Friday, September 07, 2007

Smokin' In The Boys Room it a sin, a bad habit, or has the church just been plain legalistic?

Smoking can be a bad habit. Nicotine is proven addictive, proposes a real health risk over time, and can be very hard to quit once a significant habit has begun.

But is smoking a sin? Does it damage a witness? Is all matters of smoking wrong whether it be cigarettes, cigars or pipes? How should we address those that may smoke publicly outside in our church parking lots? Has the church at large been too legalistic in this area?

This was the subject that I and some friends were discussing this past week. Let me share with you a hypothetical scenario to illustrate this issue. A few 18+ year old young men and women (who are part of a local church) were found smoking in the parking lot of the church. A "greeter" from the church went to them and asked them to stop smoking or possibly leave the parking lot. Take this to a more broad picture of anyone smoking outside on church property (member or visitor) and how that would look "image wise" for any church.

What say you?
I realize that this is a relatively small issue with all that is going on in the world around us. But as you know, the devil is in the details and it is these little things that can divide Christian fellowship quicker than anything.

Here is a common concern of smoking to help ignite your thoughts:

Because smoking is often perceived as a sin (at worst) or a casual pastime (at best), should we be concerned with the impression that it might leave upon those who come to our church or who are new visitors to the church, if they were to see people smoking in the parking lot of our church? Or should it even matter?
Here are some initial thoughts in response to the above:
Is this 1957 we’re talking about here? Were they wearing leisure suits too? :-).


Can you imagine... some people actually smoking in the hallowed area of the parking lot of a church? Oh my... Did they inhale? Sounds like an immediate Matthew 18:15-20 situation to me. Can you imagine such a thing? Sinners, real life sinners that lite up are in our church parking lot enjoying "a drag" before or after the service. They’re definitely going to hell — no question about it — smokers all end up there. No smoker could possibly be elect — no way. And if they profess to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, they’re definitely carnal,... backslidden at best.

Can you believe it, there are smokers who even twist the words of praise songs to support their "evil practice" by singing: “it only takes a spark, to get my cig a going...” They just can’t be trusted; we should get rid of them all. You can almost imagine the headline on the church kiosk next week would say:

Can't you just hear The Church Lady from SNL say about now, "what does that "S" on your shirt stand for... Smoker?

Time to Wake Up and Smell the Ministry
This is not an issue.

Smoking is not a sin (btw, I don’t smoke cigarettes). John MacArthur really put this in perspective when he once humorously said, “Smoking is not a sin; but if you like putting dried leaves in your mouth and setting them on fire that’s your business.” :-).

Precisely! Scripture nowhere prohibits smoking anywhere; it is a preference issue at best.

Does it smack of legalism to actually say things like: “is this the first impression you want to make on people coming to the church...” People that come to our churches come with serious problems and needs—and smoking in the parking lot is not one of them. Spurgeon smoked cigars (so do I on occasion) - would it have been better if they were smoking cigars? How about pipes? Pipes are good too — they smell really good especially on a cool autumn evening (I smoke a pipe on occasion too). Football season is here and it’s a great time to bring your favorite cigar or pipe to a ball game and have at it.

I think here’s a great first impression to make on people coming to our churches:
that everyone would be warmly welcomed whether they are smoking or not in the parking lot and never asked to leave because a “greeter” sees someone enjoying a Camel before or after the service.

BTW, that person in the parking lot who confronted the young people smoking should never be allowed to serve as a greeter. Put that man in charge of something really important like... straightening all the hymnals in the backs of the pews before the service begins :-). It will better serve the Lord and His people to keep him as far away from those coming to the church as possible—especially the visitors.

From Tobacco Road...

Let me know your thoughts...


RonaldJ said...

Sorry for the delay, Steve. I had to refill my coffee cup before posting my comment about the sinfulness of carnal addictions like smoking. ;-)

Couldn't agree more with you, brother. It has always amazed me that smoking is considered "sinful" because it harms the body, yet most Sunday School classes I've been a part of offer coffee & donuts to all of us "fit & trim" believers. Bad habit? Yes! Sinful??? Seems like that's a stretch.

I've heard how we are to honor God with our bodies. Likewise, we are not to be mastered by anything (see 1 Cor 6). Yet looking at that chapter in context, I find it hard to apply this text to issues like smoking.

When someone complained to my former pastor about a new attendee smoking out in the parking lot after the service, he replied "Good! I'd love to have them here, as long as they're coming to church." Let's not lose the forest for the trees.

Soli Deo Gloria...

Alice said...

It seems (to me) as though the issue of appearance has overshadowed the issue of substance. I think Christians should care if they have an addiction to anything--be it cigarettes, alcohol, coffee, etc. It's not a sin to partake of them, and it's not sinful because of "how it may look." The issue isn't how it looks to someone else, the issue (in my opinion) is that you shouldn't physically need cigarettes (or coffee, etc.) to calm you down--let God calm you down! (-:

Anonymous said...

Hi great post..I smoke myself and though i dont think its a sin,i'm aware that its an addiction which in someways i put above God..

I remember reading that M L Jones once smoked(a pipe i think),but came under conviction that its addictive quality made you have two masters..

Small example theres been times when its been read my bible or get a packet of fags before the shop shut,and the cigs won out..

Anonymous said...

yikes UK english alert haha fags=cigs

ps if its put above God then it is a sin right?

Jana said...

My church (an independent Bible church) will not let you become a member if you smoke. But I don't personally think it's a sin. I think it's more about being a good steward of the body God's given you. My grandfather died of lung cancer, and while I am sure he went to Heaven, how much better if he could have lived a long healthy life and taken care of my grandmother in her old age. So it's not the smoking itself, but the long-term effects of it, that seem to me to be incompatible with the Christian life. Having said that, I certainly don't condemn anyone who smokes, or tell them they can't be a Christian if they smoke. That seems counterproductive at best.

gigantor1231 said...


