Smoking Cigars to the Glory of God

I intend to smoke a good cigar to the glory of God before I go to bed tonight. – Charles Spurgeon

I love good cigars. The taste of a long-filler, hand-rolled premium cigar is, to my pallet, simply sublime.

I enjoy the craft of a good cigar (not the cheap-o machine made dogs). I revel at the opportunity to explain to the uninitiated-but-intrigued the difference between the filler, the binder and the wrapper, and the role each plays in the subtly and complexity of a cigar worth smoking.

I love the experience of smoking a cigar. Like a good meal, a cigar with friends provides a necessarily prolonged time of calm, perfect for discussion and dialogue (I’ve had some of the best conversations of my adult life in the presence of cigars).

And when by myself, the 45 minutes to an hour it takes to smoke a premium cigar is one of the most contemplative, nourishing, reflective, recalibrating sections of my otherwise busy and noisy days. When I’m home, it’s more often than not that I will slip out to my backyard (I do live in San Diego, after all) to relax, unwind, and think about the day—while puffing on a hand-rolled beauty.

I don’t want to over-spiritualize it, but cigars—for me—are one component of a deeply satisfying and sustainable life. And, like Spurgeon, I consider them a gift, assistance to the life I want, and, well: life-giving.

I have, occasionally, been called out on my tattoos by well-meaning Christians completely misinterpreting Leviticus 19:28. A few times, I’ve been asked to remove my earrings, in a church context where they’re considered inappropriate on a man.

But when fellow Christians find out I’m a cigar smoker, the most I usually get–even from those who would never think of partaking—is a disapproving chuckle.

I think that’s because, deep down, most thoughtful Christians realize an anti-cigar stance is a tough one to support biblically.

The most common pushback against cigars, from Christians misusing the Bible, is to reference the “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” bit from 1 Corinthians 16. Of course, this is a good and helpful teaching. It just doesn’t have anything to do with cigars! Paul is referring to sleeping with prostitutes in that passage. And even if we broaden it to a general spiritual principal, there is no significant health risk in moderate cigar smoking (cigar smoke, in case you don’t know, is not meant to be inhaled, and doesn’t contain the nasty—and addictive–stuff found in cigarettes).

The only biblical bit that gives me pause, when it comes to cigar smoking, is the stumbling block question (which makes me a little nervous to even write this article!).

Once, on the pastoral team retreat for a large church where I worked (we had about 25 pastors on our team), my sub-group, including the children, youth, and young adults pastors all had one of our meetings outdoors with cigars. I was the Executive Pastor at that church, and my peer, the Executive Administrator, called me out on it in a meeting we had with the Senior Pastor. The Senior Pastor responded: “I want you to give me one biblical justification for your objection. And don’t even try to use the stumbling block passage; because, if any of our pastors aren’t mature enough that this would be a stumbling block to them, they shouldn’t be on our staff.” I loved that Senior Pastor.

Still, as a youth worker, this is a question, and a biblical principle, I have to take very seriously. While I know that cigars aren’t addictive (any more than food, and certainly less addictive than coffee or Twitter), I also know that the students I work with don’t have the discernment to see the difference between cigars and cigarettes and excessive use of alcohol and a host of other things I don’t want them partaking in. So I use caution and restraint, and I’m careful to be aware of my context.

I’m not trying to convince you to smoke cigars. If you have other regular ways to enjoy the goodness of God’s creation; if you have others ways to enjoy regular, extended quiet conversations with friends; if you have other ways to quietly unwind at the end of a day and reflect; and if none of those things is unnecessarily addictive or harmful, enjoy them. Enjoy them to the glory of God!

25 thoughts on “Smoking Cigars to the Glory of God”

  1. Thanks, Marko, for that explanation. While you’ve never caused me to stumble (i.e. anger towards you, tempted to go smoke any sort, etc.) because of your cigar smoking, I’ve always questioned the wisdom of it for a variety of reasons. Your explanation helped me tremendously in a variety of ways to better understand what and why you do it, as well as was a good reminder to do what we do for His glory. Well written. And maybe someday I’ll consider smoking a good pipe, which I’ve always thought a much better contemplative tool than a cigar… but that’s having never tried either. Thank you.

