March 06, 2008

Smoking to the Glory of God

by Jamey Bennett

Note: While this is an anecdotal defense of smoking, its implications carry out to drinking as well.

"I have to laugh when I think of the first cigar because it was probably just a bunch of rolled-up tobacco leaves." - Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey

Many of us Christians have an uncanny ability to maintain unbiblical taboos that suggest that we are much holier, wiser, and more spiritual than God Himself. One such taboo is smoking. Though the Scriptures never utter a word to denounce moderate smoking, I grew up in circles where it was not uncommon to hear things like, "I can't believe he smokes; I thought he was a Christian." I probably said it myself. As if the Christian life could be summed up in the phrase, "Don't smoke, drink or chew or go with girls who do."1 Many churches bind the Christian's conscience when God has not.

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), the noteworthy British Baptist preacher, was very much a lover of smoking. Some estimate he enjoyed a cigar a day. Between 1826 and 1830, England went from importing 26 pounds of cigars per year, to 250,000 pounds!2 This over-night popularity of cigars did not go unnoticed by the legalists of his time. One man, who was rather disturbed upon hearing that Spurgeon was a smoker, asked him if this was the truth. Spurgeon, always wielding a sharp wit, replied, "I cultivate my flowers and burn my weeds."3 I suppose Spurgeon would gladly affirm what G.K. Chesterton said somewhere: "I will submit to cigars."

John Piper recounts another humorous situation that the Prince of Preachers found himself in.4 Spurgeon said to a Methodist critic, "If I ever find myself smoking to excess, I promise I shall quit entirely."
"What would you call smoking to excess?" the man asked.
"Why, smoking two cigars at the same time!" was the answer.

One day Spurgeon was to go on "an excursion" with some of his young students from his church. The men arrived happy and early, cigars and pipes lit, "looking forward to a day of unrestrained enjoyment." 5 As Spurgeon hopped into his seat, he acted astonished, and said: "What, gentlemen! Are you not ashamed to be smoking so early?" Each student, looking rather dismayed, put out his cigar or pipe one by one. No sooner had they put away their treats than Spurgeon pulled out his cigar case and began puffing away delightfully. All were confused and astonished. One brave soul spoke, "I thought you said you objected to smoking, Mr. Spurgeon?" Spurgeon had them where he wanted them, so he dropped the punch line. "Oh no, I did not say I objected. I asked if they were not ashamed, and it appears they were, for they have all put their pipes away."

Spurgeon's smoking encounters were not always full of such amusement, however. One Sunday in 1874, Spurgeon preached a sermon on the "sinfulness of little sins." He had a guest minister in the audience that night, visiting from America, and so he asked the preacher to come to the pulpit to give a life application of the sermon. To Spurgeon's dismay, the preacher spoke voraciously against "the sin of smoking tobacco, especially in the form of cigars." After kindly listening to this lamentable sermon application, Spurgeon arose and addressed the issue more sanely. Here are his words:

Well, dear friends, you know that some men can do to the glory of God what to other men would be sin. And notwithstanding what brother Pentecost has said, I intend to smoke a good cigar to the glory of God before I go to bed to-night.

If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, "Thou shalt not smoke," I am ready to keep it; but I haven't found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it's as much as I can do to keep them; and I've no desire to make them into eleven or twelve.

The fact is, I have been speaking to you about real sins, not about listening to mere quibbles and scruples. At the same time, I know that what a man believes to be sin becomes a sin to him, and he must give it up. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" [Rom. 14:23], and that is the real point of what my brother Pentecost has been saying.

Why, a man may think it a sin to have his boots blacked. Well, then, let him give it up, and have them whitewashed. I wish to say that I'm not ashamed of anything whatever that I do, and I don't feel that smoking makes me ashamed, and therefore I mean to smoke to the glory of God.

This statement of Spurgeon's actually launched a huge controversy in London. The influential pastor was on the receiving end of not a few attacks from friends, foes, and newspaper goofballs. But Spurgeon believed one cannot bind another's conscience where God has not.

I've often said that when a fundamentalist pastor comes to the house, it's time to hide the beer. But when a reformational pastor pays you a visit, you'd better get out the ales! The same thing could easily be said about cigars. Offer a cigar to a fundamentalist and you're likely to get kicked to the curb quicker than Jackie Chan. Offer one to a reformational minister and you'll be the guest of honor at the next church potluck.6

When he invited a minister from America to say a few words, Spurgeon was quite disappointed with the man's legalistic stance on tobacco. Spurgeon's words launched a widespread controversy that he thought was rather unnecessary. Because "the matter was widely discussed both in the newspapers and in private circles," "Spurgeon addressed a letter to the Daily Telegraph with a view of scattering any misapprehension which might arise."

In his letter, he wrote:

I demur altogether and most positively to the statement that to smoke tobacco is in itself a sin. It may become so, as any other indifferent action may, but as an action it is no sin. … There is a growing up in society a Pharisaic system which adds to the commands of God the precepts of men: to that system I will not yield for an hour. The preservation of my liberty may bring upon me the upbraidings of many good men, and the sneers of the self-righteous; but I shall endure both with serenity so long as I feel clear in my conscience before God. … I am told that my open avowal will lessen my influence and my reply is that if I have gained any influence through being thought different from what I am, I have no wish to retain it. I will do nothing upon the sly, and nothing about which I have a doubt.

