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.

There is a Distinction

‘Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers’ – Psalm 1:1

 

The very first line in the book of Psalms is a simple introduction, yet a profound truth, that reminds the reader that there is a distinction between the Godly and the wicked. That there is a division between those who know and love God (the Blessed) and those who are at best indifferent or at worse outright opposed to God. And that division should be visible when the life of a blessed person is examined. How they live day to day (walk), the judgments and worldview that they take (stand) and the people they are in deep community with (company) should be a daily working out of this distinction.  Obviously, humanity opposes this idea. The prevailing thought of the cultural worldview is that there are many valid ways to live and that it is inexcusable to declare someone’s life choice as invalid. No one today is called wicked, simply because they do not acknowledge God. And we must recognize that this ideology has even taken a foothold among the church; among those who are ‘the Blessed’. The people of God are continually tempted by fundamental cultural thoughts AND by their own fallen nature to mimic the way of life of the wicked; the ways of those who do not yet know Christ.

The purpose of this meditation is not to pass judgment on the world; not to condemn the wicked. Human society – of every generation – has a judge who will eventually issue his order against them (1 Cor 5:12). Rather, it is those who identify themselves as ‘the Blessed’ who need the reminder: You are separate and distinct, so live by that reality. This is not legalism. The Blessed are not called to live in obedience to God and in light of His Kingdom in order to belong; rather they are called to live this way BECAUSE they belong. The Blessed are invited and commanded (simultaneously) to live by the commands of God (walk); to take their stances – on issues – based on His view (stand) and to allow their greatest influences to be their fellow Kingdom citizens (company).  And it is this distinction that the King uses to bring others into His Kingdom and to display His glory (Ephesians 3:10).

There is nothing more tragic than to see the Blessed living as the wicked. To do this, requires someone to re-design God as they want him to be. AW Tozer said that the ‘idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they are true’. May this never be us! May the Blessed know God as He is, and may their whole person (mind, will and emotions) line up with Him in joyful worship!