  2. I enjoyed a beer and a bonfire last night to the Glory of God! It was a beautiful way to end a good day.

  3. There is a very well known A-list CCM artist who’s doctor told him to keep smoking cigars because it was the only time during the week that he would slow down and calm down. In effect, cigars are good for his heart.
    They are good for mine (and yours!) too…
    Now if I could only get the invite to his walk-in (!!!) humidor…

  4. Dude…. The Biblical mandate is not to make your “brother” throw up when hand them a Cuban that is way to powerful.

  5. Interesting. A few years back I was on the pastoral staff at a church from what I would describe as a conservative denomination. I went to the first pastor-elder leadership retreat, and the experience was…interesting. We stopped for dinner on the drive into the mountains. All but two of the men ordered beer (including the drivers). I was the only pastor not to partake. After we arrived and unpacked, the senior pastor suggested that we run over to the local bar and hang out. Three men chose not to go, again I was one of them. The senior pastor was open about enjoying cigars at night, and his beer, and explained it much the way you did Marko. And here is what I ask after these, and many other such experiences, that seem to be typical within US churches – how are we different from everyone else out there who is smoking cigars (cigarettes, vaping, or whatever) and drinking beers (wine, margaritas, or whatever)? Are these behaviors somehow redeemed by conversations or reflections about “spiritual” things? Now, I’m not inked or pierced, nor do I smoke or drink. I don’t see anything expedient in those things, so I abstain. I do not judge, but simply ask where is the benefit from training one’s body to accept tobacco and alcohol? Pardon me, but I just don’t see it. I understand freedom, but observe license. And I am concerned about where our example will lead the next generation. The photo of the boy with the cigar is not encouraging…

  6. Cigar smoking IS addictive. The Mayo Clinic, among other sources, makes this clear. You certainly have the right to choose this as a way to relax, but I hope the youth you are leading do not follow your example in this area.

  7. hey rick — i’m not responding to most comments on facebook or here; but your warrants a response both for some agreement and some pushback:
    1. first — i wholeheartedly support your choice to abstain. and, i, also, am not a fan of duplicity.
    2. second — the ‘kid’ in the photo (using your word) is my 18 year old son, Max. this photo caught a very special moment — Max and I took a father/son adventure trip a couple months ago, traveling to Easter Island (on Easter, coincidentally!). it was something of a ‘welcome to adulthood’ trip where i was enjoying that our relationship with changing as he heads off to college. we had a cigar together while enjoying the gorgeous sunset on our final evening there. i’m sorry you weren’t ‘encouraged’ by that photo — and while that trip wasn’t intended as an encouragement to others, it’s amazing how much positive response i received about how encouraging it was to others (here’s a blog post about it: http://whyismarko.wpengine.com/why-im-traveling-to-easter-island-with-my-son-today/)
    3. finally — while i completely and without reservation support (and would stand by you in) your choice to abstain, i don’t think choosing to abstain from alcohol (or tattoos or cigars or whatever) is the best application of how we’re supposed to be different (again, using your language). we’re called to be different in how we love others.

  8. One of the best days of my sabbatical a few years back was enjoying lunch and a cigar with you! It would be wonderful to do that again someday, God willing. When is the next time you’re on the west side of Michigan?

    Found a couple a good new ones • Isla del Sol and Asylum Insidious!

  9. This evening I shall smoke a GOOD cigar to the glory of God and in honor of Marko’s great article.
    Here’s the thing, even Charles Spurgeon said he would give up these things if it caused someone to stumble, and I believe Marko and I would as well. Would those who criticize be as likely to give up their self righteous indignation as well? Me thinks not.

  10. Marko – my bad for assuming the “boy” in the photo was a student! He looks much older than the photo of him in the family pic on the right. Obviously, I have no business weighing in on how you choose to raise your children, so please accept my apologies for that blunder. I hope that offense can by forgiven.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond – I did not read any condemnation in your words, and I appreciate that.

    I agree that the best application of how we Believers are supposed to be different is by loving people well, as Jesus did. Unfortunately we don’t get opportunities to interact will all people, so it is hard for us to express our love for them. There are lost people looking for Jesus, and God’s design is for them to find Him through His people. But I ask, are we “blending into our culture” so much so that we become less obvious Christians, and therefore hard to find? This is a question for each person to contemplate, and not as an excuse to set a universal standard that would lead to judgement.

    I also posed two other questions; “Are these behaviors somehow redeemed by conversations or reflections about ‘spiritual’ things?” Knowing that the adverse affects of smoking and drinking alcohol are well documented, so much so that the law forbids people under the age of 21 from partaking (CA anyway), how can we adults practice that which we forbid our children to? It’s not context/design driven, like sex in marriage (our bodies do not become immune at the age of 21). If it is OK for me to partake, than why is it not OK for my kids? That leads to disconnect, and I do not want to lose credibility (which is difficult to gain, but easy to lose). The other question, “where is the benefit from training one’s body to accept tobacco and alcohol,” relates to this.

