The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is Smoking Really Wrong?
“WHY not use tobacco if I enjoy it? If I risk my health, that’s my own business.” To the millions who find pleasure in smoking, such “logic” is convincing.
Yet, news reports in 1985 blamed smoking for 100,000 deaths a year in Britain, 350,000 a year in the United States, and a third of all deaths in Greece. Common sense suggests that society would not shrug off the moral implications of these figures. But it does. Why?
For one thing, many religious leaders refuse to apply any moral pressure on their flock to stop smoking. The view they take is expressed by the author of a book called The Christian Moral Vision. He sees “no justification for moral pressure” on one who, “having considered the risks . . . [goes on] smoking for the sake of the pleasure it provides.” But is this the Bible’s viewpoint? Does “pleasure” justify taking needless risks?
No, it does not. Would it not make more sense to try to stay physically and mentally in top shape? For our own good and out of respect for our loved ones and our Creator, the Bible stipulates that we should “cleanse ourselves of every defilement [pollution] of flesh and spirit.” (2 Corinthians 7:1; Kingdom Interlinear) Does the harm from tobacco stop at the physical body?
What It Does to Your Life
The tobacco habit can grip you firmly not only physically but also mentally. Aside from polluting one’s body, tobacco permeates the whole “spirit” with which tobacco users think, work, and play—the very mood of their daily affairs. A journalist admitted in Reader’s Digest: “Without my daily ration of cigarettes, I could not write, eat, sleep, make love or even have fun with my children.”
Why does tobacco become so deep-rooted in people’s lives, even to the point of causing them to look the other way when facing its ultimate harm—death? Concerning Britain, psychiatrist Judy Greenwood wrote in the Glasgow Herald of January 3, 1985: “If 100,000 people had died from any other preventable cause, . . . it would have provoked a national outrage. . . . But smoking is different . . . This particular social addiction is so ingrained in our culture and commerce . . . that we seem to have developed a blind spot in our national commonsense.”
The Spiritual Harm of Addiction
Yes, addiction, not pleasure alone, produces this moral blind spot in the public “spirit” today. And Dr. Richard Pollin, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (U.S.A.), asserts that cigarette smoking is now the most serious and widespread addiction in the world—even worse than heroin.
The Bible’s viewpoint has no such blind spots regarding addictive substances that would make us slaves both of a habit and of the men who traffic in the habit: “You were bought with a price; stop becoming slaves of men,” states 1 Corinthians 7:23.
Were addictive drugs and herbs common in Bible times? Yes, says Tobacco and Kentucky, citing “the evidence of prehistoric pipes excavated at . . . the Mediterranean Sea and inland in Asia Minor [used in smoking] . . . cannabis (marijuana) and other herbs.” In fact, adds the book, “fumigation with, or the inhalation of, the smoke of various substances has been a sacred, healing, or pleasurable practice . . . since time immemorial. . . . As with cannabis and opium, so with tobacco.”
According to McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia, the term “pharmacy” was used “in the early ages of the Christian Church” for the “art of inventing and preparing medicaments to do mischief.” What view did the Bible take of such substances and those who trafficked in them?
The Dark Side of Pharmacy
The Bible condemns drug abuse, not the proper healing use of drugs; and while “pharmacy” in modern use means drugs put to proper use, the older meaning was drug abuse—for harm, not healing. In the Bible such pharmacy is put in very bad company—“the works of the flesh,” whose practicers “will not inherit God’s kingdom.” (Galatians 5:19-21) Says The International Standard Bible Encyclopædia: “Paul in Gal 5 20 Ga 5:20 classes with uncleanness, idolatry, etc, what he calls pharmakeía . . . drugs used in exercising the magical art.” Note, then, the great spiritual harm of addictive substances used for pleasure: They cut one off from God’s favor—and from God’s people.
Due to the magical use of drugs in Bible times, Galatians 5:20, 21 translates phar·ma·kiʹa as “practice of spiritism.” But the Kingdom Interlinear translation shows “druggery” as the literal meaning, and Ferrar Fenton’s translation uses “poisoning.” Bible scholar Adam Clarke specified that “drugs” and “fumigations” (smoke) were employed “to produce supernatural effects.”
Emphasizing this unsavory side of pharmacy, Word Pictures in the New Testament says: “If one is puzzled over the connection between medicine and sorcery . . . by this word (our pharmacy), he has only to recall quackery today in medicine . . . witch-doctors, professional faith-healers, medicine-men in Africa.” Yes, and we might also recall “the very cornerstone of Amerindian religion”—the shaman, or priest, smoking tobacco in his “peace pipe.”
Therefore, it is no wonder that Revelation 22:15 says that “outside” God’s Paradise Kingdom are “the druggers [phar·ma·koiʹ] and the fornicators and the murderers.”—Int.
Truly, the secular use of tobacco for pleasure today has its roots in the God-dishonoring superstitions of bygone days. And just as Jesus foretold concerning the fruits of false religion, so the fruitage of tobacco’s roots—physically and spiritually—has been nothing short of rotten.—Matthew 7:15-20.
[Blurb on page 20]
‘If 100,000 Britons had died from any other preventable cause, it would have provoked a national outrage’
[Blurb on page 21]
In the Bible the use of addictive substances for pleasure is put in very bad company—“the works of the flesh”