I think that as Christians we need to be circumspect in our conversation and in what we do in life, down to our smallest foibles, habits and idiosyncracies! While I do not believe that smoking is a sin in itself I do know that what has been associated with it by both Christians and non Christians is pretty much all negative. Other than catering to sensual desire I can not think of one truly redeemable aspect about it, yes it can smell good at times but that seems so lacking in value.
So, where does this leave me? I know that I am to think of the needs and weaknesses of others before myself, I never want to intentionally cause anyone to stumble in any way. I especially want to be a good example to those that are less mature or younger, especially those that God has given me charge over, my girls and all the children that I care for every day. I have to ask myself what the image of me smoking will communicate to others? How will it glorify God above all? When it comes right down to it smoking is sin for me!
Those things that I do that are questionable I choose to do privately and not make it a public issue, I don't let the right hand know what the left is doing, or I let it go completely. My point is that in areas like this I keep my standards to myself and I do not impose them on others, I do not even make it a issue if possible. I have to be honest with you, you being the public figure that you are need to be more conservative than all of us. God has entrusted you with a greater responsibility than the vast majority of us here. That being said, how would it make you feel if a brother or sister came to you and told you that there child, who looked up to you, started smoking because 'Steve Camp lights up every now and then?' Would it be sin for you then? Sorry to drop that bomb on you but I think Paul already did;

1 Cor 10:23-33

23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (1 Co 10:23-33). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

The Seeking Disciple said...

Personally Steve I have never met a true disciple (on fire, on their face in prayer, sharing their faith, radical) of Jesus who smokes. That is being honest. I know of people who go to church who smoke but I have never seen them passionately seeking God.

I believe we should not be mastered by anything (1 Cor. 6:12). If smoking is mastering me (or anything else, Luke 14:25-35) then I should question my devotion to Jesus (1 John 2:3-6). I also believe that Romans 14 should also be our guide in this matter.

Whenever we are seeking to make disciples of Christ, it is important that we teach people that we are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). To say, "Go ahead and live like you always have" is not to be found in the Scriptures (Eph. 4:17).

Tom Chantry said...

I think that everyone needs to reconsider what our definition of "sin" is. Steve has obviously defined it in the standard manner - that which violates the clear moral mandates of God. Did God make morality a complex issue for man? Do we need to comb through the Scriptures to find verses to justify calling a practice sin? The issue Steve raised in the post was this: is a church justified in calling something sin in someone else's life when God never clearly does? It is a good question, and one which ought to make us stop and think. Just because we have always thought something was sin, does that mean God has called it sin?

Tom Chantry said...


You have raised the most viable biblical argument which can be raised in this setting - Thank you.

I wonder, though, if Paul ever meant for the consciences of the weakest among us to become the new legislator of morality for us all? That seems to me to run contrary to everything he ever said on the subject of the law and liberty. No one will (or at least ought to) disagree with you that it is imperative that we be willing to put limits on our liberty for the sake of others, but to categorically outlaw something God has not called sin? Paul himself would have rejected that line of reasoning. Look closely at the passage you quoted: Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. And again: For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

Tom Chantry said...

But, Steve, c'mon, as a former schoolteacher, I have to say, "smokin' in the boy's room" violates the fifth commandment!

dec said...

I agree with Andy that smoking can be a sin. And movies, sports, TV, eating, working, etc., etc., can all be sins if we desire them in place of God.

But this is an issue between God and the sinner. The church should focus our attention and prayers on this issue, but how can anyone else judge the place these things have in our lives. (ok, your wife can.)

Jack said...

I was raised in a "tee-totaller" environment with regard to alcohol and tobacco, which I think was good. So I have to laugh when I think back on my first cigarette and pipe and cigar being at seminary! I agree with you, brother Steve. This issue at best has been made more important than it is, and at worst become a source of legalism ("don't smoke, don't chew, don't date girls who do"). This is one of those issues that the church needs to leave up to the wisdom and conscience of individuals. One of these days I'd like to light up some Captain Black again!

SJ Camp said...

Some very good thoughts here - and I echo Tom's commentary as well.

I don't think my standard for living is being the most conservative above everyone else because I have a wider platform. I do understand your meaning though. I don't smoke enough to even warrant one carbon credit :-). But the point is taken which I do appreciate.

I do feel that it is a preference issue (Roms. 14-15) and we should prefer the weaker brother in all things. But don't you think we have elevated smoking to a place of taboo that the Scriptures don't affirm?

But I would prefer my brother over my right to enjoy a great cigar or bowl in a pipe. Again, Spurgeon smoked cigars; Dr. Steve Brown smokes a pipe...

In response to your question: one redeeming quality with pipes or cigars (I am not a fan of cigarettes at all--never smoked on in my life) is that they cause you to relax. In fact, they actually lower your heart rate. AND, the average cigar or pipe smoker lives about 15% more on average than a non pipe or cigar smoker.

Breaking the Fifth commandment---line of the day for me! Thank you brother.

And you have some great points as well. Especially: "I wonder, though, if Paul ever meant for the consciences of the weakest among us to become the new legislator of morality for us all?"

Excellent question... Will respond later--though you answered it most wonderfully.

the seeking disciple
I don't disagree with you in principle.. But again, Spurgeon smoked cigars; Steve Brown smokes a pipe, etc. It's not about lowering ones standards to justify a vice; it is saying however that we shouldn't raise smoking to a place of taboo that Scripture does not.

In closing, a bit of humor on this subject Can smokers be “on fire” for God? YES! They must be careful though they don’t get “puffed” up. Smoking is “a drag” though; because “You Light Up My Life” is the smokers theme song. But listen, I don’t want anyone here to be the “butt” of my jokes. Good to know that through blogger we can “filter” these comments. I should probably “leaf” it alone for now.

I know... Thanks for enduring my attempt at some humor at least.

Thanks again everyone for these great thoughts and biblical foundations to help in further understand this grey area.

1 Cor. 13

SJ Camp said...

