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

STORY: Here is a list of diseases caused by a habit: heart diseases, blood vessel disease, high blood pressure, chronic bronchitis, hearing loss, cataracts, obesity, sexual impotence, risk of stoke, lung and laryngeal cancer, emphysema, serious back problems, and faster physical and mental decline. What do you think it is? /// Smoking. Not only these, it causes children under second hand smoke with ear infections, asthma, respiratory distress syndrome, bleeding in the brain, blood infections, conduct disorder, delinquency and possibly crib deaths.

Background:

·         In Holland, smoking marijuana is legally allowed. Anyone can buy a small amount of marijuana from a grocery store and smoke publicly. 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 dedication or dependence TO a master, a devotion, or a compulsion; an overpowering desire to continue a habit

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. To feel normal, the person often increasingly needs more and more of the substance. If any attempt is made to remove the use of the drug, withdrawal symptoms occur. Psychologically and emotionally, the addiction becomes a basic habit of life. When the drug is not used, there are many side effects, from hallucination to intense physical pain.

c.   Factors causing addiction:

·         often a result of escapism – avoiding to confront realities of hardship, discomfort, depression, and failure (at work or relationships)

·         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.

·         God is our Lord and Master. Addiction is equivalent to creating a new master. It is against the will of God (Gal 5:1). A person enslaved by an addiction is in a pitiable state.

o        Like the forbidden fruit, some Christians might like to try and experience them. But a casual trial can be dangerous. Despite scientific research, the process of becoming addicted is still not well understood. Addiction can result in just one try (like a journey of no return). It is therefore wise for Christians to avoid them and abstain totally.

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

a.   Rates of using illicit drugs:

·         Illicit drugs are those drugs whose consumption 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 (much higher than the 7% in 1994). The proportion was 37% for those aged 18-24. For the other 5 illicit drugs, it was 2.4% (higher than the 1.6% in 1994).

·         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 in good health (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)?

o        “Stumble” means more than dislike; it means the loss of faith and/or sinning.

(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 in 2003 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. Marijuana trafficking (of large amounts) and cultivation will still be indictable offences.The Liberal government proposed

·         Admittedly, marijuana causes less harm than other “hard” drugs. However, they bring problems similar to other drugs. In proposing decriminalization, the government in effect encourages the habit and lowers the inhibition of 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 (25% in Quebec, 20% in Ontario, 16% in B.C.). The proportion was 18% for those aged 15-19.

·         In the US, 18% of the population were smokers in 2001; 70% of them said they wanted to quit smoking completely. Another 17% were former smokers.

·         In the US, 22% of high school students were smokers in 2003 (38% tried smoking), much lower than the 36% in 1997 (70% tried smoking in 1997). A likely cause of the decrease is the huge 90% increase in the price of cigarettes between 1997 and 2003.

b.   Harm caused by smoking:

·         Smoking-related diseases claim an estimated 500,000 lives in the US and Canada every year, including those affected indirectly, such as babies born prematurely due to prenatal maternal smoking and those victims of “secondhand” exposure to tobacco’s carcinogens.

·         Cigarettes contain at least 69 distinct cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens). Smoking is directly responsible for 87% of lung cancer cases and causes most cases of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking is also a major factor in coronary heart disease and stroke, malignancies in other parts of the body; slowed healing of wounds, 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. Many full-term babies of smokers have narrowed airways and curtailed lung function.

·         Smoking by parents endangers the health of their children, including exacerbation of asthma, increased frequency of colds and ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome.

·         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. While smoking is not an illegal activity, the risk to health is even greater than illicit drugs.

d.   Attitude toward smoking Christians:

·         Smoking itself is not immoral but it is an “improper act” with consequences that are incompatible with a Christian lifestyle.

·         For Christians who smoke, they need to know the Biblical principles. It 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 acceptance, encouragement, and prayer support from the 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 in ancient times (1Ti 5:23). Wine was used externally as a disinfectant (Lk 10:33-34).

·         However, drunkenness from the effect of alcohol is sin (Ro 13:13; 1Co 5:11; 6:10; Gal 5:21; Eph 5:18; 1Pe 4:3).

b.   Evaluation of drinking liquor:

(1)  Drunkenness is condemned as this can cause temporary impairment of judgment which can then cause other evils (Gen 9:21; 19:30-38; Eph 5:18), such as impaired driving. Heavy drinking can destroy health and cause liver diseases. Some babies born to women who drink during pregnancy have abnormalities such as alcohol syndrome. However, some studies also 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, families, and society including broken marriages, family violence, crime, industrial loss, ill health, injury, and death. Scientific research shows that chronic drunkenness is caused by “varying combinations of psychological, physiological, and environmental factors” so that addiction to alcohol is unpredictable.

(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 still have the habit of consuming alcoholic drinks in celebrations. However, alcohol is also potentially evil (Isa 5:22; Pr 20:1); it can destroy far more often than it heals.