Let me say up front that I am not a medical or behavioral specialist. I am a pastor who has walked alongside families going through the dark shadows of all types of addiction, as well as a man who has experienced them in my own life. I am also a teacher who believes in God’s word to help us understand the world and all of the troubles therein. And so my goal here is to present some biblical truths that will help form a solid foundation for our understanding of various addiction issues.
Truth #1: We are physical and spiritual creatures.
God created mankind with a body, soul, and spirit (see 1 Thessalonians 5:22-23). If we are to adequately address the problem of addiction, we must do so holistically – addressing both the physical and spiritual makeup of an individual.
Truth #2: Mankind was originally created in perfection.
As image bearers of God, man was able to think, reason, and act as He does. God’s declaration over creation was that it was very good (see Genesis 1:31). Mankind lived in perfect harmony with God, with their environment, with their physical bodies, and with their spiritual longings.
Truth #3: The perfect world fell into disarray and frustration.
Mankind came to love the creation more than their creator (see Romans 1:25). They rebelled against God and became arrogantly self-centric. The outcome was turmoil in every aspect of life.
Truth #4: The resulting turmoil collectively contributes to addictive behavior.
God’s good order fell rebelliously into chaos. Physical bodies are now susceptible to disorder and decay. Family and social environments become unhealthy, with patterns of negative learned behaviors moving quietly through generations. Human culture emphasizes indulgences and experiences of pleasure over morality. People abuse one another. Motivated by greed they prey upon the weak willed. Rejection and shame leaves many searching for comfort wherever it can be found. People do not love God or look to him.
Truth #5: In the Bible, addiction would most closely relate to the concept of idolatry.
Addiction is voluntary slavery. Addicts make choices. They are in control. They are committed to their way of managing life. Yet they are enslaved and out of control. They are overpowered by the world, their flesh, and the devil.
– Edward Welch
In this world of turmoil all of us have places we turn to for enjoyment and relief. Usual suspects might be food, coffee, hobbies, career, or entertainment. But sometimes we become dependent on these things as our source of hope. Idolatry is when our hearts long for created gifts rather than the creator God. The refreshment these idols are able to provide is only temporary, so we end up returning to them over and over again. And while all idols are harmful, some people end up attracted to intensely destructive behaviors or substances. Over time the idol becomes a master, enslaving those that continually seeks its help (see 2 Peter 2:19).
An addict – of any kind – is dependent on something in creation to satisfy their soul and protect them from the difficulties of this disordered world. Therefore any hope for total and lasting freedom from addiction must involve a heart change, in which a person’s dependence moves away from the creation and centers firmly on God the Father through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.