Christians Smoking

From Razormouth: Christians who smoke — are they “defiling” the temple of the Spirit with nicotine? While Jamey argues that a Christian can be a moderate smoker and still be living by the Gospel, I wonder if this line of thought would hold for, say, a moderate Ecstacy-user? A moderate cocaine-user? If a Christian smoker can smoke to the glory of God, can an occasional LSD-tripper also hallucinate to the glory of God? Can a Christian marijuana-user… well, let’s not get into that… ;)

I won’t stand upon on a pulpit to declare tobacco as decidedly un-Christian, any more than food or drink is decidedly un-Christian. I don’t deny that C.S. Lewis was a smoker, or that many other great Christian minds (which I am currently at a loss to name) did puff away at one time or another. But given what we now know: that nicotine is addictive, that even light smokers are at risk, and that secondhand smoke is a health threat to others — well, that makes the question of tobacco a lot more serious than comparison to mere food and drink, doesn’t it?

(Sorry to step on the toes of my fellow brothers and sisters in the faith who do smoke. You do know my current line of work. My intention is not to make you uncomfortable, but just please don’t let any smoke float in my direction. I was getting more than enough of that poison riding jeepneys back in Manila, thank you.)


  1. Rich Clark says:

    I think what you forget in your first paragraph is the legality of these things.

    The things you mentioned, as far as I’m aware, are illegal. That makes them inherrantly sinful.

    As far as the article, the point was that the “defiling the temple” argument doesn’t work at all to say that smoking is sin. Paul was only trying to speak against schisms and adultery, and this is clear in the text. To say anything else based on these texts is too much of a stretch.

    Smoking is kind of like bungee jumping. It may be stupid (?), but it’s not wrong. ;-)

  2. Valerie says:

    How ’bout sticking needles in my eye? Is that stupid but not wrong? Or are there any laws against my drinking Drano? Mmmmm…does that come in cherry flavor?

    The illegality of a thing does not make it inherrently sinful. Quite the opposite–it only makes it situationally sinful. If I visited some country that hadn’t outlawed Ecstasy, would it or would it not be wrong to put that poison in my body?

    Mere human reason is not on a par with Scripture because our hearts are deceitful, but isn’t common sense an aspect of general revelation? Do we really need a chapter and verse on this one? Isn’t this a DUH issue? Poisoning oneself is as sinful as poisoning somebody else, be it with quick-acting, deadly strychnine or slow-acting, deadly nicotine.

  3. Richard says:

    Interesting discussion. But since this is the only (and therefore best) faith-based blog I read, I’m surprised to see no links to what the Bible has to say on the subject.

    As to Valerie’s point that illegality does not make something inherently sinful, I agree. But neither does legality make something virtuous (pre-marital sex is not outlawed in America, but many consider it to be sinful). What was the point of that? Um, I forget.

    It’s a little misleading, however, to say that something like nicotine is a poison. While true, the fact remains that pretty much everything is a poison, if too much is ingested. It is, for example, possible of dying from water poisoning if one drinks too much water.

    Everything in moderation is one of the keys to a healthy life.

  4. Noelle says:

    I think that as Christians, we have personal relationships with God. As such, some of our relationship is based on revelation in the Bible, and personal revelation–what God puts in our hearts. Now, some people have the conviction in their heart that God tells them it’s wrong for them to smoke, and some people don’t have that conviction. It only means that God’s work isn’t completed yet in each Christian, and we’re all in varying stages of becoming more like Jesus.

  5. Noelle says:

    And I have a question for Richard: if I ate rat poison in moderation, would that be healthy for me?

  6. Valerie says:

    Yes, Richard, moderation is a Good Thing. The trouble with nicotine is that it’s so blasted addictive, making moderate use almost impossible.

    And since y’all don’t know me, let me clarify that I’m not damning anybody for using tobacco. I don’t think it’s the unforgiveable sin or anything like that. Heaven knows I struggle with my own immoderations and self-indulgences. But I’d rather no one did me the disservice of telling me that my sins are not sinful, so I’ll “do unto others” on this one.

  7. Paulo says:

    A man can smoke and still be a good Christian, methinks. Our salvation, after all, is grounded in the sacrifice of Christ, through faith and not by our own works. That is the core of our belief, after all.

