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Christians face difficult decisions when it comes to their support of industries such as alcohol, tobacco, or pornography. It is safe to say that most Christians would not consider participation in those activities to be productive. Christians also face a tough decision in their support of people who work in those industries at any stage of production or distribution. At times, an unpopular decision must be made when it comes to a Christian’s support of another Christian’s involvement or their own within certain industries. Does the involvement in or around those industries or with those products always produce sinful behavior? Not necessarily. The second-hand involvement within those industries can be labeled peripheral involvement. The issue of peripheral involvement is complicated because it is not just limited to the participation in those areas. Proper Christian behavior must also be judged by a person’s endorsement or condemnation of the situations they are placed in. A Christian’s peripheral involvement must be considered when it comes to establishing a basis for acceptable behavior in and around those industries. An appropriate example of peripheral involvement is found in the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. When the priest and the levite passed by on the other side, their physical actions were not sinful. However, they were sinning by withholding compassion, care, and mercy to the man who was attacked and left for dead. Consider John 13:34-35 and Phil 2:4.



There is no evidence to believe they condoned what happened to the man. However, their actions did not condemn what happened to the man either. For the purposes of this study, peripheral sins are defined in two ways. First, peripheral sins are found in the intent or motivation to corrupt an approved action. Intent can be considered sinful based upon the teachings of Jesus found in Matt 5:28 which says, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (ESV). The greek phrase found there for “lustful intent” is πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυµῆσαι αὐτὴν, which means “with a view to desire her.”1 This passage lays forth the precedent that sinful actions can be found in the intent to do wrong, not just the action of wrongdoing. Secondly, peripheral sins are the act of corrupting an approved action or item, so that the participation in that action or with that item can only produce sinful behavior. Both parts of the definition are important because peripheral sins are found in the process which changes something intrinsically acceptable into instrumentally or intrinsically sinful. Sins of process can be found in the examples of drunkenness, condemned in Gal 5:21; and gluttony, condemned in Prov 23:20-21. A single drink of alcohol can not be intrinsically sinful or Paul’s statement to Timothy in 1 Tim 5:23, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and frequent ailments,” would be incorrect. A single bite of food can not be intrinsically sinful or the actions of Jesus found in John 6:11, “Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated,” would have been sinful as well. This process must change the use of a product or the approval of an action

1. J.D. Douglas, The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament (trans. R. Brown and P. Comfort; Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale House Publisher, 1993), 15.


and turn it into a sinful action or product to fulfill the definition. To understand how peripheral sins work in the lives of Christians, evidence from the book of Daniel will be presented as the scriptural foundation for the definition of peripheral sins and then applied to the modern-day industry of tobacco. At the completion of that application, it will be obvious that peripheral sins are harmful to the notion of acceptable Christian behavior. In Dan 6:1-9 the definition of peripheral sins is found in the actions of King Darius and the satraps placed over the kingdom. Verses 1-8 provide evidence of intent to corrupt to actions of Daniel in the actions of the satraps. It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; and over them 3 presidents, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” Then these presidents and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” When 6:6 says, “then these presidents and satraps came by agreement,” intent is found. The satraps agree to corrupt the acceptable behavior of Daniel in the eyes of King Darius so he would have no choice but to punish him. Daniel serves Darius without “error or fault” according to 6:4. Daniel understands the role of servants in the kingdom of Darius. Even though Daniel lived many years before the Apostle Paul, he would agree with what is written in Rom 13:1-2 which