A few quick additional thoughts:

Personally, I don’t like the smell of cigarette smoke. When I take my kids bowling and during certain hours they allow for smoking in some alley’s, the smell is disgusting and the after smell on our clothes is terrible. BUT, if someone who smokes comes to our churches, is a regular attendee, member or first time visitor, AND if they are being polite by going outside to smoke in the parking lot where it most likely will not bother anyone else, we should welcome them with open arms and not make it an issue.

Biblically, though there is not a prohibitation against smoking in the Scriptures—it would seem that this would fall under the area of “a preference issue.” Which means that a true believer will not exercise his or her rights to something (in the case of a non-sin-issue) to the purposed offense of another. We will consider the fellowship with another believer for whom Christ died of more importance. The “weaker brother” as the Apostle Paul refers to them.

I.e., if I am having over to my home a vegetarian for dinner, I would not then purposely offend them by serving burgers, dogs, chops, or steaks. We would all eat a veggie meal that night because our love for that person should trump our right to enjoy eating meat (Roms. 14-15). This can also be a wonderful witness to a nonChristian as well. The same principle could also apply to issues of music, alcohol, dress, etc.

Grace and peace,
2 Cor. 4:5-7

Robert N. Landrum said...

Here is a good how to quit smoking video.

SJ Camp said...

I saw that on YouTube... It was called, "The Last Cigarette." Very good.

Here is another video for people to watch. This one is very serious in nature, good to show teenagers, and confirms medically why smoking cigarettes is not healthy for anyone (and why on occasion I only have a cigar or a pipe):

This is simply called: Quite Smoking

Carla Rolfe said...

This topic will almost always generate heated (no pun intended) discussion among Christians.

You noted in your post "This is a relatively small issue with all that is going on in the world around us." and I have to say I agree, but also disagree.

The attitude many Christians have about smoking (in various forms) is a symptom of a larger issue that isn't small at all. Part of that larger issue is pride in the hearts of men (i.e. 'I am more spiritual than you, because you smoke and I don't') and another part of that larger issue is man-made traditions among the church that some folks hang onto with a death grip.

I know Christians who smoke, and I know Christians who do not and never have. Many will try to put forward the idea that if you're a Christian smoker, you're somehow less sold out to Christ and living a full, useful, God glorifying existance. The problem with that idea is, all the Christians I've known over the years who do smoke (or did) and live that very life. At the same time, I also know Christians who are legalists, tell dumb jokes, fat, don't smoke but do cuss sometimes, wear fashion no-no's, bald and/or watch American Idol and actually like Ryan Seacrest.

Does that make them less saved, less in love with the Lord, or less dedicated to growing in grace? Nope, it means they're just like you and me and every other Christian who still has habits and traces of the old life, (and in the case of liking Ryan Seacrest, just really bad taste), and struggling to get through THIS life, by His grace.

Just a thought or three on this hot topic.

candyinsierras said...

I don't have a problem with the fact that some Christians smoke. In fact, I really don't care. That is between them and God. I do have a problem with courtesy. If a guy sitting below me in the bleachers is smoking a cigar, cigarettes, pipe, or whatever and I get to experience the smoke, I am a bit irritated. I grew up with smokers. All my brothers, sisters, and parents smoke. I am very sensitive to smoke. Oh yeah, and the whole west is burning this summer, but that is a whole other story.

As for Steve Brown and his photo on his blog of him and his pipe. Is he innocent of an agenda to look cool and full of grace I wonder? Why that photo?

Jason E. Robertson said...

Steve, I think you are right on the money. As I said in the email discussion, if I weren't about to preach I would have gone out there asked for a lighter, lit up a big Padron '64 and talked to those guys about their lives, our Lord, and thank them for coming to our church and learning the Word of God.

Besides, have you ever noticed that it is easier to cope with stinky cigarette smoke if you are smoking a Churchhill?

Seriously, thanks for being a voice of sensibility on this issue.

gigantor1231 said...


Is this issue with cigarettes much ado about nothing? I don't think so. It is probably one of those little foxes that can destroy the vineyard! I think Jerry Bridges youtube presentation 'You don't have rights, but you do have the Gospel' really brings this all into perspective.
Cigarette smoking is a liberty, a liberty that caters to the flesh only. Yes one can do it but why? What redeemable value does it have? None in the spirit and little in the flesh. We all know it does more damage to one physically than good, wich far outweighs any of it's benefits.
Yes others may do it, both great and small, but who cares. While smoking is nothing to get bent out of shape about it is not a issue that needs some balance or justification. Smoking might get you to Jesus quiker but I can assure you that it is not going to draw you closer here. Let the dead bury the dead and leave smoking and the gratification of the flesh to those that are unsaved! Even if it is a liberty that we can partake in why not just drop it all together for something better.

God Is My Judge said...

I agree with you Steve, it is time for us to wake up and "smell the ministry." There are millions, if not billions, of people in need of Jesus Christ and we want to focus on mundane issues like this.

Many years ago, William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, said that he wished that he could dangle his officers over hell for 5 minutes in order for them to see the misery that awaits countless scores of men, women and children!

We desperatly need a wake up call!

Wm Mallory said...

I once knew a man, he went to fellowship faithfully, preferred others before himself, talked of biblical truth often, had a passion for the lost, undying love for Christ.. Studied to show himself approved.

And this is the very man that we are talking about now. I would see him outside of the church building having a Cig.. I would see the reaction of those who did not know him well and the reaction of those who did.. Both completely different in their response toward him.

I however knew him well, you see, he was my Father-In-Law. I saw how he lived daily. And I can say that all of the things I have written about him in the first paragraph are true about his life... He just passed away in May and we miss him deeply. It was amazing at his funeral how many lives were touched by his testamony as one by one they came to speak of him..

It was ironic that smoking was never even mentioned... Yet he died from Lung Cancer.