    Now, I understand that this conversation can run wild – we can start talking about everything from driving your car above the posted speed limit (guilty!) to eating processed foods with GMO’s – and that would be understandable. But, in my response I simply shared what I have been observing for years (30+ in ministry) through a brief story, and then asked three questions. This is hardly “self-righteous indignation.”

    If we cannot examine ourselves, and engage the Body in dialogue that promotes the same, then we run the risk of losing our effectiveness as disciple makers. And this is just one way that we can love each other well within the Body of Christ, for the good and welfare of His kingdom. Peace, my brother.

  11. I literally just had a person in my church screenshot an event that I shared on Facebook that mentioned beer and suggested that I don’t share such events. The disconnect between being one’s authentic-self and this ideal of what a youth pastor should do or look like is crazy. I don’t think it’s a good idea to drink or smoke in front of you youth kids on a Wednesday night youth group meeting. However, if I were have a drink with their parents or in a public place, I think there’s value in them seeing you practice safe/healthy/responsible ways in dealing with alcohol and tobacco. Thanks for this blog!

  12. Great to find your blog which my wife told me I had to read via a friend she has on Facebook. If you’re ever in Iowa, stop by for a stogie and some really good conversation on the back porch. Great post. Cheers!

  13. My understanding of the “rest of the story” from Spurgeon’s love for cigars is that once, upon passing a cigar shop with a sign in the window advertising the great preacher’s brand of cigar with a sign stating something akin to “the preferred cigar of Pastor Spurgeon,” he decided not to ever smoke another one. The influence we have on others is something he certainly considered at that point.

  14. Marko,

    I really appreciated you sharing this. We have similar sentiments here at our church. In fact, we have a small group that meets monthly called, Holy Smokes. What has been pretty cool is that this group has allowed for several guys to bond together that wouldn’t normally have met or been connected otherwise. We usually have some good food and enjoy a cigar usually in someone’s backyard. We have one guy that opens his company’s warehouse to host us during the cold months. It has been neat to have some deeper conversations of what it means to be Godly men who want to grow in their faith and manhood all while enjoying something that would bring them together. Most recently last month, we had a guy come who has “little” connection to the church other than his wife is heavily involved. It was neat that this became an event that he was interested in coming to and ending up engaging in some deeper spiritual conversation.

    Next time you are in the Philly area, hit me up and we can share a cigar. I have a hand-rolled Cuban that has your name on it.

  15. I have a ministry that meets in a cigar/wine cellar and we also do HeBrews that meets at local craft beer establishments and share cigars…so I guess basically I’m screwed. God’s not going to like that were reaching people and having conversations about faith and life.

    Did anyone ever think that in order to get “guys” back in church you NEED to DO “guy things?” This watered-down version of American Christianity isn’t what Jesus had in mind at all! Where did He hang? Who did He hang with? Why did he provide wine for a first miracle…under His Mom’s request? You know, maybe Christianity has lost its soul and the self righteousness shown here is testament to that.

    I’ll just reach people where they are…and have a Cohiba to the glory of God!

  16. I’ve never been able to figure out the thinking of Christian leaders who seem to exult having their photo taken with a cigar or a beer in their hand. I am against legalism of any kind and I know the meaning of Christian liberty under the Gospel, but must one go out of their way to show the world they’re a regular guy and God forbid, anything but a pietist? I live in the mid-south where smoking and drinking are frowned upon by many evangelicals. Is it too much to ask that we refrain from flaunting our freedom and cease to scoff at those who believe that they would be compromising their Christian walk by indulging in practices that we know are acceptable if done in moderation? While one should not be quick to take offense, neither should we deliberately give offense to those who sincerely believe that smoking and drinking are questionable practices and present a poor witness to an unbelieving world.

  17. If I see a great piece of chocolate behind a counter in a small bakery, I’m going to buy it and eat it. Do i need it? Of course not…. but it tastes amazing. If I see a beautiful cigar in a humidor in a small shop, I’m going to buy it and smoke it. Do i need it? Of course not…. but it tastes amazing!

    Now, one of these is CULTURALLY acceptable in the church… and one is not. Please tell me why?

  18. Rick, Herb and Friardan, God bless you for your wisdom and love for the Lord……I sense the spirit of the One and True Living God working in you mightly…..I see you are children of God……

  19. o Josh, do you need this or that? No, but it tastes amazing so you take it, use it…..Dude, you need the baptism of the the spirit…

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