“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.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Smoking has always been a hotly debated topic with Christianity. From marijuana to cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, there are an array of opinions on smoking. Most evangelical Christians would regard all forms of smoking as teetering on the brink of sinfulness. This post is not meant to defend cigarette and marijuana smoking, which seems to cater to different parts of the person, but rather the defense of pipe and cigar smoking.
I will begin with saying that smoking from my pipe or having a cigar is something that I enjoy doing occasionally. I do not ever smoke because I need to. Moreover, I do not ever smoke to simply create controversy amongst friends or family. Finally, I am not writing this because I think others ought to smoke, but rather because it is something I have received questions about. For myself, I have learned that cigar and pipe smoking is something that helps counteract the current culture we live in.
In the day and age of instant gratification and constantly moving from one activity to the next, we can often get caught up in the life-draining virtue of efficiency. Yes, life may be more productive with this go-go-go mindset, but I find that it can be ultimately dissatisfying for my entire being. This consistent and speeding lifestyle comes to a screeching halt whenever I have a smoke. A cigar or pipe forces you to slow down. Pipes take time and care to smoke, and a well-made cigar lasts anywhere between an hour or two hours.
From this, I find that these two activities help me dissociate from the busyness of life. Particularly, this helps me take a step back and evaluate myself and where I am. Furthermore, it helps me sit back and appreciate all that is around me and all that God has blessed me with in this life. I once had a cigar while hiking and this helped me sit back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful creation that God had surrounded me with in that moment.
Smoking pipes and cigars also helps me relate to those around me better. Michael P. Foley articulates it as such: “Tobacco… leads to conversation, loosening the tongue just enough to incline it towards speaking, but not enough to disconnect it from the brain.” In other words, tobacco may help with a light relaxation, but is is in no way inhibitory of cognitive faculties. Some of the best conversations that I have had with my friends have come when we put away the phones, light up, and talk into the wee hours of the morning over a smoke.
Not only does it facilitate discussion to draw friends closer, but it also leads to thought-provoking and philosophical conversations unlike any other. Foley writes “the pipe corresponds to the rational part of the soul, which explains why we tend to picture wise figures smoking pipes: the Oxford don surrounded by his great books…” Think, perhaps, of C.S. Lewis smoking his trusty pipe as he pens the words of his great apologetic literature. It would delight me if, whenever I smoked, that it made me as smart as C.S. Lewis. Sadly, it does not. However, I am saying that the pipe caters to a rational and thoughtful part of the person–the same part that motivated Lewis to pen such incredible words. There has not been a single time while smoking that my discussions have not steered towards philosophy and Christianity. As a result, I have some of the most spiritually authentic discussions in my life. Again, this smoking is not to appear cool or to fire-up other people.
I will come, now, to one of the many Scripture passages that people use to claim to sinfulness of smoking, which is 1 Corinthians 9:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” In its broader context, 1 Corinthians as a whole book is geared towards the rebuking of the sexual immorality that was rampant in that specific congregation. Furthermore, these verses relate directly to sexual impurity. To say that they imply the need for Christians to workout, abstain from unhealthy foods, or to never smoke would ultimately be a denial of the importance of context in Scripture. This is a grave claim to make, and it is clear that this verse does not properly apply to this situation.
On top of this, there are certain things that impose risk, as Joe Thorn discusses in his post about cigars. He uses the example of skydiving as being potentially life-threatening, but nonetheless worth the risk. Even more so, he points out that unhealthy diet is now beginning to surpass the ills that come from cigarette smoking. It is also important to point out that cigar and pipe smoking incites far less risk than cigarettes. But we see that there is not an incessant crusade against eating pizza or hot-dogs within the church. This is to show that unhealthy activities, though assuredly unwise in massive proportions, are not morally wrong, but a matter of weighing risks. As Thorn says, I will also say: smoking cigars or from a pipe is not healthy. I am aware of the risks. I have weighed the ills of occasionally smoking a cigar or smoking from my pipe, and I believe them to be something nonetheless fit to do despite the risk. Joe Thorn uses this same scale of riskiness to discuss smoking in a positive light.
All in all, we may come to find out that ethics are not entirely black and white as we thought before. If one reads the Bible and is impressed to believe that smoking is not something they are able to do with a clear conscience, then do not smoke! I believe there is a Christian conscience that is grafted in the minds and hearts of all believers, and it is clear through history that this conscience is never homogeneous as it relates to ethical gray areas. However, for myself, I can light up my pipe or a cigar without thinking that I have violated the will of God. I do not smoke out of despair, I do not smoke to look cool, and I do not smoke to create controversy. I have weighed the risks, and believe this activity to not be inherently sinful or wrong. You mustn’t argue about it now, but I beseech you to at least ponder the thoughts that I have presented.