says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” The only way to corrupt his position is to corrupt Daniel’s actions in relation to the decree. Josephus chronicles the actions of the satraps. However, while Daniel was in so great dignity, and in so great favor with Darius...he was envied by the rest: for those that see others in greater honor than themselves with kings, envy them: (251) and when those that were grieved at the great favor Daniel was in with Darius, sought for an occasion against him, he afforded them no occasion at all, for he was above all the temptations of money, and despised bribery and esteemed it a very base thing to take anything by way of reward, even with it might be justly given him, he afforded those that envied him not the least handle for an accusation. (252) So when they could find nothing for which they might calumniate him to the king, nothing that was shameful or reproachful, and thereby deprive him of the honor he was in with him, they sought for some other method whereby they might destroy him. When therefore they saw that Daniel prayed to God three times a day, they thought they had gotten an occasion by with they might ruin him;”2 The satraps know that Daniel will not compromise his relationship with God. They also know that Daniel will serve Darius faithfully in all matters except those that contradict his relationship with God according to 6:5, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” The satraps realize that if Darius makes the decree mentioned in 6:7 that, “a conflict develops between Daniel’s religious duty and the royal decree.”3 The decree is used by the satraps as an instrument to rid themselves of Daniel.4 They want to “play on Daniel’s religious and ethnic loyalties to cast suspicion on his

2. Josephus, Ant. 10.250-252 (Whitson). 3. John Collins, “The Court-Tales in Daniel and the Development of the Apocalyptic,” JBL 94 (1975): 225. 4. John H. Walton, “The Decree of Darius the Mede in Daniel 6,” JETS 31 (1988), 279.


political loyalties.”5 The satraps know they can trap Daniel and force Darius to punish him because his actions will go against the bound decree of the king. The satraps also know that the decree’s “primary force is to forbid supplication of any god and implicitly to give the king divine status.” 6 It is at this point that the satraps encourage Darius in 6:8, to “establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” While the satraps do not have the authority to enact the injunction, their actions lead to it’s existence and the beginning of the process that brings Daniel’s loyalty to Darius in question. “Daniel’s adversaries have attempted to make it impossible for him to remain innocent before God and loyal to the state.”7 The satraps feel confident in their scheme and plan. However, “the irony is that his enemies think they’ve found Daniel’s weakness, but they have actually found his greatest strength.”8 The intent of the satraps fits the first part of the definition of peripheral sins. The actions of Darius fulfill the second part. The commands of a king or master are approved actions of God. John 15:12-14 says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” However, the command of Darius was intrinsically sinful because obeying it produced only one outcome, idolatry. God forbids idolatry in Leviticus 26:1, “You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar and you shall not set

5. Donald C. Polaski, “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin: Writing and Resistance in Daniel 5 and 6,” JBL 123 (2004): 661. 6. John Collins, Daniel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 267. 7. John Goldingay, “The Stories in Daniel: A Narrative Politics,” JSOT 37 (1987), 102. 8. Bill T. Arnold, “Wordplay and Narrative in Daniel 5 and 6,” JBL 112 (1993), 485.


up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the Lord your God.” Even though Darius did not set up a graven image, idolatry was still possible. In Ezek 14:1-7, specifically verse 3, God speaks of the elders of Israel who have “taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces.” Idolatry will be committed if Daniel obeys the command of Darius. The actions of Darius are sinful because they are the final steps of the process which will change the actions of Daniel (service to Darius) into something that is unacceptable to God and therefore sinful. Even though Darius lacks the intent to corrupt Daniel’s actions, his actions in establishing the decree fit the definition of peripheral involvement. If Daniel obeys the decree of Darius he will commit idolatry. If Daniel obeys God and continues to pray he will disobey the command of Darius. At this point, Daniel would probably echo the sentiments of Peter in Acts 5:29 which says, “We must obey God rather than men.” The only decision Daniel has is to continue praying to God according to his custom. The actions of the satraps provide intent and the actions of Darius provide fulfillment of that intent so that the proposed service Daniel can render to Darius is now corrupted. Daniel will not violate his relationship with God to bow down and worship Darius. Darius and the satraps commit peripheral sins because they change something that is intrinsically acceptable (a king’s command and the faithful actions of a servant) into something that is instrumentally sinful. The production and distribution of recreational tobacco fits the definition of peripheral sins and involvement. The recreational use of tobacco has been a heavily debated issue for the past 50 to 60 years. Several important facts have come to fruition due to the amount of study focused on the long-term health issues affiliated with tobacco. A 2004 report by the U.S.