Examining this issue...It really is all about appearances. How will it look at the church. Yet we don't like to think so, but we do have people in our church that bear the churches name and will leave the doors and go to their jobs and cuss like sailors... Yet we don't target them for removal from our parking lots. Or how about those people that over eat and gain weight, causing health risk. Addictions to food, should we stop feeding them at the next church potluck.

"For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart."

gordan said...

Considering that smoking ranks right up there with owning an SUV as the top sins in the minds of today's high priests of Political Correctness, I rather think it is every Christian's duty to smoke something, boldly and with great gusto, from time to time.

Robert N. Landrum said...

In some of the baptist churches in south MS, LA, AL, it is not uncommon for many to smoke and use smokeless tobacco. This is what they grew up doing. It is custom and culture. They see it as a luxury not a sin.
I am reminded of when one of my professors was comming from a meeting to our classroom at RTS he was dusting himself and said to us, "we were in the meeting and we smelled fire. It turned out it was me on fire! I did not fully extinguish my pipe." With big tobacco lawsuits and contempory advancements in science we view smoking as sinful, but the bible does not. However, a case may be made from general inference. But I will not be the one to make it. This trivial compared to the more weightier matters of scripture. But remember that good Christians don't smoke, dirink, and chew or run with those that do. (laugh).

gigantor1231 said...


I am not a smoker and I do not impose my choice upon those that do, nor do I look down my nose at them as lesser. It is absolutely true that smoking is not a sin. No one should be condemned for smoking, nor over eating, moderate drinking of alchohol, use of legal recreational drugs. All of these things are legal and many in the church partake of these things, many have allowed these things to master them to a certain extent.
Here is another foible, many have even drawn some striking parallels to this and smoking, and the way that smoking has been sexualized by society one would think they are somehow akin, masturbation. Now this is a taboo no where mentioned in the bible either. Yes it does get close to some moral and ethical lines, perhaps it even crosses them, but is it a sin?
How about our attitudes towards these things, are they sins? Should these things be promoted, should others be encouraged to partake? Is there a line to any of this? To be honest with you sounds like there is a little pride mixed in with some of the attitudes here. Is that a good thing? Maybe a little anger and resentment too. Is that sin?
Please tell me if you can, what does any of this profit anyone with respect to their spiritual state? Does any of this draw one closer to Christ or is it all simply the gratification of the flesh at a certain level? How does it profit others in the body of Christ?

SJ Camp said...

To all who have lost family members or have had tremendous health issues resulting from cigarette smoking, my heart goes out to you. That is why I did post that one video clip on the dangers of smoking cigarettes. Forgive me if I was insensitive to anyone's personal plight in that area.

This post is dealing more with the attitude of legalism within sanctification--do not dance, do not go to movies, do not smoke, etc. I agree with Candy here, there should be propriety when enjoying any of those things and our freedom to do so should not be a bothersome nuisance to anyone else.

When we see people come to our churches who look different, act a bit different, even smoke in the parking lot — I think we would do well to follow pastor Jason's advice: go over and talk to them, if conscience allows - join them by stoking up a fine cigar or pipe of choice. Engage them in biblical conversation; if they don't know Christ proclaim the gospel to them; if they do, invite them in to church if they don't attend anywhere else. If they do go to church there already, ask if they are in a fellowship group or youth group; if not, ask if they would they like to be. Ask if you can pray for them AND for them to pray for you (if they know the Lord).

IOW, let's not let a surface thing like smoking keep genuine ministry from going forth. As i have traveled around the world and have seen so many different cultures and their peculiar customs, you learn to let go of certain baggage that really is not primary on the biblical scale of importance when peoples lives are hanging in the balance and someone's eternity is in question.

I grew up in Wheaton, IL. I love my family, the heritage that was instilled in me there, and have fond memories of those days. But I've also had my fill of legalism that I was exposed in that community to last 100 lifetimes.

I want to share something with you I have never shared publicly before and it brings me to tears to do so.

I had a young brother Bob. He was killed in a motorcycle accident in February of 1978. He was 21 years old when he died.

My brother came to know the Lord just a few years before his passing. He was a gentle giant of a man; kind to all; and the best friend anyone who was deemed an outcast or who literally had no friends could ever have. He struggled with smoking and drinking; did a few soft drugs in his day too. He was the black sheep.

Before the Lord saved him, he was smoking about 4 packs of Camels a day (without the filters). Heavy duty. After he was saved, that number went down almost overnight to just a handful of cigarettes (maybe ten or so). The Lord was working in his life in such a powerful way and it was evident to all.

One Sunday night Bob and I were heading into church. We were outside in the parking lot talking. When he finished the last few puffs on his cigarette, he put it out and we walked inside. One of the "greeters" at the door stopped him and said, "when you can stop smoking those things here, then I will let you in." I was shocked, angry, upset, and embarrassed for my brother.

He left... I left with him.

It was just a short time after that, that he was accidentally hit by an elderly couple while riding on a freeway and immediately went home to be with the Lord.

That “greeter” came to the wake at the funeral home. He met me at the open casket of my brother and broke down weeping. He was deeply convicted over his legalism and obviously ashamed at how he treated my brother. He repented and asked for my forgiveness. I quickly forgave him and told him it's these kinds of events that really bring home what's important and what's not.

Smoking in a parking lot is not a big thing; but how treat those who do IS.

Thank you for letting me share this with you all.
1 Cor. 13

candyinsierras said...

Sad story Steve. :( I agree with you about how people are treated. My first husband was very legalistic and because of that was a terrible testimony to my family. He really looked down on my family. They never had a rapport. My present husband is the epitome of kindness and grace. My feisty, cussing, chain smoking mother lived with us the last few months of her life, and I am so thankful she experienced the kindness of my Christian husband. In thinking about the sovereignty of God, I am hoping that my mother living with us, and my husband's kindness towards her, contributed to a deathbed conversion.

jen elslager said...

