Harmful to One's Health?

              Yes smoking is sin, because smoking is addictive. The Bible say in Ephesians 5:18 "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." In other words let the Holy Spirit control your actions and life. Smoking is an addition that takes control of our lives away from us.

              Yes smoking is sin, because smoking greatly increases one's chance of lung cancer and other cancers which is destroys our bodies. Exodus 20:13 commands that "Thou shalt not kill." Smoking is certainly killing one's self which is a form of suicide. About 419,000 people die each year from cigarette and cigar smoking and that is only in the United States. Smoking causes 20 percent of all deaths in the United States each year. Cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung disease, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It is proven to cause cancer, heart disease and hormonal problems. Smoking is also linked to pulmonary diseases, cardiovascular disease.

              A dear friend our ours died several years ago due to lung cancer the doctors said came from smoking. Yet, she had never smoked a cigarette in her life. Her husband had smoked in her presence for many years. The husband is in poor health today, but he is still living. The reality is that his smoking killed his wife that he dearly loved and now misses terribly. I often hear people trying to defend themselves saying there is no proof that second hand smoke causes cancer. That is the response of one who will never overcome smoking because they are denying the truth about its destructive affects. How can one account for the fact that this man's wife who never smoked a cigarette in her life died of lung cancer the doctors said absolutely came from cigarette smoke? The fact is her husband killed her.

    Second hand smoke from cigarettes harms not just the smoker, but family, friends and co-workers. The Bible says we are to love our neighbor. Jesus said that loving one's neighbor was next to loving one's parents "Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 19:19 ). Romans 13:10 teaches us that "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour." It is certainly not an act of love to smoke around other people exposing them to the deadly effects of cigarette smoke.

              We are to love our children, but people who smoke are potentially harming young children. Many studies have shown that in the first two years of life, babies of parents who smoke at home have a much higher rate of lung diseases such as bronchitis and pneumonia than babies with non-smoking parents. Infants and children have tender tissues and are more susceptible to passive smoke. Acute respiratory illnesses happen twice as often to young children whose parents smoke even if they are without asthma. Passive smoke exposure is associated with 150,000 to 300,000 cases of chronic bronchitis and pneumonia in children younger than eighteen months. Exposure to smoke can cause people to develop many lung problems, such as allergies, asthma, and heart problems. A study involving children from five years-old to nine years-old showed impaired lung function in youths who had smoking parents as compared with children whose parents were non-smokers. Smoking by pregnant women seems to predispose premature babies to respiratory distress syndrome. Parents who smoke at home can aggravate symptoms in some children with asthma and even trigger asthma episodes. Further children exposed to secondhand smoke can develop middle ear infections, suffer from wheezing, coughing, and worsen asthma conditions. It is quite contradictory for a parent to love their children and yet expose them to cigarette smoke and by their example are teaching their children to smoke also.


    The Bible Says to Abstain from the Appearance of Evil

              Some people refuse to admit that smoking is harmful to one's health. Even if smoking did not harm people's health, it certainly harms a Christian's testimony! 1 Thessalonians 5:22 tell us to "Abstain from all appearance of evil." God is saying that we are to abstain not from only evil itself but even from that which would appear to be evil. Barnes says, "There are many things which, in themselves, may not appear to us to be positively wrong, but winch are so considered by large and respectable portions of the community; and for us to do them would be regarded as inconsistent and improper." (Barnes New Testament Notes, 1 Thess. 5:22). It is sinful to let our pleasures stand in the way of our testimony and let our indulgences be a stumbling block to others.

              Is smoking a sin? You bit it is.


    How Then Does One Quit?

              The first step is to confess our sin to God as 1 John 1:9 tells us: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". God promises to help us to overcome any sin and cleanse us from it if we will confess it to God. Confessing it to God must come from the heart and we must truly admit that using tobacco is sin and must be rid of it.

              The next step is to realize that overcoming sin is a matter of faith in God. The believer cannot overcome sin without God's help and God's help and power is ever present with us.

      "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

      "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).

      "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17).


              The believer must understand that he can do nothing of himself, but that in faith, trusting in Christ Jesus we become "more than conquerors" and that nothing can separate us from the love of God and His presence and power (Romans 8:37f).

              One must also realize that the Lord is always with you and with Him you can quit. Note what the Lord says:


      "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).


              With every temptation the Lord is present providing the way to escape the temptation and not sin. If we give in to the temptation we must realize that we are willingly doing so in spite of God's trying to help us. This goes back to faith and God's promises to us. Do we really believe Him? He says we do not have to sin and that He is present and actively working the instant the temptation comes. If God is true then our course is to know the means to escape is there, find it and overcome the temptation.

              I have known of many Christians who went forward in a public service and others who privately begged God for forgiveness and help. I have seen people throw their pack of cigarettes away and never smoke another one. That is what happened to me. For others it is more difficult and some use various medical means to help them to stop. The main thing is that you must really want to quit and be committed to it. God will honor you faith and commitment to do right and will be your strength in overcoming this addiction. Many a Christian has matured in Christian and gotten out of a defeated life by trusting in the Lord and with God's help overcoming the smoking addiction. I have never know anyone who quit who ever regretted it for a moment or wanted to start back.

              Dear friend, God is not scolding you, but seeking to overcome sin in your life. He is there and He is seeking to help you. Why not right now, this very moment reach into you pocket, or purse and take out that packet of cigarettes, that cigar, or tobacco product and get rid of it. Burn them, pour water on them, cut them up and throw them in the trash along with your cigarette lighter, case etc. Remove the ash trays from your home and clean them out from you car or truck. Simply get rid of everything associated with smoking. If you have other smokers in the house proclaim you home a "smoke free zone" and ask them to from now on smoke outside.

              Go to some private place and on your knees tell the Lord you have cleaned your life of tobacco and that you are confessing that using tobacco is a sin and you are committed overcoming smoking today and for the rest of your life and that you trusting in Him. Then get up and go and sin no more.

    "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass" (Psalm 37:4-5). What are your thoughts on this article?


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