Smoking is a controversial topic for many Christians. On one hand, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and we are called to honor God with our bodies. On the other hand, the Bible does not specifically prohibit smoking. So what guidance does God provide on this issue? Let’s explore what the Bible says about taking care of our bodies, addiction, and Christian freedom.
- Our bodies belong to God and are temples of the Holy Spirit, so we should take care of them.
- Smoking harms the body, so it goes against the principle of stewardship.
- Smoking can become an addiction, which Christians should avoid.
- While the Bible does not forbid smoking, Christians should exercise wisdom and preference others over themselves.
- Christian freedom allows room for debate, so we should not pass judgment on fellow believers over disputable matters.
Our Bodies Belong to God
A foundational principle is that our bodies do not belong to us – they belong to God. Paul writes:
“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.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Our physical bodies are dwelling places for the Spirit of God. God created us and redeemed us, so just as a temple belongs to God, our bodies belong to Him.
This changes how we view our health and lifestyle choices. We have a responsibility to care for and honor God with the bodies He has given us. They are not ours to abuse or neglect. As Paul says in Romans:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1)
Smoking cigarettes does not honor God with our bodies. It harms them instead. As stewards of bodies that belong to God, Christians should avoid or quit smoking.
Smoking Harms the Body
There is overwhelming scientific evidence that smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and causes diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Here are some specifics on how smoking affects the body:
- It constricts blood vessels and raises blood pressure, straining the cardiovascular system.
- It increases the risk of blood clots, which can cause heart attacks and strokes.
- It damages the lining of the coronary arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease.
- It weakens the immune system and makes it harder to kill cancer cells.
- It reduces lung capacity and function, leading to COPD and lung cancer.
- It irritates the lungs and causes chronic bronchitis.
- It damages DNA which can lead to cancer throughout the body.
- It stains teeth and causes gum disease and tooth loss.
- It reduces fertility in both men and women.
- It increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- It speeds up the aging process of skin.
- It harms eye health and increases the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
This is just a partial list of the damaging effects of smoking. There is no doubt that smoking substantially harms the body God has given us.
The Surgeon General stated, “Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.” As Christians who believe our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we should avoid and discourage smoking.
Smoking Can Lead to Addiction
Another reason for Christians to abstain from smoking is that it can easily become an addiction. The Bible does not directly address smoking, but it has a lot to say about addiction and habitual sins.
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.” (Luke 21:34)
“It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.” (Romans 14:21)
“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)
While these verses do not mention smoking, they demonstrate biblical principles about avoiding addiction:
- Habitual sins like drunkenness can trap us and weigh down our hearts.
- If a behavior causes others to stumble, we should abstain out of love.
- Just because we have freedom in Christ does not mean we should use it unwisely.
- We are called to be filled with the Spirit rather than controlled by addictive behaviors.
Smoking is highly addictive – as addictive as heroin, cocaine and alcohol. The addictive nature of nicotine makes it extremely difficult to quit. We are called as Christians to avoid addictions that destroy the body and hinder the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.
Christian Freedom and Disputable Matters
While smoking is unwise, some Christians believe the Bible permits it since it is not directly forbidden. This is a disputable matter where Christian freedom comes into play.
Paul talks about disputable matters in Romans 14, where he addresses eating meat sacrificed to idols and observing special days. While some believers abstained from these things, Paul warned against judging one another over disputable matters:
“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall… Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind… Whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.” (Romans 14:4, 5, 22)
We must be careful not to pass judgment on fellow believers over secondary issues not clearly addressed in scripture. Smoking falls into this category. The Bible does not directly prohibit it, even though it violates principles of stewardship and addiction.
Paul’s advice for disputable matters is that each person should live according to their convictions, but also be willing to sacrifice their freedom for the sake of others:
“So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God… But if your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love… It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall… Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:22, 15, 21, 19)
In light of these principles, Christians who feel freedom to smoke should seriously consider abstaining for the sake of other believers who may be influenced by their actions. While the Bible may permit smoking, it often fails the test of being loving, edifying and promoting peace.
Exercise Wisdom and Preference Others
At the end of the day, the Bible calls Christians to exercise wisdom:
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Smoking is unwise because it harms the body and often leads to addiction. While Christians have freedom in Christ, we are called to lay down our rights for the sake of others:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
If smoking causes a weaker brother or sister to stumble, the wise and loving response is to abstain for their benefit. In disputable matters, we are called to look to others’ interests first.
While the Bible does not expressly forbid smoking, the principles of scripture provide strong reasons for Christians to avoid it. Our bodies belong to God, so we should care for them well. Smoking harms the body and often leads to addiction. While believers have freedom in Christ, wisdom and love call us to abstain for the sake of others. The Holy Spirit can empower us to honor God with our bodies.
In summary, while the Bible does not prohibit smoking outright, there are biblical principles that lead most Christians to abstain:
- Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit that belong to God, so we should care for them well. Smoking does the opposite.
- Smoking is highly addictive, and the Bible warns against addictions that control us.
- Though Christians have freedom in Christ, wisdom calls us to abstain when a behavior harms others.
- Christians should be guided by love and caution rather than exercising all their freedoms.
- We are called to look to others’ interests above our own rights. If smoking causes a weaker brother or sister to stumble, we should abstain.
- This is a disputable matter, so we should not judge fellow believers who see this differently.
In the end, abstaining from smoking is the wisest and most loving option for most Christians, even if the Bible does not expressly command it. As we submit our lives to the Holy Spirit, He will guide us to make choices that honor God with our bodies.