Surgeon General highlighted the problem this way, “despite the many prior reports on the topic and the high level of public knowledge in the U.S. of the adverse effects of smoking in general, tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the U.S., causing approximately 440,000 deaths each year.” 9 The report goes on to point out that the recreational use of tobacco has been found in connection to coronary heart disease, pneumonia, Leukemia, many forms of cancer (i.e. bladder, cervical, stomach), pregnancy complications, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.10 If the health risks of recreational tobacco use are so prevalent, can a Christian work in the industry that produces or markets those products? To answer that question, more questions must be raised. First, is it sinful to harm our physical bodies by ingesting unnecessary products? First Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “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.” Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” In both verses the word body in the original greek is σῶµα, which means “body of man or animal.” 11 These verses present a problem in relation to the recreational use of tobacco. Since it is not forced upon anyone and everyone has the choice to refrain, the harm found in the practice must lie in the choice to partake. The recreational use

9. U.S. Surgeon General Report Executive Summary, “The Health Consequences of Smoking,” (2004), 5. 10. U.S. Surgeon General, “Consequences,” 6. 11. Walter Bauer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 799.


must be defined differently and separated from any therapeutic or medicinal use to truly be considered sinful. If the recreational use of tobacco is harmful by it’s very nature to the human body, it is sinful. If it is sinful, can a person work in the production and distribution of it? No. Secondly, what if recreational tobacco use was also addictive? Would that add to the intrinsically harmful nature of the product? In a 1994 study conducted by the CDC, 74% of daily cigarette smokers and smokeless tobacco users reported that one of the reasons they used tobacco was because it was hard to quit.12 In the same study, 80% of recreational users reported a strong craving (described as a need or an urge) for cigarettes during previous attempts to quit smoking. 13

Nicotine is prevalent in all forms of recreational tobacco and is addictive.14 Nicotine levels

are enhanced or reduced in the production of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. The addictive qualities found in the nicotine enhance a person’s desire for the tobacco and therefore enhance the opportunity for harm. It’s obvious that the recreational use of tobacco is an unnecessary and deadly choice that too many people make. A Christian should avoid the recreational use of tobacco due to it’s inherent harm upon the body. The continued use will cause harm to our bodies that goes agains the teachings of 1 Cor 6 and Rom 12. That harm should also make it an industry that Christians avoid when seeking employment. It must be pointed out that for many years in the U.S., smoking was endorsed by doctors and Christians. In the 1940’s, evidence was presented against smoking but was only considered

12. D. Barker, “Reasons for Tobacco Use and Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal Among Adolescent and Young Adult Tobacco Users,” MMWR 43 (1994), 749. 13. D. Barker, “Reasons,” 749. 14. D. Barker, “Reasons,” 745.


important to researchers. “A number of physicians - and many writers for lay audiences soothed smokers with the most welcome of all words: ‘Don’t worry...’”15 That advice was typical and led to a criminal misunderstanding by the society of the U.S. that smoking was an acceptable and healthy behavior. It would be difficult to say that working in the tobacco industry then could be measured like it is today. The people in the industry could have been mislead by cooperations or executives and worked diligently with a clean conscience. Their situation would be similar to that of the Apostle Paul serving the Sanhedrin during the persecution of the church. He clearly was wrong, but not in his desire to serve God. In 1 Tim 1:15 he says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost,” and then in 2 Tim 1:3, “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience.” He was wrong and when he learned of the truth, changed. Knowing that recreational tobacco use is harmful, it is clear to say that Christians should avoid working in the industry due to the intent applied in the advertising and marketing. D. Kirk Davidson highlights the problem facing Christians who might work in the advertising of recreational tobacco, “cigarettes and other tobacco products are fundamentally different from any other product because they are dangerous even when used as intended. There is no safe method or level of usage.” 16 The whole purpose of advertising and marketing is to sell products. If that product is inherently harmful and therefore sinful, does a Christian sin in the advertising of that product? Consider this, “in 1971, the Cigarette Advertising and Labeling Act was passed with

