You probably have assumed it is your responsibility to decide what is right for you. And you couldn't be more wrong! Here's why!
THE TOBACCO industry recently placed a thought-provoking advertisement in major U.S. magazines. The ad concerned the subject of cigarette smoking. In the ad was an offer for a free booklet examining the issues involved in the smoking controversy. Near the end of the ad came the following statement: "We offer it [the booklet] to you in the belief that full and free discussion of these important public issues is in the public interest. And that in matters of adult social customs, the vast majority of fair-minded Americans honor individual freedom of choice." At the very bottom of the page, in large bold type, was a final admonition: "WEIGH BOTH SIDES BEFORE YOU TAKE SIDES." It is not our purpose to question anyone's right to advertise. But it is our purpose to make our readers think about what they read — to think about the big issues of life. And this ad did touch on one of the big issues of life. The ad's wording stayed away from the question of right versus wrong. Instead, it spoke of "taking sides." The ad portrayed the smoking-nonsmoking issue not as a question of right and wrong, moral or immoral, but simply a matter of personal taste and choice. What about it? Is right and wrong involved in the smoking question? Or is deciding whether or not to smoke in the same category as deciding what to have for breakfast or what color of shirt to wear? What does the Bible have to say about right and wrong in this or any other subject, and what about "individual freedom of choice"?
No Questions More Crucial
Everyone today has opinions. Just name a controversial issue: smoking, abortion, premarital sex, drug use, women's rights, homosexuality. Everyone has a view, and there is always a human "authority" to support any side of any issue. How many times have you heard someone say, "The way I see it is"? It is not surprising, therefore, that the Bible has much to say on the subject of opinions and personal choice. The important questions of individual freedom of choice and right versus wrong are addressed at the very beginning of the Bible. All have read or heard the story of the two trees in the garden of Eden. God placed there two symbolic trees: the "tree of life" and the "tree of knowledge of good and evil" (Gen. 2:9). But have you ever stopped to consider the great meaning of these two trees? God said to Adam and Eve that they could freely eat of the trees in the garden — including the tree of life — except for one tree. And of that tree God commanded them not to eat. That was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17). The tree of life, as often explained in these pages by Plain Truth Editor-in-Chief Herbert W. Armstrong, symbolized a life of obedience to God, of obeying what he has declared to be right. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, on the other hand, symbolized man's deciding for himself — apart from God — what is right and what is wrong. That tree typified man's taking to himself the prerogative of defining good and evil. That's why it was called the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." The first humans received clear instructions from God. But notice! God then left it up to them to decide whether they would do what was commanded them. He had no intention of forcing them to obey him. He gave them full freedom of choice! Understand this important point! God gave Adam and Eve the liberty to choose whether to obey or to disobey — but NOT to determine for themselves what was right and what was wrong! There is a big difference! Adam and Eve chose to disobey God's clear instructions. God had shown them his way. They chose, instead, to go their own way — which was really Satan's way, for that great archangel had pioneered the way of rebellion against God (Isa. 14; Ezek. 28). God had given them the privilege of disobeying. But in so doing they also had to suffer the consequences of disobedience (Gen. 3:16-24). Ever since Adam and Eve ate the "forbidden fruit," mankind has continued wrongly to take to itself God's prerogative of defining good and evil. God is allowing it only for a time. Under Satan's tutelage, Adam's progeny has been eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for nearly 6,000 years. Humans have followed their own traditions, their own philosophies of life, rather than the way of God. The sorry record of those six millennia — written in blood, sweat and tears throughout the pages of history — is clear. God has permitted the, world to go its own way to learn a great lesson: that Satan's way of competition, of deciding for oneself what is right and what is wrong, of rejecting the law and government of God, can in the end bring nothing but disaster.
In rejecting the revealed knowledge of God, man has had no alternative but to rely on his own humanly devised approaches to life that appear right to him. That's why the world is beset with so many differing opinions of what is right on controversial issues! Notice the biblical warning in this regard: "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12). Just because you might think something is right doesn't make it so! The world is in confusion! It has cut loose from the foundational anchor that would have prevented it from drifting into the turbulent waters of moral and spiritual chaos. God is the Author of right and wrong! He is the Lawgiver. It is not a matter of personal decision after "weighing the issues." The determination of right and wrong is not left up to the whim of the individual! It is God's prerogative and his alone! To those who are willing to be guided by God's revealed written Word, the answers to the major moral and social questions of our time are easily discovered. God clearly sets out right from wrong in the pages of Scripture! He then gives us the free moral agency — the "individual freedom of choice" — to choose which way to go. Notice Deuteronomy 30:19: "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live." God commands us to choose life. Anyone who refuses to do so is in defiance of God! But he will not force us. Each one of us must make a decision whether to obey God or not. And it is he who decides what is the right choice — not we ourselves!
What About Smoking?
It is not a matter of "weighing the issues" involved on various sides of a question. It is simply a matter of choosing between two clear alternatives. Take the example of smoking tobacco or marijuana. There is no need for a "full and free discussion of these important public issues" because God has already decided the matter! Cigarette smoking, of course, was unknown in biblical times. But God's law is "exceeding broad" (Ps. 119:96). It covers, in principle, every aspect of daily life, for any time in history. From a biblical standpoint, smoking is clearly wrong. It is wrong because of what it does to the smoker and wrong because of what it does to those around him. The Plain Truth has periodically expounded in-depth the scriptural precepts bearing on the question of smoking. Smoking is addictive and as such is detrimental to one's character. It is a dirty habit and is an expression of self-desire and a means of self-gratification, from which one derives temporary pleasure at the expense of long-term health and character considerations. It is a violation of the command against lust (Rom. 7:7). Smoking, moreover, is more than just an annoyance to others — it is a health hazard to those nearby who breathe the smoke. It is certainly not an expression of outgoing love, which "worketh no ill to his neighbor" (Rom. 13:10).
Our world today is aptly described by the words the prophet Samuel anciently used to portray the nation of Israel. Read them, in Judges 21:25: "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes." The sorry consequences, then as now, were readily apparent. This long-standing rebellion against God's way of life will bring human civilization to the very brink of annihilation! (For a look at what lies ahead in Bible prophecy, read our free booklet The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last) But at the last moment, Jesus Christ will intervene in this world's affairs to save mankind from self-destruction and begin setting things right. Mankind will at last be forced to confront its history! The contrast between the 6,000 years of man's deciding for himself what is right and wrong and the coming millennial rule of the government of God on earth will leave no doubt. No longer will mankind grope in darkness for its own standards of right and wrong. All peoples will know, at last, the true source of law and morality. "And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Mic. 4:2). The perfect law of God will become the very cornerstone of the Kingdom of God. Then, unlike today, "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:9). God has set before you two ways of life: the way of obedience and blessing, or disobedience and cursing. For those who are willing, God offers the benefits and blessings of his way of life now! Read our free booklets The Ten Commandments and Why Humanity Cannot Solve Its Evils. The choice is yours!