Is it okay for Christians to smoke tobacco?
What Makes One a Christian?
Many churches, especially in youth ministry contexts, teach that the cardinal sins of the Christian faith are drinking, smoking, and sex. What if I told you that none of those things in and of themselves were a sin? Well, they aren’t. Obviously, they can become sins, but inherently, none of them are.
Avoiding these things is not what makes or breaks the status of being a Christian, in fact they are very minor issues (of course they can become big issues in a person’s life, but theologically on their own, they are minor issues).
If you want to hear a short overview of what makes one a Christian, listen to Pastor Dakota’s podcast called, “The Is, The Is Nots.” Notice, he mentions nothing about drinking, smoking, or sex.
Is Smoking Tobacco a Sin?
It depends. Let me give three guiding principles when it comes to smoking tobacco (FUN FACT: I smoke a tobacco pipe quite regularly by the way).
1. Addictive Tendencies
1 Corinthians 6:12 reads, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.”
If you have addictive tendencies and you are mastered by smoking tobacco (you have to smoke to function), you are sinning when you smoke. The only rock we are to stand on is Jesus Christ (Psalm 18:2), standing on anything else is only a crutch that will eventually break under us – and then break us.
2. Personal Conviction
James 4:17 reads, “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
If smoking tobacco weighs on your conscience and you feel God prompting you to not smoke, then by smoking, you are sinning. However, it is important not to hold everybody accountable to the personal convictions you feel, whether that be smoking or another gray area not spoken directly to by Scripture, especially non-Christians – because they may think, “Being a Christian means that I don’t smoke,” instead of understanding the truth of the gospel and what really makes one a Christian.
3. Health Concerns
Exodus 20:13 reads, “You shall not murder.”
This verse is one of the Ten Commandments and it is very important in the eyes of God and should be to the life of the Christian. We are to not only avoid murdering others, but we are to avoid murdering ourselves – eating too much, drinking too much, smoking too much, etc.
If we are smoking too much, or smoking while having lung issues or other health issues, then we are murdering ourselves and therefore, we are sinning.
Is Smoking Tobacco Wise?
Ephesians 5:15 reads, ” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.”
I rarely smoke cigarettes, occasionally smoke cigars, and smoke pipe tobacco a few times a week. Why? For me, I don’t like spending money. I work too hard to spend money on cigarettes – nearly $20 of pipe tobacco lasts me about six months.
Therefore for me (and many others), I would argue smoking tobacco is not a sin. I don’t “need” to smoke, I have no personal convictions about smoking, and my health is not negatively impacted by my smoking. If any of those things change, I will stop smoking.
Additionally, is it unwise for me to smoke? Two reasons I would argue that it is not unwise for me is: (1) it hardly costs me any money, and (2) when people find out that I’m a pastor that smokes, it sparks interesting conversations and I can share the unaltered tenets of the gospel of Christ without getting caught up on opinion issues like smoking.
This is not really a test to determine if you should smoke tobacco or not, it is more of a preliminary guide to help Christians who do not smoke tobacco better understand Christians who do.