15. Elizabeth M. Whelen, A Smoking Gun: How the Tobacco Industry Gets Away with Murder (Philadelphia: George F. Stickley, 1984), 77. 16. D. Kirk Davidson, The Moral Dimension of Marketing: Essays on Business Ethics (Chicago: American Marketing Association, 2002), 34.


the hope that eliminating cigarette ads from television and radio would reduce the extent of tobacco advertising.” 17 That advertising hasn’t stopped, it was merely reorganized. In 2006, cigarette companies spent $12.49 billion on advertising and promotional expenses in the United States.18 The five major smokeless tobacco manufacturers spent $354 million on advertising and promotion.19 In 2006, tobacco distributors spent a total of $12.75 billion on advertising a harmful and sinful product. Most of that money went to print ads in magazines and newspapers and promotional ads in places like convenient stores and gas stations. What is the intent of this advertising? Consider a statement from A Smoking Gun: How the Tobacco Industry Gets Away with Murder, Most of today’s ads emphasize vitality with suggestions of health, outdoor activity, femininity, romance, pleasure and relaxation. Young people are shown bobsledding, taking a smoke after a swim or tennis, whooping it up at an All-American ice cream parlor. A lovely girl in a country setting invites us to “Take a puff” of a Salem. A handsome man, accompanied by the caption, “It’s Springtime,” offers a Barclay to a waiting lady off-camera. Young women flaunt their newly found feminine independence in ads for Virginia Slims and More. The “Man’s Man” - the rough and tough cowboy shouts his supposed virility in Marlboro Country - “where a man belongs.” Benson and Hedges DeLuxe 100 suggests a “touch of class” - with accompanying pictures of caviar, champagne, silver trays and Rolls Royces.20 The intent of this advertising is to encourage recreational tobacco use. Their intent is to devalue the harm inherent in the action and highlight the preposed cultural value. They have corrupted something that God created. When God created the world, He created tobacco. However, was

17. Whelen, A Smoking Gun, 177. 18. Federal Trade Commission, “Cigarette Report,” (2006), 1. 19. Federal Trade Commission, “Smokeless Tobacco Report,” (2006), 2. 20. Whelen, A Smoking Gun, 177, 181.


tobacco created for the recreational use it fills today? No. The intent of the advertising behind this industry is to glorify the usage of it on a regular basis. In the same way, the Satraps devalued the commands of King Darius for personal gain. They misled him to believe his actions were acceptable because all of them wanted it to happen. Tobacco advertisements want Christian to believe everyone smokes and it’s okay to smoke. The advertisements want to sell cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. To glamorize it so you keep smoking and eventually are addicted. L.W. Bruff, a tobacco executive said in 1962, “Between the time a kid is 18 and 21 he’s going to make the basic decision to smoke or not to smoke...if he does decide to smoke, we want to get him.”21 Sinful actions are found in the intent and the actions behind the intent, advertising. Knowing that recreational tobacco use is harmful, Christians should also avoid growing tobacco to be sold to cigarette or smokeless tobacco companies. According to information from a congressional research study, more than 94% of the tobacco produced in the U.S. went to the manufacture of cigarettes. The other 6% is processed for smokeless tobacco, snuff, cigar, and pipe tobacco. 22 That means that 100% of the tobacco produced in the U.S. by farmers goes towards the production of recreational tobacco. These farmers fall into the same trap that King Darius fell into. Most of them grow tobacco on family farms to support their spouses and children. Many of them may be second or third generation tobacco farmers who have been growing tobacco on the same piece of property for over 100 years. Many of them may have

