Why Christians Shun Tobacco
MANY new ones are coming to a knowledge of the truths in the Bible and are taking their place in the gospel-preaching ranks of Jehovah’s witnesses. Many of these new ones formerly smoked tobacco, but have now quit. A few others come to a knowledge of the truth but do not quit smoking. When an effort is tactfully made to instruct them they reply that the Bible does not forbid smoking, that when they are shown from the Bible that it is wrong then they will quit. Some of these have even offered cigarettes to non-smoking witnesses when at local Kingdom Halls. At least, their attempt at humor is unbecoming and savors of taunting. At most, they could tempt only another who had cleansed himself of the habit.
It is true that the Bible does not specifically name tobacco-smoking as an evil to be avoided. If Christians should shun it, why does not the Bible definitely mention it? Because in the times when the Bible was written the smoking of tobacco was unknown. Under the heading “Tobacco” the Encyclopedia Americana, 1942 edition, states:
“Originating in America, the use of tobacco has been extended into practically all parts of the world, and, indeed, it has come to be incomparably the most generally used of all narcotics. . . . Tobacco was widely used by the Indians at the time of the discovery of America by Columbus and relics of the Mound Builders show that pipe smoking was a very ancient custom among the aborigines. On landing in the West Indies in 1492 members of Columbus’ crew observed that the natives smoked rolls of dried tobacco leaves. When the Spaniards landed in Mexico in 1519 they found the natives cultivating tobacco with care and skill. . . . The American Indians had evolved methods of cultivating tobacco and preparing it in all forms which are now used. . . . The culture and the use of tobacco were introduced into India, Persia and other Asiatic countries early in the 17th century.”
Hence it was not used in Biblical lands till more than fifteen centuries after the last book of the Bible was written. Nevertheless, inspired admonition contained in Scripture is of such scope as to definitely embrace the use of tobacco. A meek and humble person who wishes to receive instruction could consider with profit such scriptures as Proverbs 30:12, Isaiah 52:11, Galatians 5:19, Colossians 3:5, James 1:22, Ephesians 5:3, 4, and other texts concerning cleanness in matters both physical and spiritual. These texts establish a principle of purity and cleanness that should guide Christians, and 2 Corinthians 7:1 is explicit when it orders: “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” A translation in modern English reads: “Let us cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates either flesh or spirit; let us be fully consecrated by reverence for God.”—Moffatt.
Is not tobacco-smoking filthy in that it stains the flesh, stinks clothes and body, and litters ashes about? Is it not expressing inconsiderate selfishness rather than love when one fouls the air with strong smoke for others to breathe, and which smarts the eyes? Does not the habit contaminate the flesh by harming health? It admittedly cuts wind or endurance, slows reflexes, fogs the brain, promotes diseases of heart and blood vessels, lowers vitality, irritates sinuses and membranes of nose, mouth, throat and lungs, induces cancer, impairs reproductive functions in both men and women, weakens moral fiber and shortens the life span. To what advantages can cigarette smokers point to counterbalance these disadvantages? Can one consecrate his full potential of strength and energy to God if he siphons off a measure of it by sucking on cigarettes? Is a Christian’s consecrated strength and time and money being wisely spent when dissipated and wasted through the tobacco habit? It is not necessary for Jehovah’s witnesses to badger or heckle smokers with these and similar questions. It is sufficient for each smoker, particularly those who have come to a knowledge of the truth and who engage in Jehovah’s service, to honestly consider these questions and look frankly into his own mind and heart for the answer.
They might also remember that it was Jehovah’s visible organization that God used to rid their mind of false religious doctrine, that He used it to teach them Kingdom truths, to picture for them new-earth blessings, and to train them in the gospel-preaching work that leads to such joys and eternal life. They trusted the organization in those matters, certain that God was and still is using it. Is it not reasonable that God also uses it to cleanse His people of such filthy habits as smoking? After the novice becomes a witness through the organization’s aid, does he suddenly become wiser than his visible teacher on the subject of cleanliness and on explaining scriptures relating thereto? On different occasions in times past The Watchtower has discussed the use of tobacco. Note the following comments taken from the Watchtower magazine of July 1, 1942, after it quoted 2 Corinthians 7:1.
“Any filthiness, whether it be of the flesh or of the spirit, is abominable in His sight. Cleanliness of the flesh and spirit is the very opposite of filthiness, and means that the creature must be clean in body and in mind and use the natural faculties with which he is endowed to the glory of God. Having taken his position on the side of Jehovah in the great issue, and having been granted by Jehovah the great privilege of being associated with his Theocratic organization, he must deport himself in keeping with that holy organization.
“The armies [of this world], and the religious organizations with them, are seeing to it that those fighting for world domination are amply supplied with tobacco. The Encyclopædia Britannica (Vol. 26) says: ‘As the continent of America was opened up and explored, it became evident that the consumption of tobacco, especially by smoking, was a universal and immemorial usage, in many cases BOUND UP WITH THE MOST SIGNIFICANT AND SOLEMN TRIBAL CEREMONIES.’ That means the use of that herb was associated with demonism, to bring its dupes under the power of the demons. Is the use of tobacco, then, clean or filthy within the meaning of the Scriptures? The use of tobacco is extremely filthy, regardless of the form in which it is used. It befouls the body and dulls the mental faculties. It makes the user offensive to those with whom he comes in contact, and works great injury to the user and is a dishonor to God and Christ. The use of tobacco has greatly demoralized the human race. It creates an appetite for other impure and filthy things. Under no condition is the use of tobacco approved by God’s Word, although not mentioned by name.
