Browsed by
Category: Uncategorized

Cigarettes, Stupidity, and the Practicality of Christianity

Cigarettes, Stupidity, and the Practicality of Christianity

*This is a post from the archive — from a while back in my Youth Min­istry days.* 

I was dri­ving into the McDonald’s park­way this noon­ish-time, look­ing for­ward to a dou­ble-quar­ter pounder with cheese, large fry, and large Diet Coke. I always order Diet Coke, not because it’s ‘healthy,’ but because I sim­ply like how it tastes. It does seem iron­ic with my usu­al #4 though! As a side note, I was severe­ly let down by the taste of the fries. A dis­ap­point­ment!

As I was pulling in, I hap­pened to glance up into the truck beside me, pulling out. The man was drag­ging on his cig­a­ret­te, and I winced. It remind­ed me of a con­ver­sa­tion we had at youth group many, many months ago, as we were talk­ing about sub­stance abuse. “What does the Bible say about cig­a­ret­te use if you’re 18?” some­one asked. Hon­est­ly, I hadn’t thought about the issue too much, and so I respond­ed, “You know what? It’s real­ly just stu­pid.” My cig­a­ret­te-smok­ing stu­dents were a lit­tle put-off.

Anoth­er stu­dent chimed in with a clas­sic defense of smoke-less-ness, “Doesn’t it say that ‘Your body is a tem­ple of the Holy Spir­it?’ So shouldn’t we treat it bet­ter than smok­ing?”

I’d heard that argu­ment before, and I’ve heard it since. It’s almost as if the orig­i­na­tors of that proof-text didn’t even read the con­text in I Corinthi­ans 6; the pas­sage is about sex­u­al unions. I agree that we should treat our bod­ies with respect, as bless­ings from God; I’m just not sure I Corinthi­ans 6 is the best place to go for evi­dence to that fact.

It all hit me as iron­ic, any­way, prepar­ing to take in a weeks worth of calo­ries, and a lifetime’s worth of sat­u­rat­ed fat. But that’s beside the point.

Much more than stu­pid­i­ty, or poor stew­ard­ship, or a drain on finan­cial resources, though, cig­a­rettes tap into a far greater sin: idol­a­try. I can’t count the num­ber of times I’ve heard the com­ment, “Gah! I’m so stressed… I need a smoke.” Ok, I’ve most­ly heard that on TV, but it’s a men­tal­i­ty I’ve seen evi­denced in many dif­fer­ent peo­ple, and in many dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions.

The real­i­ty is that cig­a­rettes provide a sta­ble norm that peo­ple escape to when­ev­er life gets dif­fi­cult. Other’s escape to hard­er sub­stance, or to movies, friends, books, stud­ies, sports or any­thing else. Try to count through­out a week how many times someone’s respon­se to stress, weari­ness or frus­tra­tions is some­thing oth­er than a total reliance on God.

It’s almost as if we live life think­ing of Chris­tian­i­ty as, “Nice in the­o­ry, but lim­it­ed in prac­ti­cal­i­ty.” Our day-to-day issues are solved with day-to-day, cul­tur­al­ly nor­ma­tive solu­tions — we leave the big, life issues (like, well, most­ly death) to be solved by God.

Where are the Chris­tians who, after a fit­ful and stress­ful day, return home to throw them­selves into prayer? Where are the believ­ers who trust in God to smooth their moun­tain­ous days at work; to ener­gize their souls dur­ing long stretch­es of dif­fi­cul­ty, and who faith­ful­ly, “cast all their cares on Him, because He cares for them?”

The Psalmist recounts his res­cue from des­per­a­tion by say­ing, “I wait­ed patient­ly for the Lord, and he turned to me. He lift­ed me from the pit — from the muck and the mire — and set my feet on a firm foun­da­tion.” The impli­ca­tion is that he wait­ed patient­ly in the muck and mire, trust­ing ful­ly in the com­ing redemp­tion of the Lord. He didn’t turn to idol­a­try, imme­di­ate relief or a ‘quick-fix.’

Isa­iah com­mends us, “Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength — they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary.”

This isn’t to say we need to suf­fer inten­tion­al­ly wait­ing for redemp­tion. I can just see some naive per­son suf­fer­ing through a headache because they’re wait­ing for the Lord, not ibupro­fen. Please, take your ibupro­fen.

But when stress, frus­tra­tions or weari­ness raise their ugly head, run first to the Lord. Run to the Lord, and wait patient­ly on Him. His will is good, His redemp­tion is sure, and His love for you is des­per­ate. Let’s live out the prac­ti­cal­i­ty of Chris­tian­i­ty!