Insight on the News
When the North Carolina Council of Churches attempted to consider the question of the morality of tobacco growing, it met with considerable opposition from those in the industry, reports The New York Times. “We disagree that there is a moral dilemma concerning tobacco,” argued the managing director of the Tobacco Growers Information Committee. He believes that “use of tobacco is a matter of personal choice for an individual’s life style.”
A consultant in tobacco-related businesses added his “expert” opinion: “I don’t believe the good Lord will deny the more than 50 million smokers in this country and the additional millions of smokers in other countries of the world entrance into heaven based solely on whether they consume tobacco products.” He asserted that the churches have no “jurisdiction or credence in the tobacco issue.”
The clergymen, however, found the issue less clear-cut. The chairman of the church council’s Tobacco Study Committee felt that his panel was being put on the “horns of a dilemma.” Why? North Carolina is the largest tobacco producer in the United States, and the industry supports 150,000 jobs in that state alone. That is not all, but as the aforementioned consultant was quick to point out, “tobacco farmers, marketers and manufacturers have played an important role in the . . . forming and sustaining of the church.”
While the clergymen are having such a difficult time grappling with the issue, does not the Bible give clear guidance on the tobacco habit, stating: “Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit”?—2 Corinthians 7:1.
“Knowledge exists, but it is not always accompanied by wisdom. We know that wars are terrible, but humanity continues in its crazy fratricidal race.” So writes Agustín Saavedra Weise in an editorial in El Diario of La Paz, Bolivia.
Señor Weise laments that although the 20th century “has brought in a formidable sum of human knowledge in all walks of life: science, technology, medicine, war preparations, literature, architecture, etc.,” there has been no comparable progress in wisdom. The result? “Throughout the past years we have witnessed the most barbarous and primitive forms of aggression, genocide and violence,” says Weise.
But why is it that for all the knowledge in the world there is such a lack of wisdom? Because people have abandoned Jehovah and turned to science, money, pleasure and other substitute “gods.” Thus they have left behind the Source of true wisdom. Indeed, when men reject God’s word, “what wisdom do they have?”—Jeremiah 8:9.
In a study of church sermons through the years, Richard Wentz, a religion historian at Arizona State University, notes that clergymen’s preaching styles were influenced by the trends of the times. In colonial days, says the professor, the emphasis was on the sovereignty of God, that “we are in God’s hands.” In the 19th century, when the nation was “new” and “optimistic,” the emphasis was shifted to “the possibilities of human perfection” and the thought that “God is waiting for us to respond.”
What about today? “The sermons now seem to give people what they want instead of giving them what they ought to be saying,” Wentz says. Today’s sermons are short, averaging 10 to 20 minutes, are usually in the form of stories with “cutesy characters” and are meant to entertain. Most people want something to “titillate their feelings and emotions,” he adds.
This reminds some of just what the apostle Paul foretold: “The time is coming when men will not tolerate wholesome teaching. They will want something to tickle their own fancies, and they will collect teachers who will speak what they want to hear.” But preachers who merely cater to the whims of the people have to answer for much. “Remember that we who are teachers will be judged by a much higher standard,” warned the disciple James.—2 Timothy 4:3; James 3:1, Phillips.