21. Whelen, A Smoking Gun, 181. 22. Jasper Womach, “U.S. Tobacco Production, Consumption, and Export Trends,” CONGRESSIONAL REPORT (2003), 18.


never considered the moral implications of their crop or family business. Darius did not stop to consider the moral implications of his action either. It is only after the satraps bring the accusation against Daniel that Darius realizes what his decree means. Dan 6:14 says, “Then the king, when he heard those words (the accusations against Daniel), was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him.” Darius’s actions lead to the corruption of Daniel’s actions. Daniel could not obey Darius and God. The farmers can not serve the tobacco industry and God. A careful decision must be made to move into other areas of agricultural production. Even though they may do it unwillingly, the actions of the farmers who produce tobacco are as sinful as those of Darius. Two British physicians said it best when they said, “All those engaged in tobacco production, distribution, and sales promotion share the moral responsibility for the harm inflicted on their fellows as a result of their activities.” 23 There is a small price to pay when peripheral involvement and the sins associated with it are considered. At some point, most Christians will be asked to take a hard-line when it comes to these topics, but there is not always an easy answer. This is a subject that must be handled very delicately. The peripheral sins in our lives are no different than the sins of omission or commission. They are no different from lying, stealing, or gossiping. With all of these actions, Christians must consider the entirety of the consequences and weigh their involvement very carefully. In closing, it does not seem wise for a Christian to involve themselves in the tobacco

23. Gerard Berry and Alan Porter, “Tobacco and Ethics,” BJCP 36 (1986), 379.


industry based upon the teachings of the Bible. Based on that fact, anyone who participates in the growing, manufacturing, advertising, and selling would be a part of the problem. The process that produces recreational tobacco is the same process that produced the situation in Dan 6. Christians are commanded to “Abstain from every form of evil,� in 1 Thess 5:22 so working in an industry that contributes to sinful behavior would go in direct violation to that verse and the teachings of Christ.


Arnold, Bill T. “Wordplay and Narrative Techniques in Daniel 5 and 6.” Journal of Biblical Literature 112 (1993): 479-485. Barker, D. “Reasons for Tobacco Use and Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal Among Adolescent and Young Adult Tobacco Users,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 43 (1994), 745-751. Bauer, Walter. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Translated by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979. Gerard Berry and Alan Porter, “Tobacco and Ethics,” Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners 36 (1986), 378-280. Collins, John J. Daniel. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993. ______. “The Court-Tales in Daniel and the Development of Apocalyptic.” Journal of Biblical Literature 94 (1975): 218-234. Davidson, D. Kirk. The Moral Dimension of Marketing: Essays on Business Ethics. Chicago: American Marketing Association, 2002. Douglas, J.D. The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament. Translated by Robert K. Brown and Philip W. Comfort; Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale House Publisher, 1993), 15. Federal Trade Commission, “Cigarette Report,” 2006. Federal Trade Commission, “Smokeless Tobacco Report,” 2006. Goldingay, John. “The Stories of Daniel: A Narrative Politics.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 37 (1987): 99-116. Josephus. The Antiquities of the Jews. Translated by William Whiston. The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1987.


Polaski, Donald C. “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin: Writing and Resistance in Daniel 5 and 6.” Journal of Biblical Literature 123 (2004): 649-669. U.S. Surgeon General. “The Health Consequences of Smoking,” 2004. Walton, John H. “The Decree of Darius the Mede in Daniel 6.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 31 (1988): 279-286. Whelen, Elizabeth M. A Smoking Gun: How the Tobacco Industry gets away with Murder. Philadelphia: George F. Stickley, 1984. Womach, Jasper. “U.S. Tobacco Production, Consumption, and Export Trends,” CONGRESSIONAL REPORT, 2003.


Contemporary Ethics - Peripheral Sins  

This topic was an assigned paper from a Fall 2010 grad class, "Contemporary Ethics."

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