In 1874, Christian World Magazine reported a curious exchange between itinerant preaches Dwight Pentecost and Charles Spurgeon taking place upon a joint appearance at a worship service. Pentecost included in his sermon an impassioned tale of heeding God’s call to give up smoking, as it impeded his piety. Many saw this testimony as a passive aggressive dig at Spurgeon, himself a well-known cigar smoker.
When Spurgeon took to the pulpit, this is what he said:
Well, dear friends, you know that some men can do to the glory of God what to other men would be sin. And notwithstanding what brother Pentecost has said, I intend to smoke a good cigar to the glory of God before I go to bed to-night. If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, “Thou shalt not smoke,” I am ready to keep it; but I haven’t found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it’s as much as I can do to keep them; and I’ve no desire to make them into eleven or twelve.The fact is, I have been speaking to you about real sins, not about listening to mere quibbles and scruples. At the same time, I know that what a man believes to be sin becomes a sin to him, and he must give it up. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” [Rom. 14:23], and that is the real point of what my brother Pentecost has been saying.
Why, a man may think it a sin to have his boots blacked. Well, then, let him give it up, and have them whitewashed. I wish to say that I’m not ashamed of anything whatever that I do, and I don’t feel that smoking makes me ashamed, and therefore I mean to smoke to the glory of God.
I believe most anything can be done to the glory of God, so long as we are not doing it idolatrously and so long as we are doing it in awe of and gratitude to God for his good gifts to us.
As an occasional cigar smoker for going on 5 years, I have some thoughts on how one might partake of cigars to the glory of God. Here are a few.
1. Smoke slowly and reflectively, as part of the discipline of contemplation on God’s word.
2. Smoke outside and thank God for the skies and the clouds and the grass and the trees.
3. The proper storage of good cigars takes regular monitoring and care (humidification, temperature, etc.). Mindfulness and intentionality are virtues lacking in the modern Church, and we can thank God that taking care of cigars helps cure “hurry sickness.”
4. Good tobacco is cultivated, cured, and rolled by hard working men and women in parts of the world most of us will never visit. I think about this every time I smoke a cigar, what calloused, hard-working, talented hands created my cigar. Pray for those people, that God would grant them long life and health and happiness, and thank God for them and their giftedness.
5. Thank God that he makes places in the world specifically conditioned to produce perfect tobacco: the right climate, the right soil, the right farmers. There are no coincidences.
6. Don’t inhale cigar smoke into your lungs.
7. Smoke with good Christian friends, laughing a lot and talking about things that matter (and don’t), and thank God for fellowship. As someone who does this regularly, I can say there is almost nothing more comforting to my soul than smoking stogies long into the night and just enjoying the camaraderie of good Christian friendship.
8. Marvel that someone along the way figured out how to turn the tobacco plant into a cigar (or pipe tobacco) and see that human ingenuity and creativity is a result of being made in the image of God.
9. Pick a spot in your Bible. Light your cigar. Start reading and don’t stop until you’re smoking a nub. Beats using an hourglass or timer.
10. Take two outside. Light one up. Wait for your neighbor to come outside, then offer him the other.