If you haven’t heard it already, you probably will. Someone will surely tell you that the Bible doesn’t say anything about a certain topic. While it may be true that it is never specifically mentioned in the Word, there are many verses that give us Godly principles that can be applied to many different topics. With these verses, we can determine what we should and shouldn’t do; what is right and what is wrong in God’s eyes. These verses not only apply to the so-called “grey areas” but can also be applied to more black-and-white topics.
Paul said, “All things are lawful unto me, but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (I Cor. 6:12) The ESV says “…not all things are helpful…” “…I will not be enslaved by anything.”
- I Thessalonians 5:21, 22 tells us to “Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.“
- Matthew 12:36 says, “Every idle word that man shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment.“
- I Cor 10:31: “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.“
- I Cor 3:16, 17: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.“
- I Cor 8:12, 13: “But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ, wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.“
Paul told us that while some things may have been permissible in and of themselves, he wouldn’t do them because of the way it would look to others. “abstain from all appearance of evil” we are told (I Thessalonians 5:22). If it even has the appearance of being wrong, we ought to at least give serious thought before we do it!
These are interesting principles, but what can they apply to?
1. Drinking alcoholic beverages.
The New Testament says “be not drunk with wine” (Eph 5:18), and it says that elders should not be “given to wine.” Many people take that and say that it is ok to drink alcohol as long as we don’t get drunk. First off, please get out your Bibles and read Proverbs 20:1.
It is well-known that Paul told Timothy to “drink a little wine” for his stomach’s sake, and for his constant infirmities. This verse—which might not even be speaking of alcohol (same Greek word for grape juice)—was a prescription given to a specific person at a specific time for a specific purpose. Even if this is speaking of alcohol, it doesn’t permit it to be used for any and every reason! Is it ok to use morphine and narcotics for medical pain-relieving purposes? Of course. Does that them make it ok to use them just for fun? No way!
Let’s take the topic and apply the earlier mentioned Biblical principles to it. First, if–and that’s a big IF–it is spiritually lawful, is it expedient (or helpful)? Is it profitable (as another translation says)? Will drinking a beer help our soul? Paul says things may be lawful, but he will “not be brought under the power of any” (I Cor 6:12). It’s been scientifically shown that even one drink kills brain cells. We all know that alcohol is addictive, so can someone really drink and “not be brought under the power” of the alcohol? Can we drink alcohol to the glory of God (I Cor 10:31)? Remember, no matter what we do, no matter if we think it’s right or wrong, we will have to answer to God at the day of judgment! Mark 8:36 says, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Is it worth your soul for just a drink?
2. Smoking cigarettes.
This is a topic that most people have opinions on. This is also the topic (outside of worship matters) that most often brings forth the words, “there’s nothing in the Bible that says it is wrong!” Smoking didn’t originate until about 1200-1300 years after the Bible was written. It was first used by American Indians as part of their religious ceremonies. So, obviously, Paul and the other writers had no knowledge of smoking, nor any reason to mention it. But the principles in the Bible can help us discover if it’s ok to smoke.
Once again, we start with Paul’s statement. If indeed it is lawful (as some will say), is it expedient? Is it profitable? Smoking is very addictive, and anyone who smokes is indeed “brought under the power” of smoking. Can we smoke a cigarette to the glory of God? Everyone, by now, is aware that smoking is very harmful to the body. The question then presents itself: Why do people still do it? It is possible to quit. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)
We preach and teach that we are to love one another and show love one for another. We believe we should live by Christ’s words when he said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Second-hand smoke is responsible for approximately 3,000 deaths per year among non-smokers! Are we showing our love for our neighbors if we smoke?
We should also look at the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. We’re shown that God rewards those who are good stewards of what he’s given them. Is it being a good steward to spend the money he’s blessed us with on cigarettes? An average pack costs $4.00 (the average smoker smokes one pack per day), which is almost $1,500 per year! Imagine what good could be done with that money!
When Paul said “not all things are profitable,” he meant it. There are things that do nothing to help the body or the soul, and do nothing to bring others to Christ. Paul also said he would not do something if it offended others (I Cor 8:8-13), in fact he said “While the world stands” he would not do it!
Just ask yourself this: What would you think of someone who went door-to-door with a cigarette in their mouth or a beer in their hand, trying to convert people to Christ?
Indeed, not all things are profitable, and we will give an account to God of every little thing we do. Do all to the glory of God. Let us apply these principles to everything we do in our lives!
(NOTE: this article was first written in 2007, and has undergone some revision since then)