The Tobacco Habit—Compatible with Christianity?
“Therefore, since we have these promises, beloved ones, let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfection holiness in God’s fear.”—2 Corinthians 7:1, NW.
IT WAS July 18, 1953, the day before the international New World Society Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses was to open at Yankee Stadium in New York city. Among the eager and curious spectators on the convention grounds outside the stadium was seen a young man smoking a cigarette. Although there were others who were smoking, yet this particular young man attracted attention. Why? Because he also wore a badge identifying himself as one of Jehovah’s witnesses. Upon being engaged in conversation he revealed that he lived in the immediate vicinity of the stadium and had only recently become interested in the work of Jehovah’s witnesses and that the subject of smoking had at no time been broached by the witness who was conducting a Bible study in his home.
Why do Jehovah’s witnesses frown on the use of tobacco? Do the Scriptures explicitly forbid smoking in just so many words? No, they do not. However, the entire tenor of the Scriptures is that the use of tobacco is incompatible with true Christianity.
Christ Jesus summed up true Christianity by saying: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength,” and “you must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30, 31, NW) The use of tobacco cannot be reconciled with obedience to these two great commandments, and that on some ten different counts.
INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE FIRST COMMANDMENT
To love Jehovah with all our strength means to give to God’s service the very best that our bodies are capable of giving. But we cannot do that if we deliberately engage in practices that harm our bodies, can we? And the use of tobacco is harmful. Researchers, working in four of the most respected research centers in the United States, recently met and went on record that the blame for the rise in lung cancer and certain circulatory or heart ailments must be placed squarely on the increase in cigarette smoking. And a doctor and author, who for ten years was research adviser to a major tobacco company, warns that tobacco contains thirty different substances such as nicotine, arsenic, alcohol and ammonia. According to him “tobacco contains as nice a collection of poisons as you will find anywhere in one small package.”
Christians have much and important work to do and need all the strength their bodies can supply. If respect for our bodies should be sufficient to discourage the use of tobacco, then certainly respect for the service of God should be even stronger reason for not using it. The use of tobacco is incompatible with our loving God with all our strength.
Loving Jehovah with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength also means worshiping him with clean bodies. Jehovah and everything associated with him, his Word and his organization, are pure, clean and righteous. Tobacco befouls one’s body, one’s breath, one’s clothing and one’s home. The Scriptures admonish us not to touch or have anything to do with that which is unclean, and this applies to literal as well as figurative uncleanness: “Therefore, since we have these promises, beloved ones, let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.” “Every defilement of flesh” includes defilement by tobacco. Further, we are counseled to avoid “uncleanness of every kind” and to “put away all filthiness.”—2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 5:3; Jas. 1:21; 2 Cor. 6:17; Col. 3:5-9, NW.
Our bodies are vessels for God’s holy spirit, earthen vessels containing the treasure of the ministry, and therefore must be kept clean. Tobacco-stained and tobacco-saturated bodies, clothes and homes are incompatible with Christianity.—2 Cor. 4:7.
Again, loving Jehovah with all our soul means also to love him with all the means we have at our disposal, and that includes our money. Since tobacco is not essential to our well-being, but rather works injury to our health, there can be no excuse for squandering our money upon it. If we smoke a package of cigarettes a day, in the course of a year we will have spent from $75 to $100 for tobacco. Many smoke more than one package a day. How much better to use that money to help spread the truth of God’s kingdom in foreign lands or to support the Kingdom witness in our local territory. Or, money thus saved could be used to pay our way to an international assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses, or to provide wholesome entertainment and relaxation for ourselves and our families. Truly, the tobacco habit represents a waste of money that is incompatible with true Christianity.
And further: to love Jehovah whole-souledly means that our wills must be his, subject to him and only to him. The Scriptures show that, by virtue of our having been ransomed by the blood of Christ and by virtue of our having dedicated ourselves to do God’s will, we are his slaves and so we cannot be the slaves of men or of any bad habit. (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23, NW) We must be as free men and yet not using our freedom as a cloak for moral badness.—1 Pet. 2:16, NW.
However, it is a well-known fact that tobacco is a narcotic, the most widely used of all narcotics. Narcotics are habit-forming and bring one into slavery to them. Many persons admit that the only reason they continue smoking tobacco is that they are unable to stop. While some boast they could stop if they wanted to, yet more likely than not such boasts are mere rationalization because of an unwillingness to admit that they are slaves to the tobacco habit. We are slaves to that which we obey, and slavery to the tobacco habit is incompatible with Christianity, which is free.
If we would love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, we must also avoid everything contaminated by his enemy, Satan the Devil. The Israelites were strictly forbidden to have anything to do with pagan demonism in any form, and the law for Christians is not less strict. (1 Cor. 10:19-24) Historical facts show that among the chief uses to which the American Indians put tobacco was in connection with “most significant and solemn tribal ceremonies,” which, of course, were steeped in pagan demonism. This original use of tobacco furnishes another argument why its use today is not compatible with Christianity.
INCOMPATIBLE WITH LOVE OF NEIGHBOR
True Christianity, as expounded by Christ Jesus, in addition to requiring that we love Jehovah God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, also means loving our neighbor as ourselves.—Mark 12:31, NW.
