As a little child, I remember learning and loving a song we would sing at Vacation Bible School time and sometimes during the weekly Bible class time. You may know the song:
Don’t drink booze, don’t drink booze,
Spend your money on a pair of shoes.
Please don’t smoke, please don’t smoke,
Feed your tobacco to a billy goat.
Please don’t curse, please don’t curse,
I can’t think of anything that’s worse.
Be polite, be polite,
Always treat other people right.
Worship God, worship God,
Don’t go Sunday with a fishing rod.
Even as a tyke, I knew I was being indoctrinated about the perils of using alcohol, tobacco, and curse words as well as the need for courtesy and faithful attendance. It so happens that I could see the logic in the lesson it taught.
The Associated Press reports that Omega, a 12-year-old chimp, has developed a nicotine addiction from his cage at a Lebanese zoo. Omega has not had an ordinary life, even for a chimpanzee in captivity. He began life as an entertainer in a local restaurant (you can’t make this stuff up!), where he smoked cigarettes until he was too big and strong for that gig. The last 10 years have been spent at the zoo, where he waited for those moments when a visitor would toss him a cigarette inside his cage. Animal rights activists are rescuing him, putting him on an Emirates airline flight, and relocating him to a sanctuary in Brazil where it is presumed they will try to rehabilitate him and break his smoking habit.
Omega cannot be held responsible for an unhealthy choice he cannot possibly weigh and rationalize. Tobacco is an addictive substance, providing a short-term pleasure and creating a dependency that increases with continued use. He is not made in God’s image (cf. Gen. 1:27), and he has no heaven to gain or hell to lose (cf. Matt. 25:31ff; 2 Cor. 5:10). We, on the other hand, have been given stewardship over time, money, talents, and other resources, including our bodies (1 Cor. 6:19-20). There are a myriad of choices we make that can harm those bodies, from overeating to drug abuse to tobacco use. We do not want to make deliberate choices that wear down or weaken those bodies in which we are to be found wholeheartedly serving the Lord. The list of poor health conditions related to the effects of long-term, regular smoking is very long.
Beyond that, we should not want to be enslaved to anything or anyone other than our Lord and righteousness. How sad to see a chimp reduced to taking a drag from a used cigarette. Sadder still is to see people made in the image of God reduced to nervous, distressed, agitated messes for want of another smoke. Let us work not to let cigarettes or any other earthly thing make a monkey out of us!