[25]   Wealth (2): Smoking, Drugs & Alcohol

Background:

·       In Holland, smoking marijuana is legally allowed and publicly available. In Canada, 41% of those aged 15 and above admitted of using marijuana some time in their lifetime; 14% admitted of using the other 5 illicit drugs.

113.     Why should Christians avoid addiction?

a.   Definition: Addiction is a giving over or surrendering of control TO a habit or a pursuit.

·         Parallel descriptions: surrender or dependence TO a master or a compulsion

b.   Characteristics:

·         Addiction can be of many kinds, either to the consumption of some substance (such as illicit drugs, tobacco, alcohol) or to an activity (such as gambling or computer games).

·         In the case of substance addiction, the dependence is both physical and psychological. Physically, the metabolism of the body needs the addicted drug in order to function tolerably well. Without the drug, withdrawal symptoms occur. Psychologically and emotionally, the addiction becomes a basic habit of life. When the drug is not used, there are side effects from hallucination to intense pain.

c.   Factors causing addiction:

·         often a result of escapism – avoiding to confront realities of hardship, depression, and failure

·         initial involvement under peer pressure from bad friends, or parents who smoke

·         attempt to obtain a nice sensation (“feeling good”)

d.   Biblical viewpoint:

·         Addiction is described as being “enslaved” (Titus 3:3) or “mastered” (1Co 6:12) in the Bible. It is equivalent to creating a new master. It is against the will of God (Gal 5:1).

114.    Why is it wrong to consume illicit drugs like marijuana or cocaine?

a.   Rates of using illicit drugs:

·         Using illicit drugs is forbidden by law. The most common 6 types are marijuana or cannabis, cocaine or crack, ecstasy, LSD and other hallucinogens, amphetamines or speed, and heroin.

·         In 2002, 12% of Canadians aged 15 and above admitted having used cannabis (37% for those aged 18-24). For the other 5 illicit drugs, it was 2.4%.

·         A US survey reports that 38% of Grade 8 students have experimented with illicit drugs.

b.   Questions used to evaluate whether consuming some substance is morally wrong:

(1)  Is it harmful? As our body is the temple of God, we need to keep it healthy (1Co 3:16-17; 6:19-20).

(2)  Does it enslave (1Co 6:12) and cause addiction?

(3)  Will it cause others to stumble or lead others astray in faith or morals (1Co 8:13; Ro 14:20-21)?

(4)  Is it a proper use of wealth? (as Christians are stewards of God’s wealth)

c.   Evaluation of taking illicit drugs:

·         The Bible never mentions illicit drugs as they were non-existent in Biblical times.

(1)  Illicit drugs has a mind-bending effect, creating illusions and a dream-like state similar to drunkenness. They are harmful to the mind and body and may cause long-term damage. They lead to involvement in sin. As the mind is distorted and out of control, many sins may result, including violence, suicide, and sexual promiscuity. They lower the quality of work or studies. They cause damage to relationships and destroy families.

(2)  They are addictive.

(3)  Using illicit drugs is a crime and may lead to punishment. It may cause others to stumble and follow into addiction.

(4)  They are expensive and are not a proper use of wealth. Many drug addicts need to commit crimes (robbery and theft) to support their habit.

·         Conclusion: Taking illicit drugs is not acceptable for Christians.

d.   Decriminalization of marijuana:

·         In Canada, the Liberal government proposed to decriminalize the consumption of a small amount of marijuana. Instead of charging the offender as a criminal, they would only be fined by tickets.

·         Admittedly, marijuana causes less harm than other “hard” drugs. However, by proposing decriminalization, the government in effect encourages the habit and non-users to try it out.

115.    Is it wrong to smoke tobacco?

a.   Rates of smoking:

·         In Canada, 22% of the population were smokers (smoking daily) in 2001.

·         In the US, 18% of the population were smokers in 2001.

·         In the US, 22% of high school students were smokers in 2003, much lower than the 36% in 1997. A likely cause of the decrease is the huge 90% increase in the price of cigarettes from 1997 to 2003.

b.   Harm caused by smoking:

·         Smoking-related diseases claim an estimated 500,000 lives in the US and Canada every year.

·         Cigarettes contain at least 69 distinct cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens). Smoking is directly responsible for 87% of lung cancer cases and causes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, heart disease and stroke, infertility, degeneration of eyesight, and peptic ulcer disease.

·         Smoking in pregnancy accounts for up to 30% of low-birth weight babies, up to 14% of preterm deliveries, and 10% of all infant deaths.

·         Secondhand smoke is responsible for 3,000 nonsmokers to die of lung cancer in the U.S.

c. Evaluation of smoking:

·         The Bible never mentions smoking as it was non-existent in Biblical times.

(1)  Smoking is extremely harmful to the smokers and non-smokers near them.

(2)  It causes addiction.

(3)  It is bad witness (even socially offensive) and may lead others to smoke.

(4)  Smoking is an expensive habit.

·         Conclusion: Similar to illicit drugs, smoking is not acceptable for Christians.

d.   Attitude toward smoking Christians:

·         Smoking itself is not immoral but it is an “improper act” as a Christian.

·         Smoking is a weakness to be dealt with but not an immoral act that requires serious rebuke.

·         For those who want to get rid of their addiction, they need encouragement and prayer from church.

116.    Is it wrong to consume alcohol?

a.   Consumption of alcohol in Biblical times:

·         The Bible does not prohibits drinking liquor. Alcohol was the common beverage in celebrations. Jesus even turned water into wine in a wedding (Jn 2:1-10).

·         Wine was used as a medicine (1Ti 5:23), was used externally as a disinfectant (Lk 10:33-34).

·         However, drunkenness from the effect of alcohol is sin (1Co 5:11; 6:10; Gal 5:21; 1Pe 4:3).

b.   Evaluation of drinking liquor:

(1)  Drunkenness is condemned as this can cause temporary impairment of judgment leading to other evils (Gen 9:21; 19:30-38; Eph 5:18). Heavy drinking causes liver diseases. However, some studies report that occasional moderate drinking can help to reduce the possibility of heart diseases.

(2)  Drinking liquor can lead to addiction. Once addicted, it causes damages to individuals and families.

(3)  It may lead others to follow and get addicted.

(4)  Heavy drinking can be expensive.

·         Conclusion: Drinking liquor is not immoral. Light responsible drinking is permissible and many people use alcoholic drinks in celebrations. However, alcohol is also potentially evil (Pr 20:1).