I smoked for ten years --heavily-- but I quit cold turkey. Why did I start? Because it looked cool to have a little burning stick hanging out of my mouth when I was nineteen. Why did I quit? I wish I could say that it was because of the conviction of the Holy Spirit, but really it was because I could no longer afford it. Perhaps He was speaking to me, but I really wasn't in the mood to listen at the time.

I'm not a legalist, but I guess my concerns would be regarding the 'weaker brother' aspect. (I know this has been addressed already here.) I agree, if it's a visitor, it's not something to focus on. However, my personal experience was that of watching a member of the worship team constantly lighting up in the parking lot. What does it say to a new convert who has been convicted that they should quit, yet sees someone in leadership in the church doing it? Seems confusing. Do they listen to that Still, Small Voice, or do they squelch that and follow the example of an established leader in the church?

Also, the children of the church would look at him with curiosity. Another concern was that my own children --and others-- would see nothing wrong with smoking as a result. Children are very susceptible to suggestion.

Another experience was with a lady in the church who smoked and we talked often. She believed she shouldn't smoke, and as her friend I would encourage her toward quitting. She appreciated it, because she knew I wasn't judging her, but speaking to her out of concern for her health and from the perspective of a former smoker. Also, she brought up the subject, not me, BTW.

I would not look with an imperious gaze at someone smoking, knowing as I do its powerful addiction. I guess I look at them more with a compassionate heart, since I fully remember the powerful draw of that first one when you get up, the one just after a meal, the one in the middle of the night when you can't sleep, and all the other ones throughout the day.

But as gigantor said, why? What is the purpose of smoking?

Maybe all things are lawful, but certainly all things are not profitable.

But I do agree that often the issue is not dealt with properly, and many smokers feel that the fact they smoke is more important than they are as a person. This is so wrong, as your story of your brother shows. You were right to leave with him. And I'm so sorry for your pain about this.

I think the matter of dealing legalistically with a brother or sister who is smoking can be just as damaging to the weaker brother or sister who witnesses this. It can start a trend of legalism. I've seen this happen, and it turns out really badly and controlling.

Truly, a concern for our brothers and sisters above ourselves needs to happen on both sides of this issue.

The Seeking Disciple said...

As a matter of health, the last time I looked I didn't see machines pumping out dark liquid from someone's stomach becaus they ate too much or ate a donut. Smoking is bad for our health. You don't see warning labels on french fries or on Pepsi products. You see them on tobacco products.

I live in a state where smoking in public places is not allowed. I am thankful for that. I don't smoke and feel that if someone else wants to get lung cancer than do it in your home or car but not near me or my family.

Steve, I see your point on trying to target legalism. We do need to see that holiness is not so much what we don't do (smoking, drinking, etc.) as much as what we do do (Bible reading, studying, praying, evangelism).

Alan Kurschner said...


Great post. We are going to discuss your blog post at our next Ockenga Cigar Society fellowship.

SJ Camp said...

Candy and Jen:
Thank you for sharing your stories with us--very powerful and moving. Praise the Lord for His grace in each of these scenarios.

the seeking disciple:
I appreciate your words greatly. Holiness IS so much more than do not smoke, do not drink, etc. May we all keep our eyes on Jesus Christ alone as our standard.

Truly an honor. When is this meeting taking place and can I come? :-).

Good to be reformed, isn't it?

Grace and peace to you all,
Col. 1:9-14

Wm Mallory said...


Know that by no means do I believe you were insensitive... My point is more in agreement with you, that man is so concerned about looks, appearances, non-essential issues, protecting their legalistic doctrine... Rather than the heart of man, the condition of man, scriptural truth and so on...

Thanks for raising this issue!!! And sturring thought..

Terry Rayburn said...


Sorry to hear the "rest of the story" about your brother. Very touching example of legalism at work. It not only hurts people, but encourages the victim to "pass it on" with abominable Performance-based Christianity, squashing the New Covenant and viralizing the legalism.

the seeking disciple,

You wrote: "We do need to see that holiness is not so much what we don't do (smoking, drinking, etc.) as much as what we do do (Bible reading, studying, praying, evangelism)."

Not to be too technical, but under the New Covenant holiness is neither what we don't do nor what we do do.

Holiness, while a big subject, has two main aspects.

1. The first is what is already accomplished by the New Covenant. We *are* holy. We have been set apart (made holy) as a "holy nation", "sanctified" ones, "saints".

2. The second aspect is contained in God's admonition, "Be holy..." (1 Pet. 1:15,16). Although related to behavior, it's not the actual doings which are holy, but the spiritual condition driving the doings.

Thus one can do Bible reading, studying, prayer and evangelism "in the flesh" or "in the Spirit". Only the latter is being "holy in your behavior" (1 Pet. 2:15)

Or to apply it to our subject here, only those who can smoke their cigars, pipes, etc. while walking in the Spirit should do so. Because "whatever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23) And if they can smoke "in the Spirit", there is certainly no Scripture enjoining them not to smoke.

The key is to walk by the Spirit. That is true holy behavior.

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." (Gal. 5:16)

Or, as Augustine is reputed to have said, "Love God, and do what you will."


Wm Mallory said...

Steve, also thank you for sharing the story of your brother. It is another example of what really matters. We should all learn from it.


candyinsierras said...

My husband asked me yesterday if he could smoke a cigar since Steve smokes cigars (He has never smoked one to my knowledge). I told him he would probably get sick like my 25 year old son did one time when he smoked one on the way to the movies with me and ended up sitting in his seat in the fetal position. I tried not to laugh, but couldn't help myself.

BTW. I agree that cigar smoke and pipe smoke smell nice.

hoosierDH said...

Steve, you're right on, but maybe not far enough.

We've hit a sad reality in this country when the legal system is ahead of the faithful.

We all understand that habitual smoking will produce serious health benefits. Smoking is addictive, enslaving, and destructive. There is no good reason to condone or promote the practice.

