Smoke Salmon, Not Salem

by Tad Lindley

Smoke is pretty powerful stuff. For thousands of years people have been smoking foods. Smoke produces a layer of formaldehyde on the outside of the fish or meat. This helps prevent mold and bacteria from growing there. You see, formaldehyde is lethal to them.

Unfortunately, smoke does not have the same preservative effect on human beings. I realize that you know someone who lived to be a hundred and smoked a pack of Pall Malls every day since they were three, but the vast majority of smokers will die early. Not only that, they will miss more work, and drive up the cost of health insurance for those who don’t smoke. According to the Bible, the Lord does not want us to use tobacco.

But tobacco isn’t mentioned in the Bible

Tobacco is nowhere mentioned in scripture. There is no verse that teaches thou shalt not smoke cigarettes, rub snuff, or chew leaf tobacco. Also missing are similar verses on heroin, ecstasy, crystal meth, marijuana, and huffing gasoline. If the Bible were simply a list of rules, we might find those things. The problem is that the Hebrews and Greeks had no words for many of the drugs listed above. They were unknown to them. The Bible is more a book of principles. It teaches us attitudes and behaviors that work across culture and across time.

Addiction in scripture

The Bible gives us a very important principle concerning addictive substances. All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (I Corinthians 6:12) Another translation presents it like this: You may say, “I am allowed to do anything.” But I reply, “Not everything is good for you.” And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. (NLT)

Look at the portions of the verses that I underlined. If you have ever been addicted to nicotine like I have, then you know that it is a powerful addiction. It has the power to make us so irritable when we are craving it, that we may yell at family members. When we have licked the inside of every snuff can we could dig out of the trash, and payday is a few days away, we may have “borrowed” money from our kids or parents.

When we are under the power of something other than God, we are in a very dangerous situation. Instead of trusting in the Lord to meet our need, we are forced to trust in tobacco to relieve our restlessness. Speaking of the love of money Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters…” (Matthew 6:24)

The preacher just doesn’t want me to have fun

I used to think that preachers preached against sin because they weren’t allowed to have fun, and they couldn’t stand the thought of other folks having fun while they weren’t. Now that I am at times a preacher I see it differently. You see, I have not had to wake up in the middle of the night coughing since I quit smoking. My children’s piggy banks are safe. At one time I had pre-cancerous lesions in my mouth from smokeless tobacco. Now I have a clean bill of health. But above all that, I do not miss the power that tobacco had over me to require me to smoke when I really did not want to.

Tearing down the temple

Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (I Corinthians 6:19 NIV) Tobacco wears folks out. It seems to make skinny people skinnier through sickness and fat people fatter through lack of exercise. After King Solomon had the temple built, the Lord’s glory came down upon it. It became his “headquarters”. In the New Testament, the born again believer becomes the equivalent to the temple. Many readers have thrown dirt on the coffin of a loved one whose body was completely destroyed by stomach cancer, heart attack, or lung cancer brought on by tobacco use. They did not have to die that way.

You really can quit

Our God has the power that is far greater than the power of nicotine. I had not been baptized nor received the Holy Ghost. I didn’t know much about the Bible. Nicotine gum, patches, and inhalers were not available. I was sick of being sick from smoking. I began to call upon the Lord. Every time I felt the urge to use tobacco come over me, I asked the Lord for strength to quit. It was the last time I quit, and the easiest. I could not have honestly called myself a Christian at that time, but that is not as important to God as a sinner who will recognize his weakness and turn to Jesus for victory.

Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.

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