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Should a Christian smoke?

When missionaries arrived in the New World in the sixteenth century, they were alarmed and revolted by the sight of so many natives smoking and chewing tobacco. The Indians insisted on smoking — even in church. As early as 1575, a Mexican church council issued an order forbidding the use of tobacco in churches throughout the whole of Spanish America. Soon, however, the missionary priests themselves became so addicted to the habit that it was found necessary to make laws to prevent them from using tobacco during services.

In Europe the pattern repeated itself. As tobacco became more widely used, the church took measures to condemn or restrict its use.

But despite two papal bulls against tobacco in the seventeenth century, its use flourished among laymen and clergy alike. Tobacco prevailed against every theological argument against its use, just as today it prevails against every health argument. The contradiction between what was preached about tobacco and what was practiced finally became so egregious that, by and large, most brand-name denominations ceased to make a big moral or spiritual issue of tobacco.

But the question remains: Should a Christian smoke?

The Bible doesn't say anything directly about smoking, since tobacco was completely unknown to the worlds of Moses. David. Christ and Paul. There is no command not to smoke, chew, dip or sniff tobacco.

Many therefore have reasoned concerning tobacco the way some in the church of Corinth in Paul's day did on another issue: "All things are lawful for me." Paul, however, replied, "But not all things are helpful, 'All things are lawful for me.' but I will not be enslaved by anything (1 Cor. 6:12). He reiterated the same principle a little later in yet another situation: " 'All things are lawful.' but not all things build up (I Cor. 10:23).

Paul asserted that Christian liberty was not unqualified; it must be conditioned by the criteria: 1) Is it beneficial? and 2) Does it enslave the user or practitioner? He taught that liberty must not lead to irresponsible and deleterious license. A Christian's life and body aren't his own to do with as he pleases.”Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (I Cor. 6:19-20).

When examined in the light of this guiding principle, it becomes readily apparent that tobacco is in no way helpful or beneficial to human health; in no way does it glorify God in the body of its user. Rather. it is one of the most dangerous substances people use for pleasure. The nicotine in tobacco is a drug that has enslaved tens of millions.

Not only does the tobacco smoker harm himself, he also contributes negatively to the health and welfare of those around him — hardly a Christian act.

The medical verdict on tobacco is clear and incontestable: It has no redeeming health benefits. Like-wise, the use of it is inimical to Paul's guiding principle concerning the proper use of Christian liberty in those areas not specifically covered by a law or precept.