What these unbiblical taboos are can be summed up in one word: legalism. Dr. Kim Riddlebarger argues, "There is nothing in Scripture which teaches that one must discontinue the use of alcoholic beverages or tobacco in order to become a Christian. It is simply not anywhere in the text."7 Riddlebarger is operating on the assumption that we have no right to impose any moral standards, whatsoever that are not "either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture."8 The Scriptures seem to have a huge problem with adding to or taking away from the commandments of God. Riddlebarger continues, "We're putting false obstacles in the way of unbelievers when we put these man-made rules in their path and tell them becoming a Christian is stopping doing this that and the other. That's a false gospel."

The Westminster Confession of Faith booms loudly the truth of this point:

God alone is Lord of the conscience and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are—in anything—contrary to his Word, or which—in matters of faith or worship—are in addition to it. Therefore, anyone who believes such doctrines or obeys such commands out of conscience betrays true liberty of conscience. The requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, destroys both liberty of conscience and reason.9

It would be wise for Christians to avoid upholding the commandments of men as the commandments of God. God has granted us a liberty to be free from the commandments and precepts of men. The Apostle Paul told us that it was for freedom that Christ has set us free! He goes on to admonish us not to submit to a yoke of slavery (Gal. 5:1). Peter also warned of putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples (Acts 15:10). Why should we accept a yoke of slavery when Christ has set us free, especially for something that God has not forbidden? We must be diligent in our obedience to the word of God, in both observing the law and maintaining our liberty in things indifferent.

The Son of Man came eating and drinking; and if God has blessed us as such, we should too. We should delight in the gifts of God! When we smoke our cigars, our hearts should praise the Lord and giver of all good things. We ought to be grateful to God in our smoking and careful to avoid excess; as we should in all things indifferent, be they Twinkies, Trix, or table salt. Paul advises us to glorify God in all that we do, including our eating and drinking (1 Cor. 10:31). "No Christian should do anything," says Spurgeon, "in which he cannot glorify God: and this may be done, according to Scripture, in eating and drinking and the common actions of life."

And before I go to bed tonight, I shall smoke a cigar to glory of God.

This article originally appeared on the old


Anonymous said...

My defense of cussing stands in much the same light, only I don't have Spurgeon's testimony to back me up. . .

Hal said...

I skimmed the article, so if they addressed this, my apologies.

I would argue two things: 1) The addictive nature of smoking makes it a new slavery, one not of Christ. That's bad. 2) We are called to treat our bodies with honor, as they are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Smoking is quite devastating to the body. This, too, is bad.

Now, you could argue that any number of other habits fall into those categories, and I'd probably be inclined to agree with you. But I don't tend to see smoking as a benign, morally neutral habit. Your mileage may vary.

Anonymous said...

Smoking cigars is less dangerous than smoking cigarette as most of the cigar smokers and pipe smokers don't inhale the smoke , plus people generally don't smoke a lot of cigars
a week . What is evil is exess , Jesus drank wine , but didn't got drunk . Jesus has eaten but wasn't doing exesses . We could take many example of things like sex , even in marriage ,if you do exess know what I mean I think..
Anyway Davidoff used to say "smoke less , but better and longer" which I think is the perfect sentence to describe a cigar smoker . He smokes less , and better as he doesn't inhale the smoke ,and longer as the cigar lasts longer and as the cigar aficionado takes one puff every 60 seconds . Anyway , if you don't smoke , just don't smoke . I think that smoking and drinking alcohol are things that we can avoid :) but
I also think that we are allowed to
enjoy good things in life ..and sometimes a good cigar and a glass of wine are very relaxing . But not in exess *

Romans chapter 8 says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ , because in Christ we are free from the law.I think we also have to discern the difference between the will of God and the will of man . Doing exess in everything can hurt you ,even exess of sleep , is sleeping a sin ? ;)
The bible doesn't mentions sleeping as a sin , as it doesn't mentions smoking as a sin :) or maybe I missed the verse about it

Clark said...

Charles Spurgeon is the man.

cialis said...

In principle, a good happen, support the views of the author

smetham said...

what a revelation, I love it.. and tonight I shall smoke to the glory of God.. So be it!

Anonymous said...

People will always look for a way, so they can continue their habits. Smoking or choking cigarettes is what your flesh wants. To glorify God? IS God really glorified doing what you flesh wants?

Jared and Beth said...

I think He can be. Absolutely, yes. God created me after all. My body desires bread for example to sustain itself. However it is not merely fuel. If I take delight in savoring a warm home made loaf of bread lovingly prepared by my wife, for which we both offer thanks and praise to God, is He not glorified? Might I recommend you read The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon (who recently passed away).

Dr. Ben Jackson said...

The Bible is explicit about using vain and profane language. Out is also adamant about the use of alcohol.

Anonymous said...

Dr Jackson, society has defined what is "profane" though. How can two words mean the same exact thing, but one be a "curse" and the other be OK. It's not logical.