In Ohio I understand they've banned smoking in all public places. Here in Indiana they've banned smoking in public places in Fort Wayne and South Bend. All over the country there is no smoking allowed in government buildings, and many restarants no longer allow it. Somehow, Christains refuse to enforce this common sense abolition.

Is it legalistic? No, it's simply unwise. And since all wisdom comes from God, ignoring the obvious can't be honoring God. Not to mention what it does to the temple of our bodies...

The legal system in the U.S. rides both sides of the fence: The FDA will not ban cigarettes regardless of any/all Surgeon General's findings. And no State will tax it out of existence and kill the huge revenue stream in the process. In the end, the government wants us to smoke, they just try to separate themselves from the liability legally.

We know the truth, and the truth will set us free... from cigarettes too. It takes courage to quit and encouragement to keep quitting -- not legalistic finger-pointing. For the sake of clearing our own eyes of obvious planks, we all just need to encourage each other to rid ourselves of the ties that bind us to this world.

Just an observation.

~Scott Kerchner

Greg said...

Great thoughts from all. Hopefully I am not straying too far off subject here but I was wondering if anyone has any information that they could point me to on Rob Bell and Mars Hill? Since we were discussing grace, legalism and salvation I thought it might be appropriate to ask about this pastor.


Anonymous said...

I don't think smoking is a sin, but it is hard on a person's health if they smoke daily. I was a smoker 6 years ago and I know that I'm a lot healthier than I was when I was sick. I'm also a nurse and see the horrible diseases that come with smoking. It can be hard and time consuming to take care of a patient with COPD. Patients being over weight is a hardship on us nurses too so...

Randy Williams said...

I think it is not the smoking in of itself but the fact that Cigarette smoking is an addiction that makes it a sin. If a person occasionaly smokes a cigar or pipe there is no way we can call that a sin. When we have a habit that controls or dominates us, then that is a sin.

I don't condemn smokers but if you smoke cigarettes you are under the control of your habit which is a work of the flesh. All cigarette smokers I know are controlled by this habit. It is a hard one to break and I sympathize with smokers but you are destroying your health and allowing a habit to control you.

cyd said...

Dear Greg,

Look on Steve's sidebar under the MINISTRIES heading and click on

Ken Silva's Apprising Ministries

He has done a lot of research on Rob Bell. You will find the archives listed on Ken's sidebar.

For information regarding the Emergent Church, type in the word 'emergent' in the search box here at Steve's blog.
His excellent documentation will give you a very solid background on the heresies of that movement.

Monergistic1 said...

Perhaps we (as Christians)can look to what the scriptures say on matters that are disputable.

Romans 14 lays it out. If it offends others who have a weak conscience and see it as sin, keep your freedom between you and God. Romans 14:22

Do not let what you consider to be good to be called evil. Romans 14:16

At the same time, those with the stronger conscience are not to look down on those with the weaker. Romans 14:3

Bottom Line; Romans 14:20,21
Don't overthrow God's work for food's sake. All things indeed are clean, however it is evil for that man who creates a stumbling block by eating(or smoking.)It is good to not eat meat, drink wine, nor do anything by which your brother stumbles, is offended, or is made weak.

"for the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking,(or smoking)but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit...he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men."

This IS the Biblical answer to the issue in question.

ThirstyDavid said...

I don't think anyone has mentioned this yet:

Cigar smoke keeps the mosquitoes away, thereby preventing malaria and who knows what else. (Brandy sweetens your breath so your wife will still kiss you afterwards.)

ddd said...

I agree with Scott Kerchner here. As for me, smoking is in the same sin category as alcoholism. While I agree that we should not be too legalistic in our attitude towards smoking, to say that it is not sin is rather far-fetched, knowing that smoking only causes harm to our bodies. Besides, it is a huge stumbling block to both believers and unbelievers alike in places like Singapore where I lived if Christians are seen to say that smoking is not sin, regardless of whether they themselves smoke or endorse smoking.

Let's put it this way, if Christians were to say what you say about smoking in places like Singapore, to unbelievers if would be as if you endorse gambling and other social vices. Since such is the case, Steve, I hope that this article of yours wouldn't be read by people in countries similar to mine, or you would have caused others to stumble, seriously.

rob said...

the only reason that the people in Singapore think that smoking is a sin is because legalistic, works salvation, missionaries told them that it was. they also told them that they had to wear ties to church and reject everything that hints of their culture that westerners do not understand.

rob said...

do you mean drunkenness?

Lee Shelton said...

I think it all depends on quality. It is not a sin to smoke a Cohiba; it is a sin to smoke a Marlboro. It is not a sin to drink Guinness; it is a sin to drink Bud Light. It is not a sin to eat a 1/2-pound Angus cheeseburger; it is a sin to slap a veggie patty and a slice of tofu between a couple of rice cakes and call it a "burger."

Anyone wanna disagree? :)

Randy Williams said...

To be honest it is not just so called legalistic Christians that view smoking as sin but there is a general attitude in the USA even by many non Christians who consider it a poor example to the youth and a dangerous habit. You do risk damaging your Christian testimony even among non believers. Most of the attacks I hear on smoking is coming from the secular press and medical community and not the Church.

I believe the habit forming nature is what makes it sinful but there is also a danger of abusing Christian liberty.

gigantor1231 said...

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I Have No Rights, but I Do Have the Gospel Jerry Bridges


Lee Shelton said...


What exactly constitutes a "habit forming nature"? Is that different from addiction? I have a habit of eating breakfast every morning. I could live without it, but I really want to eat breakfast -- and wash it down with a cup of coffee. Is that a sin?

When you think about it, what behavior doesn't have the potential to lead to an abuse of Christian liberty? For example, gluttony is a sin. Considering all the fat people we see on a daily basis, could we assume that dessert can be habit-forming? If so, should we avoid eating that slice of cheesecake so that our Christian testimony isn't damaged? Would ordering cheesecake in front of a fat person be akin to causing a weaker brother to stumble?

