I am a smoker and have limitations as to where I can and cannot serve in
my church. I can head up the children’s church but cannot sing in the
praise and worship band. Please help me to understand this.

It is very difficult for me to comment on your specific church situation,
as I do not know you personally or even what kind of church you are
involved with. I will say that the leadership of a church certainly has a
responsibility to be sure that those who are in public roles such as a
choir or a worship band and especially those who are involved in teaching
the Bible to the children are good spiritual examples. Scripture passages
such as James 3 and 1 Timothy 2 and others establish the need for those in
a leadership role to be exemplary in their Christian walk.

I will be honest with you to admit that there is no specific passage of
scripture which says “smoking tobacco is a sin.” This should not be
surprising, since at the time of the writing of the New Testament, tobacco
was not even know to exist in Europe or Asia. Scripture never says that
heroine addiction is wrong either. The Bible simply could not list every
possible sin. However, there are a number of biblical principles which
would very strongly point toward smoking being a sin. One could mention
the biblical maxim that “the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor
6:9), and that we should not destroy that temple. One could mention the
principle that we should not let anything be our master, as Paul taught,
and smoking is clearly a highly addictive habit. One could also mention
the principle of setting an example of spirituality to others (1 Timothy
4:12) and of not being a stumbling block to others (Rom 14:20-24).
Clearly, a smoker cannot confidently present themselves as a great
spiritual example, and certainly they could be a stumbling block to those
who are aware how dangerous to oneself and obnoxious to others smoking is.
Lastly, it is impossible to imagine Jesus Christ puffing on a cigarette on
a regular basis. Our clear goal is to be like him.

Having laid out these biblical principles, I would have to say that if I
happened to be the person in charge of the children’s ministry in your
church and I was aware that you were a smoker, I definitely would not put
you in a position to head children’s church. In fact, I believe you should
find it in yourself to either quit smoking or to have the humility to
resign your position leading children’s church. This is not to say that
you are any more of a bad person than anyone else. Clearly, all of us are
sinners, but I believe that you must deal with your own character in this
area before you can really help other people in a public church role. I
pray that you will turn to God for the strength and conviction to end this
sinful habit.

John Oakes, PhD

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