Why is Smoking a Sin For You?

Ever since I wrote the article “Smoking and Tim Hortons: Don’t They Know It’s a Sin?” I have had a few conversations with people where the topic has changed to smoking. To view the first article click Here On more than a few occasions the conversation has gone something like this.

You: “I read your post about smoking.”

Me:  Thanks…etc.

You: “Can I ask you something?

Me : “Sure.”

You: “Is smoking a sin?”

Me: “Uuhmmm…” followed by 1 minute of awkward silence

Me: “What I said was that we can not judge someone’s spiritual well being by whether they smoked or not, but smoking was sin for me personally.”

You: “But sin is sin isn’t it?  So if smoking is a sin for you, it should be for me as well, right?  Why is smoking a sin for you?”

After awkwardly avoiding the question, or stumbling over an answer hoping not to offend, I have decided that I will address the question of why smoking was a sin for me; and how it affected me as a husband and father.  I am not going to use the usual argument about the body being the temple of the Holy Spirit. I am also not going to talk about the Christians duty to guard against addiction or the fact that smoking is poor stewardship of our body and finances.  Even if those are valid points.

First, we must define what sin is.  Simply put, sin is the transgression of God’s law.  Some would say, “But there is no law that says thou shalt not smoke.” Granted, there is no specific law against smoking.  Let’s get back to defining sin. Here is a quote from John Piper, which lays it all out on the table:

What is sin?

It is the glory of God not honored.

The holiness of God not reverenced.

The greatness of God not admired.

The power of God not praised.

The truth of God not sought.

The wisdom of God not esteemed.

The beauty of God not treasured.

The goodness of God not savored.

The faithfulness of God not trusted.

The commandments of God not obeyed.

The justice of God not respected.

The wrath of God not feared.

The grace of God not cherished.

The presence of God not prized.

The person of God not loved.

That is sin.”

Beautiful, simple, truth.  But what does this have to do with smoking?  The first point…the glory of God not honoured. From the Great Reformation we have the 5 Sola’s to which we all adhere as protestants; one of which is “Soli Deo Gloria”…to God alone be the glory.  As a doctrine, “Soli Deo Gloria” means that everything that is done is for God’s glory, to the exclusion of man’s self-glorification. We, as Christians, are to be motivated and inspired by God’s glory and not our own. Yes, as Christians, everything we do should glorify God.  Every decision we make, every choice should be weighed against this question…Does it glorify God?  So instead of asking me, “Is smoking a sin?” ask yourself this question… “Does my smoking glorify God?”  For me the answer was simply, but emphatically, “NO!”  Smoking was an addiction that took my focus off of God; in that moment I needed that nicotine more than I needed God.  Therefore, smoking was too me, breaking the first commandment, which was sin. And since I broke the first commandment at least 10 times a day by lighting up – I was living in sin.  I could not rightly go before my redeemer in prayer, when every day I had to ask Him to forgive me for the same thing, when I knew I would just light up again in 15 minutes after my devotions.  Is that true repentance on my part?  No, it is not. And that, my friends, is why smoking was a sin for me.  Now I must clarify, I do not judge you for smoking, that is your choice in your Christian freedom, but please take a moment and ask yourself, “Does this choice glorify God?”

Discipleship is a lifelong journey of obedience to the Lord in which the Holy Spirit changes our values, attitudes and behaviours.  During the course of my discipleship it became clear to me that smoking was, for me, simply foolishness.  It revealed that in me there was an absence of the fear of God as it says in Psalm 36;1

I have a message from God in my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
before their eyes.

In their own eyes they flatter themselves
too much to detect or hate their sin.

It revelaed that in me there was a slavery to the desire to smoke:

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another..

I routinely broke the first commandment in my heart – have no other Gods before me – every time I smoked a cigarette.

Now to clarify – no matter what you do, be it smoking, watching the hockey game, playing video games, drinking, going to church, the clothes you wear to church, the car you buy, the blog post I write… we all need to ask, “Am I doing this to glorify God or myself?”  OK, ok – I admit that is borderline legalistic, but you get my point. The point is Soli Deo Gloria.  Yes, you are permitted to relax, yes you are permitted to partake of enjoyment within the bounds of God’s law and Christian freedom.  For instance, if I could smoke only one cigarette once in a while perhaps it would not be a sin for me.   But even within the bounds of Christian freedom we all need to ask ourselves this simple question – “What does this choice do to glorify God?”

