A common position among many Christians in America is that the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other types of drugs (marijuana, etc.) is immoral and sinful. Paul seems to indicate that, in the context of food at least, nothing should be considered forbidden:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1–5, ESV)

What, then, is the Biblical basis for why the use of tobacco and other types of drugs are considered by many to be immoral or sinful?

4 Answers 4


Mason Wheeler's answer covers a lot of ground. There are some other approaches to this that are also worth considering though.

One is to look at "the law of the land" - in many countries, many drugs are illegal and therefore the Bible passages that urge us to obey and respect the laws of our countries therefore apply to drug use/misuse as well. (Example passages: Deuteronomy 17:2; Ecclesiastes 8:2-5; Matthew 22:21; 23:2-3; Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-17; 2 Peter 2:9-11).

Another consideration is that self-control is listed as one of the Fruits of the Spirit - something we should strive for. Many drugs diminish, remove or inhibit our ability to control ourselves - either as immediate results of taking them or by causing us to become addicted to them - and this can be construed as a Biblical argument against them.

Thirdly, there is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV):

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

The context of this passage is actually talking about sexual immorality, but it's frequently used to support a wider assertion that we should look after our bodies.


First, beware of false premises. Food provides sustenance to the body. It contains calories and vital nutrients. Drugs do not, so it would be a mistake to equate them with food. In fact, drugs tend to have the opposite effect from food: instead of nourishing the body, they harm it.

Second, simply because "everything created by God is good," that does not mean that every possible use of everything created by God is good. Otherwise, there would be no such thing as sin at all. Hemp contains very useful fibers that make it good for building ropes, for example, and tobacco has medicinal properties that make it quite good for treating bruises. Neither of these require the plants to be taken internally.

Third, as I pointed out in another answer to a related question, a lot of modern drugs were not known in Biblical times, but abuse of the one they did know about, alcohol, is strongly condemned in the Bible. (Including by Paul, the same guy who wrote the 1 Timothy passage quoted in the question.) So it stands to reason that the use of other drugs should likewise be considered sinful.


The use of no substance is inherently sinful, rather it's the state of mind that it produces in the user. If one is engaged in unrighteousness and rebellion against God's glory, then if he smokes marijuana, that will only serve to amplify the feeling of rebellion.

Some drugs are so intensely pleasurable to the flesh that they will suspend one's normal inhibitions against sinning, such as "it's wrong to rob people or steal their stuff," in order to experience the pleasure of the drug again. And many drug users neglect their familial obligations just to repeat the experience of the drug, just to be alone with the substance that they want to use.

But there are some folks, some, believe it or not, who are able to use certain drugs in moderation and not let them take over their lives. The number of people who are able to do this decreases exponentially with the addictive strength of the drug in question. For example, a crack cocaine user has basically zero chance of attaining glorification while using crack. But a marijuana smoker might have a better chance, if he doesn't engage in sinful activities.

This is all with an important caveat: That one must first acknowledge that he is a sinner and has fallen short of the glory of God, and is in desperate need of Christ's saving grace.

There is also another wrinkle to the problem. Certain drugs cause physical dependence. Like for example heroin and the opiates. God undoubtedly created the opium poppy, from which morphine and all the related drugs come, but he did not intend for it to be used as a 24/7 escape from reality. But some people find themselves trapped in that addictive cycle, after having developed a physical dependence on the drugs, because their flesh nature has deluded them into thinking that they are doing something good ("it must be good if it feels so good and helps me to interact with my fellow men on such a mellow plane"). So, would God condemn someone for being sick with diabetes or asthma? No. Definitely not. The same rules for salvation apply to drug users as everyone else. One must accept Christ's sacrifice for their sins and believe on Him in order to be saved.

If one continues to use drugs after he has accepted Christ's sacrifice for him, then it's not a "salvation-breaker," because it's the nature of the behavior that the drug use causes that's the real issue, not the drug use itself.

And I'm going to tie this in with a biblical citation. Where Paul admonishes against drunkenness and sexual immorality (and other particularly grievous sins) in I Cor. 5:11.

This would seem to suggest that just being drunk in and of itself is not a sin per *se*, but rather what one does or thinks while under the influence of alcohol (or any other drug, such as possibly opium - which were the only drugs known to first century people in the Holy Land).

That's just my personal experience.

  • I'm with you that the evil is in the heart not in the created thing, but in your penultimate paragraph, you're saying the sin is no being drunk but the sinful thoughts and actions that occur while in a state of drunkenness. Are these a necessary consequence of drunkenness? If you're a "happy drunk," is it ok to get drunk from time to time?
    – metal
    Jan 8, 2014 at 13:49
  • Ya I think so as long as it doesn't provoke you to engage in too much indecent thoughts (pornography, gambling and really bad sexual promiscuity, sado-masochism), then it's basically o.k. (and by "thoughts" I also mean actually engaging in the behavior).
    – Ztucker
    Jan 9, 2014 at 0:38

Tobacco was not known in the OT, nor in the NT times. It came into various cultures in the Old World (Eurasia and Africa) from the Americas/Western Hemisphere.

Tobacco has long been used in the Americas, with some cultivation sites in Mexico dating back to 1400–1000 BC. {snip} Hernández de Boncalo, Spanish chronicler of the Indies, was the first European to bring tobacco seeds to the Old World in 1559 following orders of King Philip II of Spain.

While the general admonition not to pollute one's self is found in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (...do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you...), the admonitions regarding strong drink are easily referenced scripture for establishing both OT and NT guidance to avoid befuddling the mind with various stimulants/depressants.

  • Leviticus 10:9: Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations:

  • Numbers 6:3: He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.

  • Judges 13:4, 7, 14 4 - Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: 7 - But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death. 14 She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe.

  • 1 Samuel 1:15 And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD.

  • Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

  • Proverbs 31:4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:

  • Isaiah 5:11, 22 11 - Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! 22 - Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:

  • Isaiah 24:9 They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.

  • Isaiah 28:7 But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have
    erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are
    out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.

  • Luke 1:15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

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