5 Biblical Truths About Addiction

For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. – 2 Peter 2:19

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.

Humility is the Avenue to Glory

During a recent Sunday morning message, we were challenged to consider whether or not we are truly treasuring Jesus. One of the questions we used as a test for our heart was this: Does my life consistently reflect a laying down of myself in order to follow the Spirit of Christ?

If Jesus is the highest treasure of our heart, then over time we will have an eager willingness to die to the desires and the parts of our character that are contradictory to His. And we will find ourselves on the trajectory of growing in humility, because Jesus came to earth as the righteous, victorious, humble King. Humility is in fact a command of the Christian life.

Clothe yourselves all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
1 Peter 5:5

Without humility we have God’s opposition, no matter how right or just we may be in our argument. But with humility we are promised God’s grace, even if we have been wrong in the situation. God WILL rescue the guilty, IF they are humble (Job 22:29-30).

I define Biblical humility this way: Lowering yourself in contrition to and dependence upon God, in order to make much of Him and to make the benefits of Christ available to others. Humility gives the throne of our life back to God in order that we might glorify Him. And humility leads us to sacrifice that we might share all the blessings of God’s Kingdom with others.

So what should humility look like for a Christ follower? The following 4 items are not intended as an exhaustive list of how those who treasure Jesus will live, but it is a start to get us thinking:

  • In humility, we will be generous with all of the resources that God gives us. (1 Timothy 6:17-18)
  • In humility, we will not repay evil for evil but will seek to bless even our enemies. (1 Peter 3:9)
  • In humility, we will not be critical but will bear with the faults and differences of others in grace. (Colossians 3:12-13)
  • In humility, we will not seek to win debates but to persuade others in love. (2 Corinthians 5:11)

Pride always wants to win the argument. But humility sees truth as a compass to give direction, not a hammer to destroy.

God’s word guarantees that if we try to exalt ourself, God will humble us. But if we humble ourself in the same way that Jesus did, then in his time and in his way God will exalt us. So may we be found following after Christ as our treasure, growing in his humble nature. After all it is a great paradox in Christianity, that it makes humility the avenue to glory (Easton 1897).