by Cooper Abrams
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
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
Of course all these
statements are false except that smoking does give a degree of
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 update....one
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
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
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:
GOD SAYS THAT OUR BODIES ARE THE TEMPLE OF GOD
(1 Cor. 6:19-20)
" "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
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!
ALL THINGS ARE NOT EXPEDIENT
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
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,
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
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"
"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
"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
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
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
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