In view of the many injurious substances that tobacco smoke contains, are we loving our neighbor as ourselves, are we doing to others as we would have them do to us, when we pollute with tobacco smoke the air they breathe, although many of them do not smoke but find tobacco fumes very obnoxious? Certainly not! We may blow our own smoke away from ourselves and thus minimize the harm it does to us by not inhaling, but what about others? And all this is especially inexcusable when done in homes, places of employment or public conveyances during inclement weather. Surely such thoughtlessness is incompatible with Christianity’s neighbor love.
Loving our neighbors as ourselves also requires that we set a good example. Just as we would not want others to stumble us or influence us in a wrong way, so we should be careful not to stumble or adversely influence others. Paul would even have refused to eat certain meat if that stumbled another. And as he counseled Timothy: “Become an example to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness.” (1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Cor. 8:13, NW) Is thoughtlessness regarding the spiritual welfare of our neighbor or fellow Christian compatible with Christianity?
Then again, the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses has gained a reputation for being a clean organization, and it is recognized as a society of ministers. As ministers we should be very jealous of our power to influence others for good. Many who are “conscious of their spiritual need,” who are “hungering and thirsting for righteousness,” may be prejudiced against accepting aid from us if they note us using tobacco. We are a “theatrical spectacle to the world,” we are to follow the example Christ Jesus set, we are ambassadors in his stead. (Matt. 5:3, 6; 1 Cor. 4:9;1 Pet. 2:21; 2 Cor. 5:20, NW) Could we imagine Christ Jesus smoking? Unless we can, we must admit that smoking tobacco is incompatible with Christianity.
And finally there is the hope of everlasting life in Jehovah’s righteous new world. In that new world men will not use any narcotics, for there will be no pain, sorrow or death there. It will be a clean world and its inhabitants will be clean. Shall we be able to enjoy that new world if we enter it as slaves to the tobacco habit? Having this hope of a clean new world should help us to be clean even now, for are we not to live now by the same rules and principles as will prevail then? Smoking tobacco now while holding out to others as desirable the hope of a beautiful clean new world in which there will be no smoking is not consistent, is it?
NO ARGUMENTS FOR TOBACCO
Some argue that because the Bible does not specifically forbid the use of tobacco there can be no objection to its use. Such, however, overlook the historical fact that until the Western Hemisphere was discovered the use of tobacco was limited to the Indians residing in that hemisphere; so there was no occasion for tobacco to be mentioned or forbidden among Jehovah’s servants.
Then again, some claim that it is inconsistent to be so strict regarding tobacco and yet permit the use of alcoholic beverages, as do Jehovah’s witnesses. However, let it be noted that the Bible tells us that Jehovah God provided wine to make glad the hearts of man, and Paul instructed Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake. Such was fermented wine, for without modern means for preserving it grape juice could not remain unfermented. But if you do not need it there is no need to use it. (Ps. 104:15; 1 Tim. 5:23) Of course, it is wrong to drink too much, even as it is wrong to overeat, and that is why the Bible condemns both gluttony and drunkenness. Certainly the Christian ministers in such lands as France, Germany and Italy who drink wine or beer regularly with their meals are bringing no reproach upon Jehovah, nor are they harming their bodies by following the custom of the people. Moderate use of wine and like beverages is compatible with Christianity, with loving Jehovah God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and loving our neighbor as ourself. But keep in mind, moderation, never once getting drunk!
But tobacco is not a food; it is a habit-forming drug, a narcotic. When first taken into one’s system it usually produces illness, showing that the body rebels against the poison. The tobacco habit injures one’s health, is unclean, is a waste of money, enslaves its users; its origin is associated with demon worship, all of which are incompatible with our loving Jehovah with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. And since it pollutes the air others must breathe, sets them a bad example and gives them a bad impression of the New World society, its use indicates a lack of neighbor love. The fact that smokers are inclined to be indifferent toward the rights of others is indicated by the number of fires caused by careless smokers, some 15 per cent, or approximately 100,000 fires a year, being caused by careless smokers in the United States alone. In Jehovah’s new world there will be no smoking of tobacco.
Some smoke because of tenseness, nervousness or restlessness. Such, however, should endeavor to get at the cause of their condition rather than to take an injurious drug to palliate the symptoms. Self-examination might reveal such traits as greed, competition or ambition; or it may be double-mindedness; or then again the prickings of a guilty conscience may be the cause. For such cases ‘godliness and contentment, or self-sufficiency,’ is the remedy.—1 Tim. 6:6, NW.
Tens of thousands of Christian ministers of Jehovah at one time had the tobacco habit, but, finding it incompatible with Christianity, they dropped it. All who would take Christianity seriously certainly will divest themselves of it if saddled with it. One can stop smoking if he really wants to. The thing is to be fully convinced that smoking tobacco is displeasing to Jehovah God, shows lack of neighbor love and is not good for the one smoking, either physically, spiritually, mentally or morally. Incidentally, until one has overcome the habit, let him show neighbor love by keeping his vice to himself, not flaunting his folly. (Prov. 13:16, AS) As the apostle Paul well said, “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.” That includes strength to overcome the tobacco habit.—Phil. 4:13, NW.