Cigarettes and Cupcakes
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 1 Corinthians 10:23
When I was a teenager, I was at a local gas station when I witnessed a member of our church smoking. I was shocked. I’d thought he was a Christian, but after that incident, I wasn’t so sure. Real Christians don’t smoke. I don’t think I’d ever actually been taught that, but I knew smoking was unhealthy and therefore, a sin. It seemed to me that to habitually sin and to do it so boldly in public, must be the mark of one who is lost.
In retrospect, there were a couple of possible flaws in my logic. First, is the assumption that smoking is a mortal sin. The Bible doesn’t directly address the practice, so any judgment we make is an extrapolation from other passages. There are certainly verses that say that we’re not to be enslaved to anything (1 Corinthians 6:12) and that our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). According to such reasoning, any habitual unhealthy behavior which we practice, is self-destructive and therefore, sinful.
The second problem with my logic then, is that there are an awful lot of things I do which fall into this category. For instance, this was graduation weekend, and after my daughter’s party I found myself with a lot of extra cupcakes. I love frosting and I just had to try all the flavors – several times. I didn’t eat the cupcake. I just ate the frosting right off the top. As I stepped on the scale this morning, I was forced to reflect upon my loss of self-control. I knew frosting was unhealthy and I knew that my body is a temple. But still, I stuffed myself – and the Holy Spirit – with an awful lot of frosting.
So, the Bible doesn’t directly address cigarettes and cupcakes, but it does give us some guidance on how to approach such things. In today’s passage, Paul addressed these gray areas, insisting that there are some things we can do, but which, for our own good, we should choose not to do.
With every decision, we should ask, Does this improve my spiritual health? Does this push me towards myself or towards God? Towards the old life or the new one? Daily, we make choices that build us up or tear us down. Frosting and tobacco may not be evil in themselves. There may be an appropriate time to enjoy a cupcake. When faced with such decisions though, we must ask if a thing leads us to, or away from, the life for which we were made.