This topic is one that puzzled me for many years when growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, because my Dad was a heavy smoker, but wanted to learn about God and potentially be blessed as a Christian, in this case specifically as a Witness.
But what sadly is not covered here is the Organisation’s view of smoking, in line with God’s position, and why should that matter you ask?
Before I review this article, let’s look at the organisations view, and see what we can understand what it means to a person that smokes.
To get to the bottom of this, I am taking the notes from the “Shepherd the Flock of God” book, which comes from the very Organisation. Without question it instructs the elders to follow up with anyone that is claimed to be smoking, and that if they don’t give up (usually after 6 months) they will go to an elders judicial committee and if they don’t not repent and actually stop, they will be
1 Dis-fellowshipped if they are an existing JW or 2 Prevented from becoming a JW
Why this is so important to bring up here? Well it is for transparency and context.
We need to know how serious the Organisation’s view is of smoking, as was the case in how my Father was treated and the policy has not changed to this day.
Now of course why this adds so much extra weight, is because if you are out of God’s chosen Organisation, then you are “spiritually Dead”, and that means also that you pretty much have no hope of everlasting life if you cannot give up smoking. Serious indeed. This is Organisation’s view of this matter and it is very clear.
Taking note of the above points, let’s now look at the article.
It starts by highlighting the example of Naoko, for which we have no idea if this is a true story for this review, but let’s give the writer the benefit of the doubt.
Here it explains, here I guess quits because of his understanding of what the Bible had to say about it, quoting 2 Tim 3:16,17 which reads “ All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Now this verse on its own does not explain why one should give up smoking but the article at least admits it is more about what the Bible mentions in other verses, that though do not directly mention smoking, will at least provide an insight, and for this I agree, but let’s see how the article then proceeds.
Point 1 Smoking is Addictive
The article correctly points that smoking is very addictive due to the nicotine content, which is true. And yes there are associated cravings & withdrawal symptoms like other drugs you care to mention. With a clear gap in the article it then quotes Romans 6:16 which reads
“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
Now I don’t know about you, but being a smoker, are you therefore by default a slave in the sense that this verse states? I think this is a bit of a leap of deduction, but I would at least agree you are somewhat come under the addictive nature of smoking, but of course it also depends on what level of addiction we are talking about. So are we slaves to sin here? Well is some sense I would agree but I am not sure this really is what the issue is here.
Anyway we will come back to this point later, and now let’s look at the other 2 Bible passages quoted, namely Psalms 83:18 & 2 Corinthians 7:1
Well I am puzzled what has Psalms 83:18 that’s talks about God’s name got to do with this?
Only that they use it to slip in that God’s name is Jehovah and that’s it! Of course apart from the irrelevance, it is also quite presumptuous to its readers to assume “Jehovah” is God’s name, but let’s leave that question as it is not relevant here.
2 Corinthians 7:1 is a good verse to use here as it says “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
Now in this verse I totally agree that we must purify ourselves, and that smoking is something unclean, and has a harmful affect.
The point ends by using another individual’s example on how they quit, and that it was purely due to his love to please Jehovah and, that as a result of Jehovah’s love for mankind, it gave him the strength to quit.
Sounds all well and good and perhaps it could of been the case, but is that what God provide in the way of helping one quit?
Firstly, where is the mention of Jesus as a helper, and what about God’s Spirit? And not forgetting praying to God for help? Then on top, let’s not forget all those professionals out there that help ones quit, including some of the medical breakthroughs, like nicotine patches etc
I am so amazed at the level of omission, of ways one can get help; to what it does offer, that I am concerned as to the agenda of this article. It simply makes no sense that a claimed well versed believer of the Bible could be so negligent.
Point 2 Smoking Damages the Body
Under this heading it starts by quoting the scientific evidence, which is fine and fully in agreement.
It then mentions Matthew 22:37 about loving God with your whole heart and whole mind, and suggests how can you do that if you do something that defiles your body? OK I agree if some respect of course, but we are talking about people that are addicts, and that likely for the majority were addicts before they became JW, so it is not simply a case that we can point the finger to suggest that they have no or little respect of God, or intentionally are defiling their body. Perhaps they agree and want to quit, but let’s be realistic here, it is not as simple as that, and to think a person can give up because of what they read about God, is simply not getting the point of what God offers to ones as a means of help.