    What should be warned against, however, is the very high possibility of tobacco becoming a master over the True Master, our God. When you get addicted — just as with addiction to illegal drugs, alcohol, overeating, sex, or instant messaging — then it has crossed the line; from being a neutral item of consumption, to an idol of materialism.

    And that’s a very easy thing to do with tobacco, given its addictive nature. And the highly carcinogenic nature of nicotine makes it far worse.

    “Everything is permissible for me”Ðbut not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”Ðbut I will not be mastered by anything. That verse by St. Paul does have contextual reference to more than just sexual immorality and the Body of Christ.

  8. Raffy says:

    I just knew I had to get my two cents in.

    Technically, the Bible doesn’t really explicitly state that smoking is bad and will lead you to hell. But it doesn’t say anything (as far as I know) about masturbation either, and you know that self-gratification, albeit considered a healthy outlet by many specialists in medicine, doesn’t exactly foster clean thoughts.

    I think the issue here is not so much that the Christian who smokes is liable, but rather the people who see him as a Christian who smokes are the most affected. Romans 14:20 says “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.” And while this is speaking about food, it is still symbolic of anything that we take into ourselves that may or may not appear to be sinful.

    Something may not be bad, but if it causes someone else to stumble, it’s not worth doing it.

    I will not kid with anyone. I am a Christian, been so for 20 years. And I smoke. It’s a nasty habit, and I make it a point to keep it hidden from most people I see at church. I realize that it doesn’t help my Christian life, and it could be a reason for some other Christian’s “stumbling”. But I believe that God cherishes our individual relationships with Him more than anything else, and I say that if another Christian’s actions are what define your faith, then you need to reevaluate why exactly you believe in what you believe in. I don’t mean for this to be a convenient scapegoat, but does smoking really make the smoker bad and undecidedly un-Christian?

    So where’d this discussion spring up from, Pau? :D

  9. Paulo says:

    Oh, nowhere; it was just weighing on my mind when I read it on Razormouth.

    Hey, anyone notice the entry_id number in the URL? Blog post 1000! :D

  10. Tim says:

    Here are a few other Christian smokers for you:

    R.C. Sproul

    Mike Horton

    Charles Spurgeon

    J. Greshem Machen

    I don’t think smoking is a good idea but I don’t think it is a sin any more than eating at McDonalds (high fat content low nutrition) or not exercising is.

    Also, the context of Paul’s statement about out bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit is not health food but sexual purity. Much bigger issue as far as I’m concerned.

  11. Richard says:

    And I have a question for Richard: if I ate rat poison in moderation, would that be healthy for me?

    Depends how much you ate. For each thing you eat, there is a threshold past which something would kill you. The threshold for rat poison is very low, whereas the threshold for water is very high (but still, too much water can kill you).

    I’m not suggesting people start knowingly eat rat poising in miniscule quantities. My point is that everything is a poison: it’s how much you consume that makes it a poison.

  12. Anonymous says:

    “I don’t think smoking is a good idea but I don’t think it is a sin any more than eating at McDonalds (high fat content low nutrition) or not exercising is.”

    Aha! But as one who struggles with gluttony and sloth, I maintain that such ARE sins. And the last thing I need is for people to tell me that my sins aren’t sins. That’s hardly a favor. Don’t damn me (nor do I damn people who use tobacco — praise God for the power of Jesus’ blood and the purity of His righteousness!), but for pity’s sake don’t tell me my sin isn’t sin.

  13. Valerie says:

    Sorry, that was me.

  14. Tim says:

    Valerie, I’m sorry you struggle with those particular sins and you are right, to you a Big Mac would be a sin. To me it is just lousy food.

    Romans 14:23 – But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.

    [Insert here the other fantastic verse that I can’t remember right now]

    On the other hand, don’t tell me that doing something a) not explicitly (or clearly implicitly) forbidden in scripture and b) that my conscience is clear on is a sin. I’ll never eat a McDonalds burger in front of you if will cause you to stumble but if I have one on the way home, that’s fine (aside from the culinary implications that is.)

    Along the same lines, I do fairly regularly enjoy a quality beer. There are some brothers and sisters who would condemn me and say I am disqualified from the ministry because I enjoy a fine malt beverage on occasion. If drinking in front of them would cause them to do something against their conscience, then I will never drink a beer again. At least not in front of them.

  15. Valerie says:

    Let me clarify my stance a little bit.