(This is where I apply this post to my Monday Men topic) 🙂

A great lesson we can learn from the Old Testament is that a family can suffer the consequences of the sin of its father. In Joshua we read of Achan who kept some of the items from Jericho that God had devoted for his own use.  In doing so he sinned. We further read that it was not only Achan who suffered the consequences of this sin…all of Israel was punished.  Still later Achan’s whole family was put to death by stoning for the sin of their father.  My family would not be put to death for my sins, not in the new covenant. The point of this, and other passages in the OT, is that a Christian husband and father cannot commit himself to living in sin, or committing grievous sins, without his entire family bearing the consequences for his sin. For me smoking was a sin, and it hurt my family financially, it made me sick, my “nic fits” would cause stress on the family, my getting sick and dying (possibly) from smoking would be detrimental to my family.  Another example of how sin affects the whole family is when a husband has committed to living in sexual sin, be it pornography, or having an affair.  Through this sin the wife is defiled by her husband’s sin. The kids are also affected as their parents become distant, pulled apart by the father’s commitment to his sin. Regardless of the sin, the whole family will suffer if a husband is more committed to his sin than he is to his family.

As a Christian husband I am to spiritually protect my family by turning from sin and pursuing holiness. My sin goes far beyond my own life. It impacts my wife.  It impacts my kids. It even impacts the rest of the body of Christ. Out of love for my family, out of a desire to serve them and glorify God out of thankfulness, I choose to live a holy life, even if I fail sometimes – which I do.  For me, living a holy life included the decision to quit smoking.  ( If the truth be known, I do sometimes still struggle with it.)

So, putting aside the smoking issue, as Christian Husbands and Fathers we must flee from sin, put it to death, and pursue holiness, appealing constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of Jesus Christ, in whom we have forgiveness of our sins through faith in Him. Men, we are the spiritual heads of our homes. You are the spiritual head of your home. I am the head of mine.  Pray with your family, read the Bible with them, sing with them, love them, give yourself to them as you are supposed to.  But the greatest gift you can give your family is to pursue a relationship with the almighty God; to commit to being a disciple of Christ; to rely on the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance. To stop pursuing sin and live a life of righteousness out of thankfulness for the free gift of salvation that we have received.  To God alone be the glory. Soli Deo Gloria.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:1-8

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  1. MyRedeemerLives says:

    Hi Ryan: Keep up the good work… your blog is important! God bless you!

  2. Geoff says:

    Nice Article! I debated with the same question for years but from the opposite view. I watched my grandfather die from lung cancer after smoking 2 packs a day his whole life. It convinced me never to touch a cigarette. But lately I’ve been wondering if God gave us tobacco for our enjoyment just like alchohol. Both are sinful if they become addictive and we rely on them or use them too much.

    But then I guess I ask where do we stop from there. The next question would be did God give us harder drugs for our enjoyment which I would say no.

    • One Christian Dad says:

      I lost my Dad to cancer as well, but that did nothing to deter my smoking – in fact I increased the frequency of my smoking after his death. It took my taking my discipleship seriously before I decided that smoking was a sin for me, which had to end. No, I do not believe that tobacco is inherently sinful. God did create it after all. What we choose to do with something is what makes it evil or sinful – for instance, sex is not evil, but sex outside of the bounds of marriage is… the internet is not evil, but surfing porn is… Facebook is not evil, but if we abuse it by spending hours of time per day neglecting our family’s/chores/etc. then it is sinful. Yes I think that all “hard” drugs are evil, like drinking too much – they cause us to lose control, Titus 2:2 says “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world”
      For me smoking was an addiction, and it is likely that smoking is an addiction for most people; not just a recreational enjoyment. So, if smoking is an addiction, then smoking is an idol – another God to that smoker. If you have an idol, then you are living in sin and it must be addressed. A Christian must struggle against his sin through power of the Holy Spirit. He cannot live in sin, it does not work that way. A Christian living in sin is just deceiving himself as it says in psalm 36.

      The Belgic confession states: “Those who are of the church may be recognized by the marks of Christians. They believe in Jesus Christ the only Saviour, flee from sin and pursue righteousness, love the true God and their neighbour without turning to the right or left, and crucify their flesh and its works. Although great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their life. They appeal constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of Jesus Christ, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins through faith in Him.”
      When i was a smoker – i did not flee from my addiction or crucify my flesh…Yes, we all move at different speeds in our discipleship, our walk with our redeemer. I am so thankful that my eyes were opened by the word and spirit that I was able to quit smoking through prayer and steadfastness…hopefully the Spirit awakens my brothers sisters who smoke to the “foolishness” of smoking as well.