Influence: Good and Bad, Yours and Mine

By E. E. McCool, Jr.

I remember years ago, on the day I caught my son smoking, I shook with rage, but tried to explain to him that I knew teenagers thought it was smart to smoke, but actually that they are poisoning their bodies. “There’s a warning on the cigarette package and on all the ads that smoking is dangerous to your health. It weakens the body and can lead to cancer-not in all cases, but in enough that any smoker is taking a risk. And, doing anything to harm the body is wrong (1 Cor. 6:19-20).” 1 showed him the preacher’s articles in the church bulletin, etc.

Sunday came, and as we walked into the building, there stood one of the elders with one of the Bible School teachers and the song leader-all three were smoking. After church, my son asked me if I thought it was still wrong to smoke. I replied that I did. My son looked at me and said, “Dad, those men are the leaders of the church here. They lead the worship! You can hardly lead a prayer, and you propose to know more about what’s right or wrong than they?” I told him that they smoked from habit. They wanted to stop, but didn’t have the strength. “Ask any one of them, and they will all say they wish they could stop. Ask them how much money they waste on cigarettes. Ask them if they think it is healthy.” I realized it was useless-I had lost my son.

I felt ashamed of myself and sorry for those men at church. They didn’t realize the impact that their smoking had on our youth (Matt. 18:7). If the preacher stands up and says smoking is wrong, and proves it by the Bible, government documents and doctors’ reports; and then church leaders and the influential men decide to disregard this message-then why can’t our young people disregard the same message, or the message about dancing, petting, drinking, lying, stealing, drugs-or any other message they desire?

But, I guess it really doesn’t matter anymore. As I walked into the church building this Monday afternoon, I walked past the elder, Bible School teacher and song leader as they took one last puff. After I was seated, they came and took their seats with the other pall bearers. It looked like we had all come to bury our mistakes. I’ll face my God and have to account for my failure. How many will they have to account for? You see, today we buried my son-he died of lung cancer!

(Editorial Note: Though fictional, the above article by a young man just out of college, is worth reading through again. He hits the point on the head hard. Pause and ponder on your influence.)

Truth Magazine XIX: 49, p. 775
October 23, 1975