    My concern with tobacco has more to do with its addictive properties than the thing itself. If someone can smoke in moderation, so be it. But my understanding is that the highly addictive nature of the stuff makes that scenario all too rare.

    [DISCLAIMER: The following analogy is admittedly poor and should not be taken beyond the very narrow point that I will make.] Similarly, if someone can watch films with explicit nudity or simulated sex and not be tempted to lust or other sexual sin, then perhaps it’s not a sin for him to watch those films. Like the temptation to be mastered by sexual sin, the temptation to be mastered by tobacco addiction is very, very strong. I actually agree with Mr. Bennett’s conclusion that “smoking is not evil-but excess is.” But I submit that it’s not worth the risk for someone to find out if he’s strong enough to handle it. Some sins are just to hard so give up that it would seem wisest not to put oneself in a position where one might fall prey to them.

    For the record, I don’t think alcohol addiction falls into this category. From what I understand, it seems to work a little differently than tobacco addiction. Though habitual drunkenness is certainly very difficult to overcome, and can have far more devastating effects, moderate alcohol consumption does not seem to lead quite so inexorably toward addiction than moderate tobacco use does.

    Nor do I mean to say that eating any particular kind of food is sinful (though Mickey D’s is certainly an offense against the culinary sensibilities…well, except their fries are pretty good…and their sausage biscuits…and their chocolate shakes). But immoderate consumption, whether of Big Macs or tofu burgers, is sinful.

    And on an added, and completely throw-away note (as if I haven’t rambled on long enough), I think tobacco and beer taste WAAAAAAAAAAAAY worse than Big Macs! ;^)

  16. Valerie says:

    Small edit: the fifth-to-last word in the third paragraph should be “as,” not “than.”

  17. Rich Clark says:

    To me, fast food is not only not sin, but darn near the food of the gods!

    Oh wait, that doesn’t work. ;-)

  18. ross says:

    what is the issue here? i think we all agree that smoking is detrimental to one’s health. we all know about the effects it has on aging, on sexual virility, not to mention the nasty smell it leaves on people’s clothes (i know all these things, yet i still smoke. darnit!). however, i doubt the higher-power would care so much about my smoking when i finally try to enter the pearly gates. i doubt i’ll need to mention smoking the next time i go to a confession booth (disclaimer: the last time i was in one was 7 years ago. i would have this super loong list of sins the next time i go, smoking would just have to wait its next turn). does that make sense? prolly not.

    on a lighter note, Mc Fries are truly yum yum yum.

  19. Mike says:

    Except when they’re oversalted. Which is half the time…

  20. fred says:

    I was a cigar smoker for a number of years. I meet with a man for accountability once a week and we pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal anything that is in the way of our relationship with Him. Guess what the Spirit revealed… right, my tobacco use. Now did I set out to quit, no way! After all Spurgeon smoked and Joel Miller says it’s ok, but I did pray for willingness to quit. A miracle occurred in my life last September( I was healed from a devastating attack by hornets,50+ bites and my daughter prayed for me and they we’re gone!) The next day began my non-smoking days and it’s been 9 months now. Hope this is an encouragement to all who want to quit.

  21. Stephen Saslow says:

    I read these and rarely respond, so most of you don’t know me, but perhaps everyone should take one GIANT step back and simply ask……… WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? Can anyone say he thinks he would???? Then I’m sorry, I must say, I have to agree with those who say it IS sin…..

  22. The Dane says:

    Alright. So I’m playing catch up here and there are a lot of points to address.

    1) We’ll get this out of the way at the outset. I’ve smoked cigars (for the flavour which I’ve found I enjoy and the calming influence they bear upon my thoughts) for about 3 – 4 years now. I’m not even close to addicted. If I never smoked another, it would only be as difficult to take as if I never had another hot chocolate – lamentable only in so far as the fact that something would be denied me.

    I smoke only occasionally (somewhere between 10 and 20 cigars a year) – and usually only in social circumstances. This lends, I think, greatly to the evidence supporting my claim that I am not addicted.

    2) From what I understand – from all the evidence I’ve heard over the years – smoking is not remotely as dangerous nor as chemically addictive as the mainstream media would have you to believe.