“It, therefore, does not seem consistent for anyone of God’s organization or those who have been privileged by His grace to enter the ‘cities of refuge’, to use tobacco. . . . Those who persist in the use of the harmful weed cannot be considered as proper examples in word, in charity, in spirit, in faith, or in purity, and by their course of action the example they are setting forth works ill to their neighbor. They are rebelling against a reasonable requirement of the Lord’s organization . . .
“If a man chooses to injure himself by the use of tobacco, no one has the right to say he shall not use it, but certainly no person has the right to blow tobacco smoke into the nostrils of another person. The habit of tobacco-smoking is one of the most selfish that is exercised by human creatures; and, being selfish, it is the very opposite of love. The smoker fails to give any consideration to the rights and privileges of others about, to whom tobacco may be offensive. There is every reason against the use of tobacco; there is not one reason that supports its use. . . .
“Tobacco is the Devil’s weed employed for the purpose of demoralizing human creatures, particularly in the ‘time of the end’. The use of tobacco having originated with demonism, it should be expected that the ‘prince of the demons’ would introduce its use into Christendom by religionists and popularize it there among religious practitioners. The contaminating influence thereof has spread to all parts of the earth. Imagine the ‘great multitude’ of Armageddon survivors, under the righteous rule of the visible ‘princes in all the earth’, with cigarettes in their lips and trying to carry out the divine mandate to fill the earth with a healthy-blooded righteous race!” (Pages 205, 206)
PROPER REGARD FOR THE ORGANIZATION
And one more point that new ones among Jehovah’s witnesses should remember relative to the use of tobacco. That is, is it their purpose to bring filthiness into the organization and spoil its reputation for cleanness? The fact that Jehovah’s witnesses as a group do not smoke has become a marker of them, a sign that distinguishes them from worldlings, a cause for special notice and comment by outside observers. Typical of this is the press report in the Springfield Union, July 2, 1949, in the section “With the Witnesses” published during the district assembly held in Springfield, Massachusetts:
“One boy about 12 years old had his binoculars trained on the speakers, even though he had a seat right near the front. Use of the glasses tended to create a racetrack atmosphere. But another condition in the Coliseum was a far cry from what’s usual at sporting events of any sort. People who attend hockey games there, particularly, wouldn’t have recognized the place. Indeed, who had ever before been in the Coliseum with 4,500 other people when there wasn’t the tiniest trace of cigaret smoke?”
Do new ones wish to mar this standard of cleanness that has made Jehovah’s visible organization outstanding? It does not seem that any new witnesses appreciative of the truths they have learned from the organization would want to repay by doing evil, by wrecking such a long-established reputation for freedom from tobacco’s filth. It is not the purpose of the visible organization to be narrow or dogmatic or lacking in tolerance and mercy. It realizes that it takes time for new ones to cleanse themselves of worldly filth, both physical and spiritual, and those making up the visible organization should exercise patience and understanding with one another. New ones should be meek and teachable and not stubbornly resist for selfish reasons the Scriptural admonitions against the filthiness of the tobacco habit. On the other hand, those in the organization who are clean of this contamination of the flesh should not fall short of being merciful and long-suffering, but should allow time for new ones to readjust themselves and conform to the Scriptural ways of Jehovah’s organization.
Many different methods for breaking the tobacco habit are recommended by worldly theorists, such as special diets, exercise, medicines, gradual tapering-off of smoking, etc. The best method for quitting is to have a good incentive for doing so and then to stop abruptly. It is the method used by many when they became Jehovah’s witnesses and wanted to cease fouling themselves with tobacco. Many of this multitude of witnesses numbering into the tens of thousands were at one time in slavery to tobacco with the rest of the world, but they broke free of its unclean bonds, not because they followed a special diet or course of exercise, but because they realized that it was defiling their bodies and harming their health and making them unclean for Jehovah’s service. Had they not learned that Jehovah’s witnesses were commanded to be clean in both mind and body?—Isa. 52:11; 2 Cor. 7:1.
How, then, were so many thousands able to break the tobacco habit? Most people fail to appreciate that the mind is the agency that controls, governs and directs the body and its habits. But Jehovah’s witnesses fully realize this and know that the battle against tobacco must be fought and won in the mind. They know full well that the great adversary the Devil as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour attacks one’s mind, and so they take mental refuge under the protecting hand of Jehovah God. (1 Pet. 5:8) Under such overshadowing protection they are taught by God’s Word, the Bible. But in addition to a mind fed, strengthened and directed by God’s Word he gives them that all-necessary invisible force or energy toward righteousness, and that is his holy spirit. To those who ask him persistently he gives this spirit more readily than earthly parents give good gifts to beloved children. Thus, fortified and moved by his holy spirit, and with honest-to-goodness appeal or prayer to God for his help to overcome the entrenched habit, they are bound to vindicate his power in gaining the victory.
Food and exercise are also important factors for Jehovah’s witnesses. Their special diet is that prescribed by the great Physician: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4) They do not get choosy and stubbornly reject the spiritual food that puts their unclean habits in an unfavorable light, but partake of the spiritual food to get strength to overcome the uncleanness. For exercise they have their “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15), and they hasten from house to house with this good news. They do not sit around in a tobacco-laden atmosphere, but get out into the fresh air and occupy their mind and body by standing on the street corners with magazines heralding forth the Kingdom message.
This, then, is the sure and positive cure for the tobacco habit, and anyone who will make a clean and abrupt break from the snare and follow this course will find that in a short time he will have lost his desire for the weed. Then he will have more health and strength and energy to expend in Jehovah’s service. He will have redeemed time and money for worth-while uses. He will have Scripturally cleansed himself from that particular “filthiness of the flesh”. Then, instead of tearing down the organization’s reputation for cleanness, he will be a clean associate of the clean organization that today is preaching the good news of Jehovah God’s righteous new world of endless blessings.