By the way, non-believers consider most of what we Christians do "a poor example to the youth and a dangerous habit."

ddd said...


| the only reason that the people
| in Singapore think that smoking
| is a sin is because legalistic,
| works salvation, missionaries
| told them that it was. they also
| told them that they had to wear
| ties to church and reject
| everything that hints of their
| culture that westerners do not
| understand.

Actually, there are very little foreign missionaries working here at the moment; we are more of a missionary sending center than a receiving center. And most Singaporean Christians nowadays dress quite informally to church i.e. T-shirts and jeans; much less ties and jeans. And no, although there are still pockets of legalism, antinomianism (along the lines of Zane Hodges' "free grace" view) is much more of a threat here.

ddd said...

Actually since smoking does absolutely no good to the body, even if done once with a small amount of tobacco, unlike the eating of fatty food which is beneficial when taken in small quantities, why is it that smoking is to be equated to eating fatty food?

ddd said...

One last thing: I would like to challenge all smoking advocates to show me why smoking is OK and taking drugs like heroin is not OK without being inconsistent; after all both help in relieving stress...

Lee Shelton said...


Are all fatty foods the same? If I can have a slice of cheesecake without any harm being done to my body, does that mean it's OK for someone with severe diabetes?

Your argument suggests that you think something must have specific health benefits in order for it not to be sinful. Would you say that someone drinking a can of Coke is sinning?

You also compared tobacco with heroin. Really? Tell me: when is the last time you heard of someone being mentally and physically impaired after a few puffs on a cigar? It would be more accurate to compare getting high on drugs to getting drunk on alcohol. And drunkenness is certainly condemned in scripture.

Speaking of alcohol, given the fact that doctors and scientists are still debating whether or not wine has any health benefits, do you think drinking wine is sinful? What if everyone in Singapore frowned on the consumption of alcohol. Would you skip over the part of the Bible that talked about Christ's very first miracle? Was he causing people to stumble by turning water into wine?

ddd said...

lee shelton:

All fatty foods are different in the amount and type of lipids they contain, so they are definitely not the same. And of course certain people should abstain from taking fatty food due to their health condition. That said, firstly, even obese people could take some fatty food if taken in very small quantities and if that is the only food available. Secondly, unlike smoking, fatty food is not harmful to normal people and definitely not harmful (and indeed beneficial) to the starving people of Africa. Smoking on the other hand is harmful regardless of who does it and how much tobacco or cigarettes one smokes.

And no, someone drinking a can of coke is not sinful, unless the person is committing gluttony. Coke has a high sugar content amod others, but if someone really needs the energy (ie starving Africa children), then drinking it is beneficial to them.

The comparison of smoking with the taking of drugs like heroin is based on the common factor that both have no benefit but are harmful to the body - the temple of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you may want to know the other chemicals found in tobacco and cigarettes, beside nicotine? Besides the carcinogens, you have acids (ie Hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid etc.), and all manner of toxins in it, not to mention the ash which wil slowly coat your lungs and suffocate you. Oh, did I mention smokers breath in the toxic gas carbon monoxide too every time they smoke?

So, we have the following syllogism:

1) The ingestion or inhalation of a substance which poisons your body is sin
2) Smoking involves the inhalation of substances which poisons your body

Therefore 3) Smoking is sin

Anyone begs to differ?

With regards to drinking, no, I don't think drinking is sinful, but excessive drinking and drunkenness is. Drinking a bit is beneficial for our health, and the Bible did say so (at least for Timothy). So, no, drinking is not a sin.

ddd said...

Make an ammendment:

1) The purposeful ingestion or inhalation of a substance which poisons your body is sin
2) Smoking involves the purposeful inhalation of substances which poisons your body

Therefore 3) Smoking is sin

Lee Shelton said...

Yes, I beg to differ.

Does your premise that "The purposeful ingestion or inhalation of a substance which poisons your body is sin" have universal application?:

- Drinking wine involves the purposeful ingestion of alcohol which poisons your body. Therefore, drinking wine is sin.

- Drinking municipal tap water involves the purposeful ingestion of fluoride, arsenic, and various other toxic chemicals which poison your body. Therefore, drinking municipal tap water is sin.

- Grilling a steak over a charcoal fire involves the purposeful inhalation of carcinogens which poison your body. Therefore, grilling a steak over a charcoal fire (not to mention eating it) is sin.

- Going to a monster truck rally involves the purposeful inhalation of carbon monoxide which poisons your body. Therefore, going to a monster truck rally is sin.

On and on we could go. I could even include all of the prescription drugs, vaccinations, and other medical treatments which involve the purposeful ingestion or inhalation of substances that poison the body. Now, you could argue that those poisons are intended to improve overall health, but the same could be said of tobacco. Many believe it helps people deal with a wide range of health problems, from intestinal disorders to Parkinson's disease.

Perhaps the motive of the action in question should be taken into consideration. If I light up a cigar in front of you and blow smoke in your face just to irritate you, then, yes, I would agree that is a sin. However, if I want to relax on my deck and lower my blood pressure with a stogie after mowing the lawn (and breathing in those toxic exhaust fumes), then I have that liberty in Christ to do so.

Randy Williams said...

Lee you said, "What exactly constitutes a "habit forming nature"? Is that different from addiction? I have a habit of eating breakfast every morning. I could live without it, but I really want to eat breakfast -- and wash it down with a cup of coffee. Is that a sin?"

Hi Lee, I think in my first post I mentioned "addiction". Maybe that clarifies what I am saying. I am not talking about the habit of eating breakfast every morning.

Cigarette smoking is an addiction. An addiction controls you. This is true for those who are alcoholics, or those addicted to pornography or whatever. I have already mentioned I do not think it is the smoking in of itself that makes it a sin but the addictive nature of this habit tht controls a person's lifestyle. Addiction is a work of the flesh and is clearly sin.

Fred Butler said...

I happen to think your criticism of that greeter and a church who would not allow folks to smoke on their property is misguided.

