We gladly acknowledge that smoking does not constitute quite the problem for young people today as it once did. Nevertheless in many places it still represents a very real temptation for some. Doubtless there are several main reasons why youngsters in their early teens get involved in smoking. With some it is the desire to appear “big” and “grown up”. With others it is curiosity as to the sensation produced. And with others it is simply a reluctance to be “the odd man out” when all their friends are doing it.
Even when young Christians are resolved to have nothing to do with smoking, they are often at a loss to give good reasons for their decision to their unbelieving friends. Generally speaking, it is not adequate to say only, “I don’t because I am a Christian”. It helps to have a more detailed explanation available.
It is true, of course, that being a Christian does not consist in merely obeying a set of rules and regulations. Christian behaviour is largely the outworking of the new life within. Nevertheless the Scriptures provide the believer with many clear commands and prohibitions to guide him in the right way. The Lord has also revealed many truths which have practical and far reaching implications when applied to the believer’s life.
Before we go any further it will be as well to face one possible objection to an article of this nature. Some may feel that the question as to whether or not a person should smoke is a personal matter and should be left to the decision of each individual. This is so, of course. But in reaching his decision the individual needs to be aware of the facts and considerations which bear on the issue. The purpose of this article is not to legislate for others, but to provide a little guidance for young believers who genuinely ask why Christians ought not to smoke.
The following list of reasons for not smoking is by no means exhaustive. Nevertheless these considerations are sufficiently weighty to satisfy us that smoking has no place in the life of the Christian.
(i) A recognition of one’s responsibility as a steward. All that a believer possesses belongs to the Lord—otherwise He is not Lord! We note, in particular, what the Bible says about our bodies, “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”, 1 Cor. 6. 19-20. There can be no real dispute that smoking is physically harmful, affecting in particular the heart and lungs. Smoking, of course, is not the only way in which the believer’s body can be abused, but such unnecessary pollution of his body is a serious desecration of the Holy Spirit’s temple. It certainly does not “glorify God”!
The Christian is also responsible to the Lord for the wise use of his money. It is surely impossible to justify substantial sums “going up in smoke” when many branches of Christian work are handicapped and restricted by lack of funds.
(ii) A determination to avoid that which can lead to more serious sins. Many young people have found to their cost that the smoking of ordinary cigarettes has been their introduction to more powerful drugs, such as cocaine, heroin and marijuana. The one can so easily lead to the other. The apostle Paul’s counsel is “abstain from all appearance of evil”, 1 Thess. 5. 22.
(iii) A sense of shame. A believer who is smoking generally feels a sense of embarrassment and shame on meeting an out-and-out Christian (in whose life he would regard smoking as entirely out of place). Unconverted people have their own standards for judging Christians, and the believer who smokes is usually well aware that his cigarettes have lowered him greatly in their esteem. Yet, if a Christian can feel ashamed when seen smoking by others, whether believers or not, how much more should he feel ashamed before the Lord who sees all.
(iv) A fear of being enslaved. There can be no doubt that smoking is an enslaving habit. Many strong-willed adult people would dearly love to give up smoking, for a variety of reasons, but cannot. They are in bondage. The apostle Paul provides us with a better example, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any”, 1 Cor. 6. 12.
(v) A desire to avoid anything for which one cannot give God thanks. The Scripture says, “Giving thanks always for all things”, Eph. 5. 20, and “In everything give thanks”, 1 Thess. 5. 18. The Christian ought not, therefore, to acquire anything or engage in any pastime for which he cannot sincerely give thanks to God. Can a believer honestly ask for God’s blessing on a packet of cigarettes?
(vi) A regard for others. Smoking in public is generally regarded today as a very selfish action. One of the basic rules of Christian conduct is that of consideration for others; e.g., Phil. 2. 4. The Lord Himself has taught us, “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise”, Luke 6. 31. Is the Christian entitled therefore to defile the air breathed by others, making it unpleasantly stuffy and obnoxious?
Perhaps some young believer is still not altogether convinced. I say to such, If there is a question mark in your mind about the rightness of smoking, then give God the benefit of the doubt and avoid it! It goes without saying that it is not a Christian’s new nature that craves the indulgence of smoking. As a Christian my “old man” has been crucified with Christ, Rom. 6. 6, and dead men do not smoke!
“Wherefore … let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus”, Heb. 12. 1-2.
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