Again the Bible goes far beyond simply offering kind words of love etc, but actually offers direct help, through his son. Consider the following verses
John 16:6 Christ is the way, the life and the truth and then
Matthew 11:28-30 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” (Matthew 21:22)
Are not these verses about what Christ & prayer can do for us, far more effective in helping ones give up smoking? Should we not take up our issues to Christ?
Sadly another example ending this point of the article, about someone that received help by simply having a Bible study. OK sure it will help, but why not be more specific in what from the Bible study would really be beneficial. Again why does the Watchtower not really help and spell this out?
Point 3 Smoking Harms Others
Now this point is straight forward in that of course we all agree that it harms others as well as the smoker, and that would be another reason to give up. Totally get that.
It then highlights a couple of verses about that love for others which is fine and in line with the point already mentioned.
Now it really gets interesting, it then claims that the Oraganisation conduct a Global Campaign to help smokers quit, but surprising does not provide any detail to support this. I can only assume that because every elder, Kingdom hall fully forbids smoking, and highlights Jehovah’s view of defiling one’s body, that in this way it helps.. Hmm not so convinced myself due the reasons I alluded to earlier.
The article them explains that through God’s Kingdom that all those responsible for enslaving people to smoking will be destroyed. Amazing comment, that again it assumes that it can read into the hearts of men to determine that, and that it has the authority to make that claim. It possibly may be true, but wait a minute what about if a person was responsible but subsequently repented, and came to Christ?
If the above points don’t concern you, especially over what is seems to deliberately omit, then the last paragraph really should make you stop & think.
It attempts to claim that by 1 learning to love Jehovah and his views on smoking 2 Jw’s will provide you with the practical assistance to help to learn & apply Bible principles 3 Jehovah will provide you with the power & strength you need, quoting Philippins 4:13
Now I am sorry but this is truly a very poor attempt to use Gods word to help ones quit smoking. So if for some reason you are still not sure why, let me spell it out
1 Leaning to Love Jehovah’s & his views on smoking
So why only mention Jehovah the Father, when in fact he give us his Son to provide with the way, the help etc see earlier passages. What also about prayer?
2 Jehovah’s witnesses will provide practical Help? Really?
Don’t get me wrong I am sure some could be of help, but if they are to be obedient to the Organisation, then sadly they would actually have to follow diligently this articles advice, despite the major omissions !!
3 Jehovah will provide the power & the strength
OK I agree but again why only mention Jehovah the Father in this context?
Let us look at the verse sited, Philippians 4:13
“ I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Now is it the Father being mentioned here? no it clearly when you read this verse in context, refers to Jesus. Unbelievable.
So in summary, I find this article quite shocking, in its lack of transparency, omissions and context.
To not mention the value of Jesus in dealing with this issue is quick simply unacceptable. You cannot get to the Father without going to Christ. Christ is the way. The truth & life. Christ is the one you go to if you are burden down.
No mention of going to any professional that could offer very good practice help, again unbelievable omission. Context, here the JW writer tries to label every smoker as someone that has no respect of love of God, based on the examples it quotes. But that is clearly not true, as mentioned, it may be that the person loves God but is finding it really hard to give up. Who has the right the judge, only Christ? In terms of transparency why do they not mention their very strict policy, that if over around 6 months you do not give up, you are literally dis-fellowshipped as a JW, or not allowed to become one if that was your intention.
Then as mentioned at the beginning, if you do not give up after around 6 months, irrespective of what is in your heart, you will be cast out of God’s so called organisation , and lose your hope of eternal life. Very judgemental and authoritarian. Apologies for repeating this point but I feel it is warranted.
So why is the Organisation so strong about this? Now I agree that it is a bad habit and every Christian should try to give up, but who are any of us to judge, and worse still to remove them from God and his gift of salvation, because he smokes?
If you are really troubled in giving up smoking and need help, I do not recommend this article for the reasons given; but instead pray to God and lean on Christ for help, asking for his sprit to provide you with the strength. The only thing I agree in this article is the Father will help, but it is through his Son that this is possible.
One last point if I may, if God does not say that you cannot enter God’s kingdom because you smoke or commit a certain Sin, then why can anyone else make that claim? God clearly deals with this in a different way and that is down to the personal relationship with God, and that there is nowhere in the Bible where is says that any man can step in and take the place of Christ. Instead we should show love to these ones, and help them properly and not be judgemental In this way.