I wrote a twist to your post here


ddd said...

lee shelton:

> - Drinking wine involves the purposeful ingestion of alcohol which poisons your body. Therefore, drinking wine is sin.

No, wine is not toxic in small quantities.

> - Drinking municipal tap water involves the purposeful ingestion of fluoride, arsenic, and various other toxic chemicals which poison your body. Therefore, drinking municipal tap water is sin.

Does your tap water contain arsenic? Mine sure doesn't. Fluoride is good for the teeth in small quantities, and chemicals such as chlorine and ozone are used to kill microorganisms.

> - Grilling a steak over a charcoal fire involves the purposeful inhalation of carcinogens which poison your body. Therefore, grilling a steak over a charcoal fire (not to mention eating it) is sin.

Who asked you to inhale the smoke? And similarly who asked you to eat the burnt parts?

> - Going to a monster truck rally involves the purposeful inhalation of carbon monoxide which poisons your body. Therefore, going to a monster truck rally is sin.

I haven't been to one before, but anyway, if it is in the open, who asked you to smell the exhaust?

You mentioned that smoking may be beneficial to your body. Even if that be so, are you honestly telling me that you are smoking for medicinal purposes?

Lee Shelton said...

I smoke an occasional cigar (i.e., consume poison in small quantities) because I enjoy it. The same goes for the food I eat and the beverages I drink. I certainly don't eat cheesecake or drink Guinness for their inherent nutritional value. And, though this may shock you, I believe I'm fulfilling 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 in all of the above.

gigantor1231 said...

Look, legal consumption of a tobbaco product is not a sin, unless of course the individual partakes doubting, then one should not partake. One should be certain of their liberty with respect to the word. Sorry DDD, the 'harmful' argument is to vague, virtually every worldly thing is harmful to some degree, if not taken in moderation.
The disturbing thing that I see here is that there seems to be a certain amount of pride and insecurity that goes along with the defense of this foible, if one need go to the scripture and stretch some to find what they need to justify their liberty then I would say that they have a problem, most likely there is sin there.
If you really want to get down to it though, we are all high priests and priestesses, I think the smoke of tobacco would be considered strange insense. Perhaps one should do a study on burning strange insense in the Lord's Temple if they are a smoking Christian, I personally would rather be on fire than smoking!

Tim Brown said...

Personally, I'm more concerned about the poor hermeneutics that allows us to use the "your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit" as an argument against smoking.

That phrase is being lifted from its context. Read the whole paragraph.

Paul's reference has to do with a sin that is "against one's own body". He says that all other sins are "outside the body", but the one against one's own body is...Smoking? No. Sexual immorality.

Ok, I'm waiting for you like a motorcycle cop behind a billboard. Go ahead, and tell me "Well, it's still a sin to smoke".

According to whom? And please, don't use the "your body is the temple of Holy Spirit" argument. Paul said that doesn't apply.

Besides, If you want to do that, pleasae include improper diet, lack of exercise (guilty here!) or any other number of "acceptable" sins against "the temple".

Let's face it. We see so much of an effort to say "of course it is your liberty and freedom to do thus and so, but you really can't ever do it because you might offend someone somewhere"...which is really turning "liberty" into a other words, you "have" it but you don't really have it...!

And no, I don't smoke. So don't go there, please.

Tim Brown said...


You said:

"One last thing: I would like to challenge all smoking advocates to show me why smoking is OK and taking drugs like heroin is not OK without being inconsistent; after all both help in relieving stress..."

Actually, if something is ILLEGAL, then that would be a good way to tell the difference between the two. Secondly, Even if you make the drugs you mention legal, they are (in part, hallucenagens. THe last I checked, cigars don't do that.

I wonder if the real reason for some of these arguments aren't control related? "It's wrong for me, so it has to be wrong for you too". Many prefer the comfort of putting everything in a box. The Christian life doesn't work that way...unless, of course the Scriptures clearly prohibit something in particular like, say, drunkenness.

By the way, I have a nervous habit of picking at my own cuticles. That is clearly destructive of my body. Is it sin too? I've done that for most of my 53 years. When I was converted, I didn't stop. Am I not a real Christian? I'm not having any conviction at all...

And coffee is hard on your kidneys. Do you drink coffee? What about the caffeine? Isn't that habit forming?

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jonathan145 said...

Even cigarettes CAN be smoked occasionally, limiting the damage. I know, because I dud it for several years. Never developed an addiction, and when I did stop, it was more because of witness reasons, and gave it up overnight with no cravings, which I've really never had, because I never smoked more than a couple cigs a day.

Peter O'Neill said...

This article is convoluted and just plain dumb. Cigarette smoking has been proven to be a serious health issue and kills people daily. Second hand smoke affects millions of others. If a Christian has an addiction problem, let him bring it to God in faith and get free from it. Children seeing adults smoking, especially at church, is just bad role modeling.

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Bill said...

Smoking is a sin, like any form of substance abuse. We are asked to be good stewards of what God gave us, smoking destroys the body and it also is a pure use of God's financial resources, smoking can be an expensive habit. If smoking is not a a sin what's next ? Are cocaine or marihuana not sins either ? The bible is silent about drugs, but the consumption of drugs where our health is affected is certainly sinful and a poor choice with regard to where we spend our money. That being said, if somebody is repentant, confesses his sin, He is faithful and forgives us. But denying that smoking is a sin puts on a very slippery slope. Will I excommunicate a smoker from my church ? Of course not, but as long as he is repentant, he must acknowledge this bad habit is sinful. Just like gluttony or eating unhealthy food is also sinful, even when we eat greasy doughnuts after the service I have no doubt that we are certainly sinning. A high view of the law is required, and chances are that if we are wondering whether something is a sin or not (like smoking), it most certainly. We ought to give all money to the poor and instead we spend it on smoking, very sinful. No man can be justified by the works of the law, for by the works of the law there is knowledge of sin.

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