Question: "Should a Christian work where alcohol and tobacco are sold?"

Answer: This is a question many Christians struggle with because they feel convicted that by working in a store that sells alcohol and tobacco, they are in some way encouraging or enabling others to sin by drinking and smoking. While the Bible is silent on the subject of selling alcohol and tobacco, there are scriptural principles that can be applied to this question.

Many people believe smoking cigarettes to be sinful in the respect that it is willfully harming one’s body. However, overeating, which is much more prevalent than smoking, at least in the U.S., is just as sinful, if not more so because of the biblical commands to avoid gluttony (Proverbs 23:2, 20). Does this mean that restaurant waiters and fast-food employees are causing others to sin by selling rich, fattening foods to them?

The question of alcohol is a little different. Drinking wine and/or alcohol is not identified in the Bible as sin. The sin is being “drunk with wine, in which is excess” (Ephesians 5:18). Consider that Jesus Himself drank of the fruit of the vine, and Paul recommended drinking wine to his student, Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23). It is the responsibility of the users to determine for themselves when they need to stop drinking, and so the responsibility for drinking lies with the drinker, not the supplier.

To be sure, in some situations, it would be wrong to sell alcohol. For example, if the buyer is intoxicated already, the sale is immoral; and if the buyer is a minor, the sale is illegal. However, in day-to-day business, selling alcohol is no more sinful than working in a grocery store. In any case, it is the responsibility of the drinker to regulate his or her intake, not the seller. The same holds true for cigarettes and food: the individual consumer must decide whether smoking or overeating is detrimental to his health and act accordingly.

In short, while there is no scriptural mandate against selling alcohol or tobacco, there are definitely things to consider that may make it a wrong choice for a Christian to work in those environments. If one feels convicted about selling alcohol or tobacco, perhaps the Lord is speaking and it is time for a career change. Christians should act according to their faith when it comes to matters such as these, relying on their consciences to approve or not approve of their actions. Paul addresses this principle regarding whether it was proper for believers to eat food sacrificed to idols: “Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:22–23). A further consideration is that we are called to avoid any activity that may cause our brothers and sisters in Christ to sin (1 Corinthians 8:9–13).

Ultimately, the decision of working in a store that sells alcohol and tobacco should be made with sensitivity toward one’s conscience, consideration of others, and prayer for wisdom. God promises to grant the wisdom we need, and He “gives generously to all without finding fault” (James 1:5).