“And their word will eat as doth a canker…” (2 Timothy 2:17a)
I recently watched a documentary about the adverse effects of tobacco products, namely smokeless tobacco or “chew.” In this documentary, the images were quite shocking. Something the tobacco industry never tells you – the truth – was revealed in vivid detail, tobacco causes cancer.
I heard testimony from current and former users of the various products on the market, explaining how they began to use tobacco. Many believed the advertisements that showed successful, popular, powerful people using the products as if these products were their secret to such achievements. Others had observed people in their personal lives using tobacco, and perhaps envied them. After all, those people seemed to be doing ok.
Then the documentary showed pictures of the effects that tobacco use can sometimes have, and often does have, after repeated use. Some users had open sores in their mouth. Others had bleeding gums or rotten teeth. One man had to have the lower left half of his face removed because of cancer. The images were gruesome.
After watching the documentary, I discussed what I had seen with a friend. Even though I am a former smoker and chewer of tobacco, and cannot give a good answer myself, I asked him “How could any sane person, knowing the effects tobacco can have on them, continue to use it?”
His answer was quite profound, “How could any sane person, knowing the effects sin can have on them, continue to practice it?”
Tobacco companies have put a warning label on all of their products telling of the dangers they pose, such as cancer or death. Sin, in whatever way it is packaged, also comes with a warning, “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). Tobacco’s warning comes from the Surgeon General. Sin’s warning comes from the Almighty God. Yet both go equally unheeded.
I have seen, not in a documentary, but up close and personal, the destructive effects sin can have on a human life. Like cancer, sin starts off small, often unnoticed. However, if left untreated, it can quickly spread and grow until it is so out-of-control that pain, suffering, even death are inescapable.
Sin and tobacco are similar on many levels it seems. Both begin innocently enough, by believing lies. Both are extremely addictive. Both cause death: tobacco a percentage of the time, one out of three users, they say; sin 100 percent of the time, every user, every time. If I smoke a cigarette or chew some tobacco, I will probably not get cancer the first time or even notice any significant effects. However, after repeated use, I’ll begin to notice changes in my health that cannot be denied. Similarly, if I tell a lie or steal a car or commit adultery, I probably will not drop dead on the scene. However, with each sin I commit, something inside of me dies, and my life is filled with just that much more decay. Sin brings suffering, one way or another, sooner or later, every time.
So why, after being warned about and even seeing or experiencing the effects of sin, why do we continue any longer therein? The reasons given are as plentiful as the sins committed. Usually it all comes down to accepting some form of deception, listening to words that “eat as doth a canker” or cancer. Do not listen to the world as it beckons you to join its ranks, promising what it cannot deliver. Do not take heed to your flesh as it cries out for the pleasures of sin for a season, for the end thereof is destruction. Listen to the Word of God as He both issues a warning and dispenses a cure, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Maybe sin has caused you to suffer. Maybe your soul feels as if it is diseased. Perhaps years of your life have been forfeited on sin’s altar. But praise God, there is a Balm in Gilead! Look to the Cross, there is healing there.
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalms 103:2-5)