    The dangers of smoking should be apparent for those who smoke three packs a day for 40 years. It doesn’t take a super-genius to understand this (and this holds with Richard’s expression of moderation in all things). Second-hand smoke may be harmful to very young children (or not), but I have a very difficult time accepting that a little second-hand smoke is going to give me or you or anybody lung disease. I’d be more willing to buy that those who supposedly die from second-hand smoke are more likely dying from years of smog than from a bit of second-hand smoke (and more likely to believe that they would have contracted the disease in the absence of the second-hand air pollution anyways).

    Chemically, the addictive properties of nicotine pass from the human body in three days. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense that the those addicted to smoking are more addicted to the habit than to the chemical. People with addictive personalities are going to find themselves going back to cigarettes time and time again.

    3) Comparing smoking to an illegal and/or brain-damaging drug is simply not a reasonable comparison.

    First off. If cigarettes were illegal, we wouldn’t be asking the question of whether it be wrong for Christians to smoke. Since as believers, we are to submit to the government under which God, in His sovereignty, has chosen to place us, any use of an illegal substance is necessarily wrong as long as we find ourselves under the authority of that government.

    Next, there is a great gulf of difference between some of the drugs mentioned in comparison with tobacco and the tobacco itself. One use of tobacco will neither kill its user nor damage his body or mind irreparably. One use of LSD can damage one’s brain forever. Same with X. Cocaine and heroin can and have killed in a single use. I have yet to hear of anyone who smoked a tobacco pipe and O.D.ed – it’s just not the nature of the beast. Tobacco may have its dangers, but they are long-term dangers (like the dangers of eggs, red meat, candy bars, caffeine, and going outside).

    Also, drugs like marijuana are in a different category. They are not highly addictive and they do not (so far as I’m aware) kill millions of braincells. Therefore, if the government one finds himself under allows the recreational use of marijuana, I believe it would be acceptable for a believer to use the narcotic in a responsible manner (just as I believe it acceptible for a believer to utilize coffee, wine, Advil, and Codeine if used resposibly).

    4) The comparison of tobacco to rat poison might be fair if someone could eat rat poison for fifty years (at ten helpings a day) and still live into his eightes. The fact is, most people (as pointed out) don’t have that kind of tolerance for the stuff. Plus, there is no recognized benefit to the consumption of rat poison while many people truly do enjoy a good smoke. Now if you could eat your rat poison in a fine restaurant and order it medium rare at $34.99 a plate, I think one might have a better case for the comparison.

    5) It’s is certainly true that for some people, smoking tobacco production is a sin (for them we offer a fine assortment of chewable products j/k). In truth though, some people truly are mastered by the plant. These are people who should abstain and their use is honestly sinful. This is not all people. And certainly not all Christians. Just as some people should stay away from alcohol and others should stay away from competitive sports and others should stay away from PG-13 movies and some should stay away from theological discussion with Calvary Chapelites as it drives them inexorably to wrath, so too should some stay away from tobacco. Is that you? Is that me? I think we can only properly judge our own motivations in the matter. Or else bring it before your elders after the proper confrontation or supposed sin.

    6) Would Jesus do it? Who can say? He might. He might not. He drank wine. He may have danced and played cards. We are not given to know much of his personal habits in a day-to-day sense. Would Jesus watch a movie? Would he watch “Survivor”? Would he play Super Mario Bros.? Would he own a cellphone or microwave? Would he have an AOL Instant Messenger account? Would he moderate a Yahoo! group? Would he drink coffee? Would his shoes cost less than 30 bucks? Would he piece an ear? Or his tongue? Would he listen to classical music? How ’bout country or jazz or rock or Japanese traditional?

    Really when it comes down to most of the little things in life, the question is a silly one. I must imagine that it was only ever originally meant to aid one in provoking oneself to think Biblically about actions of mercy and love and charity and righteousness. If it was originally meant otherwise, I officially concluded that the originator of the thought was a knucklehead.

    7) Using notable Christians as examples either for or against an issue is meaningless. This issue can be decided on Biblical principle alone. This is why I think smoking (in responsible moderation) is perfectly within the bounds of the righteous Christian’s realm of action. Simply because there is nothing Scriptural to necessarily condemn it.

    The End :-D

  23. Paulo says:

    *clap, clap*

    Go Dane!

