A short while after our church first began, back when there were only 100 of us or so, a young guy walked up to me after church and asked me, almost in a whisper, “what do you guys believe about smoking? Is it okay to smoke in this church?” I laughed a little, not because it was a stupid question but because the church had people from such a great diversity of backgrounds. We had heaps of ex-Catholics, a core of ex-Charismatics, a few long-time Southern Baptists and so on. I told him I had no idea what the general consensus was but that I’m sure as long as he smoked outside no one would care.
I know lots of Christians who smoke and it has never really caused me to examine the idea of a conflict between that action (or addiction) and their faith. I guess for some people this is a real stumbling block. Some people seem to think that those who smoke reveal something about their faith.
Christianity Today has a small article that provides the usual arguments.
- Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, so be careful what we put in our bodies.
- Smoking is an addiction and Christians are to guard against addictions.
- Smoking has many harmful effects and can often lead to other addictions.
These are all rational arguments. Another common argument to add to that list is that God provides our finances and we are told to use them carefully.
All of these arguments are well and good, but they all have other sides to them. Yes, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, but how much worse is it to put smoke (and all it carries with it) into our bodies than it is to gorge ourselves on junk food? Judging by the lineup at the coffee table on Sunday mornings I would say that there are far more Christians addicted to caffeine than there are to nicotine. Sure smoking has lots of harmful effects, but so does overeating or eating the wrong things. God provides us money, but how often do we use it to buy things we don’t really need?
I guess it seems to me that the arguments used against smoking are usually quite inconsistent. I see the logic behind them, but those same principles seem to fail when they are extended to the rest of the Christian life.
I hate smoking. I hate the smell of it and I especially hate seeing cigarette butts lying on the ground outside buildings. But I don’t presume to think that I can tell the first thing about a person’s spiritual condition by the fact that they smoke.