What Does the Bible Actually Say About Smoking, Drinking, and Getting Tattoos?

Since starting this site in 2016 the most popular articles have been the ones that deal with the grey areas of Christianity. You know those topics, the ones people are always arguing about if it’s okay to do or not. At the top of that list is smoking, drinking, and tattoos. (A close second is What Does The Bible Say About Swearing?

So I thought we could go back and look at these three topics again. We’ll look at what the Bible says about drinking, smoking, and getting tattoos.

What Does the Bible Say About Smoking 

Verses About Smoking: None

There’s no Bible verse that specifically talks about smoking, for or against. Many Christians will quote 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 to point to why you should not smoke. On one level that makes sense. Our bodies are a temple and we should care for it. But what about sugar? Should we avoid that too? Let’s take it a step further. If our bodies our temples, then this verse is telling us not to do anything harmful, right? That’s the logical conclusion.

The real problem is this passage isn’t talking about caring for our bodies how we often think of.  If you read the rest of 1 Corinthians 6 you will see that Paul is talking about sexual immorality. He is telling us to honor God with our sexual choices. Not our diet or whether we smoke or not. It’s about honoring God with our sexuality. The argument with this verse is invalid because it’s not even close to what the verse is actually pointing to.

Of course this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about our health, we should. I think you could make the case that God wants us to care for our health and bodies. But the Bible doesn’t tell us in detail how to do that. It’s up to us to decide.

So is it okay for a Christain to smoke? Well the Bible doesn’t give us much direction. Is it a sin? No. Let’s not add rules that God did not put in the Bible. While smoking is certainly unhealthy, it’s not a sin issue. This is a grey area.

What Does the Bible Say About Drinking

Verses About Drinking: Ephesians 5:18, Proverbs 20:1, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Corinthians 6:10, 1 Timothy 5:23, Proverbs 23:20-21, Romans 14:21, Isaiah 5:22, Leviticus 10:9, Ecclesiastes 9:7, 1 Timothy 3:8

The above list is far from exhaustive, but it does show a good mix of what the Bible says. Unlike many Christians who hold strong opinions on drinking, the Bible holds it a lot looser.

If you were to sit down and read every verse that talks specifically about alcohol you would find that Scripture dances around the issue never giving a straight answer. Some verses warn against the danger of abusing alcohol, while others counter with the benefits.

Let’s look at a few examples. In Ephesians 5:18 we read, And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. Here Paul is warning of the dangers of drinking too much. He doesn’t come out and say not to drink, rather not to drink too much.

1 Timothy 5:23 says, Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. I know the arguments against this… But the reality is Paul is saying that there is a benefit, and it’s good, to drink wine.

This is the tension the Bible holds on alcohol. It warns for the dangers, but leaves the final decision in individuals hands.

So is it okay for Christians to drink? Yes, when you read the verses about drinking in context it doesn’t say that we cannot drink. However, I think there is a warning for those that drink too much too often. There’s no verse that says Thou shalt not have more than “x” drinks a day. We ought to be very careful to not add rules to the Christian life that God did not put there.

For more check out: What Does the Bible Say About Drinking Alcohol?

What Does the Bible Say About Tattoos

Scripture Talking Specifically About Tattoos: Leviticus 19:28, Isaiah 49:16, Revelation 19:16

This is mostly a non issue among Christians. However there still are a few groups that hold strong opinions against tattoos. Most will again point to 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 claiming that tattooing is damaging our body which is God’s temple. But the same problems with this argument came up in the smoking section.

The other argument against getting tattoos is Leviticus 19:28. At first glance this verse might seem clear. But a few things to consider. First, this is part of the Old Testament Law (read more about that here: ). Second, you have to read it in context. The tattoos that are being spoken of in this verse were part of a pagan ritual. That’s not what tattoos are today.

The Bible has nothing negative or positive to say about tattoos.

So is it okay for Christians to get tattoos? That’s a personal choice. It’s another grey area of the Bible.

How To Discern the Grey

While we might have the freedom to do these things that doesn’t always mean we should.

Here’s two questions to help you discern these grey areas:

Is this the wisest thing for me to do? 

When you are trying to decide if you should or shouldn’t do something ask yourself this: In this circumstance what is the wisest step for me to take? I think that is a much better question to ask. Life isn’t all black and white, right and wrong; there’s a lot of grey. Rather than asking whether something is right or wrong, ask if it’s wise. It might be okay for you to have a few drinks. But if you struggle with addiction, that’s probably not wise.

Here’s the next question:

How will this affect those around me?

A hard lesson I’ve had to learn is that while I may have the freedom to do something, it still has a consequence. I may lose influence because of the choices I make. On some level you cannot help it. If I choose to drink, some will discredit me. While if I choose not to drink, others will discredit me.

You cannot please everyone, nor should you try. But this question is still valid. There are people in your life that you have the opportunity to positively influence. There are relationships worth holding onto. How will your decision in these grey areas affect people in those circles?

You will never change anyone if you just hold onto your freedoms and do what you want. Sometimes you have to give up something so that you can gain influence in someone’s life to help them see the change they need to make. That’s why Paul said, I will become all things to all people so that I may win a few (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). In order to change someone you must first gain influence in their life which often requires you to give up your freedoms.

We must each look at our lives and decide if it’s the wisest thing for us to do. We must look at who we are influencing and decide if it will gain or lose our influence in their life. We might have the freedom to do something, but that doesn’t always make it the best thing for us to do.

Editors Note: This article was originally posted on July 18, 2016. It has been revamped and updated on January 23rd, 2019.

Jeffery Curtis Poor
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