My maternal grandfather, Henry Knighton, took his testimony as a believer seriously. So when an acquaintance questioned his faith based on his smoking habit, Granddaddy removed the cigarette from his mouth, squashed it, and never picked up another one.
Thankfully, for all of us, salvation isn’t dependent on anything or anyone other than the grace of God. The habit of smoking is not an indicator of a person’s salvation, but Philippians 1:27 does tell us to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. So, is smoking a sin or simply a bad habit?
Does the Bible Talk about Smoking?
The Bible does not talk specifically about tobacco or smoking, but it does have something to say about caring for our bodies, valuing life, and honoring the Lord with our actions.
Growing up in a small southern town, sinners cursed, drank, smoked, and chose to watch the Super Bowl on a Sunday night instead of attending church. Never mind that the rest of us ate too much, told little white lies (as we call them in the south), or harbored pride in our hearts.
Sin is sin, but the consequences differ, and unfortunately, smoking rarely affects just the person who is smoking. According to the CDC, “Secondhand smoking, which is the combination of smoke from the cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers, contains more than 7,000 chemicals, and at least seventy of those chemicals are toxic and can cause cancer.” Secondhand smoking also causes nearly 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease each year. These statistics are especially unfortunate in that smoking is considered the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States.
Vaping, or electronic cigarettes, is often touted as a way to wean off regular cigarettes, but because they also have nicotine; they’re just as addictive, according to Hopkins Medicine.
What Does the Bible Say about Health?
Choosing to smoke, especially around others, flies in the face of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:
“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.”
Although Paul refers to sexual purity for believers, the principle is the same as glorifying God with our bodies.
Some ways to honor God with our body include eating healthier foods, exercising, and caring for our mental health. Saying yes to healthier choices and no to those things that are addictive and unhealthy will likely lengthen our days, offering us more opportunities with our families, ministry, and bringing God glory.
Thankfully, as believers, we’re controlled by the Holy Spirit, not sin. We’re no longer helpless, unable to say no to addictive and harmful substances to our bodies.
In fact, 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that no temptation can overtake us because God is faithful and will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.
Three Scripture verses that can help us say no to temptations:
Colossians 3:5 – God tells us to put earthly desires to death. He doesn’t command anything that He’s not equipped us to do.
Romans 12:2 – We combat conforming to the pattern of this world by renewing our minds through God’s Word. It is alive, powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12)
1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whatever we do—eat, drink, speak, make choices, etc.—we’re to do for God’s glory. Using this as a plumbline for our choices helps us make wiser, more discerning decisions.
What Does the Bible Say about Addiction?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines being addicted as “exhibiting a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity.”
I’d never considered myself an addict until I learned I was on the brink of becoming pre-diabetic. Sugar had to be slashed from my daily diet, and for someone who was raised to expect dessert after lunch and dinner, that was no easy feat. I craved sugar. Without it, I was irritable and downright snappy. It soon became evident that I couldn’t handle this temptation alone. After prayer and reading God’s Word on cravings in general, I realized that sugary foods had become an idol in my life.
Soon after, I bought a book I’d avoided for years, Made for Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food, by Lysa TerKeurst. Though the book focuses on craving food over God, I imagine craving a cigarette, or any other addictive substance, holds a similar power over a person. A few specific quotes from Lysa’s book helped me to get my focus back on God:
“Being ruled by something other than God diminishes our commitment and will make us feel increasingly distant from Him. Being ruled by anything other than God is something God takes quite seriously. I don’t want to live resistant to the power of Christ’s death and resurrection provides for me just because I can’t walk away from my unhealthy cravings. I want His power to help me bring everything—everything—under His control.”
“I often pray this prayer: “I need the wisdom to make wise choices. I need the insight to remember the words I’ve read in Scripture. I need the power beyond what I can find on my own.” It’s not a magic prayer. I still have to choose to walk away from the source of my temptation. And making that choice is sometimes hard; I won’t deny that. It’s not easy relying on the Holy Spirit to direct us into wise choices. It’s not easy to dare to live a life in which we put Scripture into action (especially Scriptures about self-control). It’s not easy, but it is possible.”
“We serve a compassionate God. A God who knew food would be a major stumbling block in our all-out pursuit of Him. Food issues can literally hold us back in our calling and commitment to Christ. Whenever we feel defeated by an issue, it can make us feel unable to follow God completely.”
Should Christians Avoid All Potentially Addictive Substances?
1 Corinthians 6:12 tells us that we’re not to be enslaved by anything. Christ has freed us to live abundantly, no longer encumbered by sin, cravings, or temptations. Our bodies are members of Christ and how we choose to treat them reflects the heart.
And 1 Peter 1:13-16 admonishes us to not conform to the evil desires we had when we lived in ignorance. Instead, we must be holy in all we do, for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
Here’s what we know about smoking:
1. It’s not only unhealthy, it’s also deadly.
2. It selfishly invades the lungs of others and costs thousands of innocent bystanders their lives.
3. It does not treat the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit.
4. It is not used to bring God glory.
5. It is addictive, displacing God’s rightful place in our life.
6. It can become, as Lysa TerKeurst put it, a major stumbling block in our all-out pursuit of God, holding us back from our calling and commitment to Christ.
According to James 4:17, sin is knowing what we ought to do and not doing it. What is your conclusion as you read over what we know to be true of smoking?
Is smoking a sin or simply a habit?
A Prayer for Avoiding Sin
I pray Psalm 19:13 over us as we’re all prone to wander like sheep. Keep us from willful sins so that they will not rule over us. Help us walk in the power of your Holy Spirit, making wise and discerning choices for our good and Your glory.