Christians and Tobacco Use
This is going to be the DARE essay that I never wrote since my elementary school did not adopt the program until I was already in high school. There are some good reasons to “Just Say No” even in adulthood. A lot of people know about the harmful effects of substance abuse of any kind, but continue to do it anyway for various reasons. But is that okay for a Christian to do?
I am guessing that one of the verses that is most often quoted when Christians decide not to do something unhealthy like use tobacco or drink alcohol is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. It says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” However, these verses follow a passage about abstaining from sexual immorality, which leads me to believe that the “temple” is not to be contaminated by sexual immorality, rather than harmful substances. However, there are other references to the body as a temple and to treating the body well because it was given to you by God such as: 1 Corinthians 3:16, which commands not to destroy the temple, probably referring to a group of believers and Romans 12:1-2 asks believers to offer their bodies as “living sacrifices” to God and His will and what is pleasing to Him.
The question being asked is if it is wrong for a Christian to use tobacco. In my opinion, it is not necessarily a sin to use tobacco. But it is an unwise decision and we, as Christians, are encouraged to use wisdom. Therefore, though I am not sure what stance I would take if I was flat out asked, “Is it a sin to use tobacco?” I believe that Christians should not use it.
First, tobacco has negative effects on the body and is often used with more addictive substances. Usually, people who use it know this ahead of time, and use it anyway. So, if a Christian wants to live healthily and make wise decisions, he or she should not choose to use tobacco.
Another reason that I don’t think Christians should use tobacco is for the image that it puts off to other people. Christians are to look different than the world because they no longer belong to the world (John 15:18-19). They are to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-16). To me, part of what this means is showing the world that there is a better way than what everyone else is doing. It means standing out so that God is glorified in the end. And that doesn’t always happen if we do the exact same things as everyone else, especially the ones with known negative consequences. We should choose to be as healthy as possible to set good examples and to take care of ourselves.
Also, the reasons that some people choose to start smoking or chewing tobacco are not valid enough to convince me that it is a good idea for Christians. We aren’t supposed to be concerned as much with what man thinks of us as what God thinks (so don’t smoke because your friends are or to look “cool” or grown up). We should turn to God (or in some cases, the relationships that God has given us) to find relaxation, rest, renewal, peace – not a cigarette that is harming your own body and the bodies of the people trying to breathe around you. And we should not purposely do something that we know could lead to an addiction. Addictions are not of God and do not bring God glory (except when God has brought someone out of one). But we don’t need to get ourselves into trouble so that God can get us out again. That will happen on its own without our help (Romans 6:1).
Tobacco use can lead to various health problems: lung cancer; blood clots; heart disease; pregnancy risks; cancer of the mouth, kidneys, bladder; high blood pressure; dental and gum disease; etc. Even if a Christian, for some reason, does not care about his own body, he should care about the people who would be affected if he were to get any of these health issues because of his own choice to use tobacco. Loving the people who are dependent upon you means taking care of yourself.
Lastly (but probably not the end of reasons that could go on the list), there are much better ways for a Christian to use his money than by purchasing tobacco products. You could spend it on other people, your family, even yourself, in a less selfish way. One pack of cigarettes may not put a huge dent in your wallet, but the habit continued for years certainly does.
I understand that someone who disagrees with all of these reasons could simply say, “Well, with that logic, I guess we aren’t allowed to eat junk food as Christians, or drink alcohol, or get tans, or do anything else that we know damages our bodies.” To that, I would say “Touché. But we are talking about tobacco right now.”