The man sheepishly admitted to the jail minister that he had been doing it; He had been smoking the Bible. “You have been doing what?” the minister asked. “I’ve been tearing out pages of the Bible, rolling tobacco and other stuff in it, then smoking it,” the man confessed.
This infamous conversation took place 20 years ago.
Back in the early 1990s, the State of North Carolina went tobacco free. Cigarettes were banned in our local prison. The prisoners, always known for their inventiveness, started drying out grass, herbs, banana peels—literally anything they thought they could smoke. They would then take the pocket New Testaments that the Gideon’s brought them, tear out a page, and roll whatever they had to smoke in them. The jailers went so far as to ban Bibles from being brought in for a while because they were aiding the prisoners in breaking the smoke-free policy.
My friend, Jimmy Haynes, (the jail minister) recalled how this 20 year old conversation had fueled his passion to become a Gideon (Gideon’s place Bibles in hotels, hospitals, and jails).
The detained man went on to say, “Before I tear out the page, I read the front and the back real good. I don’t want to disrespect the “Good Book”; I just need the paper to be able to smoke. So, I read Matthew Chapter 1, two or three times, then I tore it out, rolled up some grass and smoked it. I ended up smoking all of Matthew. I then smoked all of Mark and all of Luke. But, when I got to John, John smoked me! I was reading those pages so I could roll me a cigarette and the words of the Gospel of John convicted me and I gave my life to Jesus!”
My friend Jimmy was overwhelmed with God’s goodness. This man might never have read the Bible if the State hadn’t went smoke-free. Because it did, this inmate discovered a profound truth. You can’t read His word very long until His Word starts reading you. Or, as our young inmate would say, “I smoked the Bible until it smoked me”. For more on this subject go to https://www.newcovenantchurch.com/sermons/2018/3/10/a-spiritual-awakening