    I’m still not smoking, though. ;)

  24. The Dane says:

    Good. I hear it’s bad for you :-D

  25. Ben says:

    “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.(Gen 1:29)”

    There is only one exception –

    “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it.(Gen 2:17)” – and it’s not tobacco

  26. Paulo says:

    Speaking of smoking, check out Dave Winer:

  27. Valerie says:

    So, Ben, does that mean we’re supposed to eat it? How ’bout with a side of poison ivy salad? And hemlock juice to wash it all down? ;^)

  28. garver says:

    I’ve smoked maybe 4 or 5 cigars in my life–and they were good quality cigars–and I must say that they were a wonderful way of enjoying God’s good creation and relaxing in his presence. (Especially accompanied by a nice, old single-malt scotch.)

    And I’m sure that if Jesus and I were kicking back on some hillside in Palestine and I handed him one, he’d take it, give thanks, and light up. That’s what Jesus would do.

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  29. garver says:

    While we’re chatting about this, let me pass on this classic gem of Christian spirituality:


    Smoking Spiritualized.

    THIS Indian weed now wither’d quite,

    Tho’ green at noon, cut down at night,

    Shows thy decay;

    All flesh is hay.

    Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

    The pipe, so lily-like and weak,

    Does thus thy mortal state bespeak

    Thou art ev’n such,

    Gone with a touch.

    Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

    And when the smoke ascends on high,

    Then thou behold’st the vanity

    Of worldy stuff,

    Gone with a puff.

    Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

    And when the pipe grows foul within,

    Think on thy soul defil’d with sin;

    For then the fire,

    It does require.

    Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

    And seest the ashes cast away;

    Then to thyself thou mayest say,

    That to the dust

    Return thou must.

    Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

  30. Ben says:

    Valerie, I wouldn’t eat it if I were you. Might make you go a bit green. Another top tip is not to eat tea leaves, but instead to mix them with boiling water. The water is enfused with flavour, which you can then drink. But beware, it’s also a mild diaretic and stimulant. :-)

  31. Noelle says:

    Well, I agree with Fred:


    I said originally that some people are convicted by the Holy Spirit that they’d be sinning against God if they did smoke, and some people are not convicted. What would be a sin is if you have been given this _personal_ revelation that smoking is bad, and then not acting on it.

    No matter what the pro-smoking arguments The Dane mentioned are, I wouldn’t smoke. Aside from the aforementioned _personal_ conviction that it is a sin, my father is a thoracic surgeon–meaning he knows what smoking does to one’s body. Now, I admire The Dane for having the fortitude to be able to stop smoking at any time, but the matter is that people who are chronic smokers do sustain damage to their lungs. Never mind that I may suffer the same sort of damage by inhaling Manila’s soupy smog; I just don’t want to do that damage to myself willingly.

    Last comment: we really can’t be sure what Jesus would do if someone had offered Him tobacco, like we can’t speculate on the tiny details of His life. All we know is what the Bible says, and the Bible doesn’t go into many particulars because it offers spiritual (and not so much physical) guidelines.

  32. Noelle says:

    < er… sorry about the italics.

  33. I want to list my point on what makes smoking (or drinking for that matter) sinful, as I enjoy smoking a pipe as I write my novels and stories. First of all, I am a Biblical Studies major and finishing up the end of my bachelor’s degree with plans to go onto Seminary to list my credentials and background, should anyone need them.

    I am a Christian and while, like all Christians, I struggle at times, I feel that I am quite strong in my faith and my life. Jesus is still the center of my life and I always try to keep him the center of my thoughts. He is my life. However, what I want to point out are the two rules that makes smoking tobacco (and drinking alcohol) different from taking and/or abusing any narcotics.

    1. If it is used for a “high”, or if it alters one’s perception to increase pleasures as such, it is sinful as we are more prone to do ungodly deeds when we are not in our right minds. Tobacco and harmless amounts of alcohol do not do this but studies show that anything from marijuana to cocaine to heroin do alter the senses.

    2. If it becomes an addiction and we become reliant on it more than God. However, if we become too reliant on anything, even food or drink, it is sinful as we can see from fasting that the human body can go weeks without food and days without drink, we can go forever without tobacco or alcohol, though like me, I enjoy it every so often. As long as it does not become something I need or something I think I need to survive or even get through a day or two, then it is fine. “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word from the mouth of the LORD.” Narcotics are EXTREMELY addictive and do hurt perception, therefore they are certainly wrong.