Nature of Addictions
Just because the Bible doesn’t use the word “addiction” does not mean God is silent on it. If we know His Word, we can begin to recognize what the world calls these various problems (and how the world attempts to solve them), and then speak the truth into those areas.
The way we speak truth into these areas depends on how we define our terms. If we use the world’s definition, broadly speaking, then addictions are merely a matter of the body. This assumes that it all depends on our physical biology and chemistry. And worse yet, we may even begin to believe that our addictions are our identities.
For example: I am an alcoholic. A description? Yes. An identity? No.
According to author Ed Welch, many of us address addictions with a blend of beliefs that combine AA, pop psychology, pieces of Scripture detached from their context, and other features of postmodern Western culture. But where is the Gospel in that? Where is Jesus? His Word? The Holy Spirit? We must start where God starts and call it what God calls it! So how, Biblically speaking, does God explain addictions?
Why do addictions start?
Why do people give themselves to something so much and for so long that they become physically dependent on it? Make no mistake, I am saying that our bodies, biology, and chemistry are all a part of the reality of addictions. Everything we do in this life is expressed with and through our bodies. But the body, according to Romans 1 (and many other passages), is not the source of addictions. Therefore, a treatment that only treats the body is not the solution. In other words, pills, popular self-esteem pep talks, and Prosperity Gospel answers will actually make the deception worse.
Finding the source
Addictions are not fundamentally a biological problem; they are a worship/idolatry problem. In other words, addictions start with sin in our heart that eventually begins to affect and destroy our bodies. Romans 1:18-25 is written about all mankind to explain how sin works in us apart from Christ.
By God’s grace, we as believers are no longer enslaved to sin. However, when we willingly choose to go back to that sin, these same principles are at work. This not only refers to what the world thinks of as addictions (drugs, alcohol, etc.), but applies to addictions in a broad sense. Anything we choose to put before God is an idol, meaning all of us are in some way addicted to our desires. Verse 18 refers to “men who suppress the truth.” Isn’t it true that our most addictive sins begin with some sort of lie or deception? Here are a few fundamental lies that lead to this downward spiral of addictive thinking.
Lie #1| God is not good.
If He were, then I would have this ________ I want/think I need.
If He were, then this tragedy would not have happened.
If He were, then He wouldn’t tell me not to do things that seem harmless.
Even way back in Genesis 3, we see Satan using this lie to tempt Adam and Eve. In getting them to question God’s Word, they ultimately questioned God’s good intentions.
Lie #2| I am a good person, but occasionally I do bad things.
I’m not fundamentally a sinner who needs a Savior, dead in my sins until He makes me alive.
I’m not as bad as _______, so basically I am good.
I may struggle with wanting ____________ too much, but at least I don’t struggle with ____________ like ___________ does.
I do plenty of good works and sacrifice myself for others frequently, so I am basically ok even though I really know what God said about ______ in my life.
When we adopt this way of thinking, we deceive ourselves much like the Pharisees did, thinking that personal holiness and right standing with God can be determined by what we do or don’t do “for Him.” This lie fundamentally denies the Gospel!
Lie #3| Idols are harmless.
This ______ may be an idol, but it’s really not a bad thing if it makes me feel better.
This _____ has gotten me through some difficult times. I need it.
I know I can’t live without _______, and it’s not hurting anyone else, so it’s not a big deal.
When we don’t see our sin as God see it, we forget the severity of it, grow attached to it, and further our addictions. We choose to willingly ignore (vs.19-20) what has been made evident to us; both in creation and in what creation tells us about God.
What’s the problem?
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” –Romans 1:21-25
By suppressing the truth and flirting with lies, we make two fundamental errors: we choose to not honor/worship/glorify God, and we don’t thank Him for what He has given us.
After all, if I don’t think God is good, why would I take time to be thankful and content? We think of ourselves as knowing more than we do, and this makes us fools. The summary of any sin, idolatry, or addiction is this: we exchange the Creator for the creation. We trade God for His gifts.
We are not immune to this dangerous exchange. It doesn’t happen to us; we choose it. But we fail to recognize that we can’t also choose our consequences. We can pretend they don’t exist, but we can’t change the way God has designed us to function. We were created as worshipers, and we all will worship something.
How do we begin to deal with our idolatry and addiction?
Decide to be a truth teller, first to yourself! Ask yourself these questions:
Where do I believe lies about God, myself, and my idols?
Where is my thinking and decision making about how life works different than what God says?
Where have I deceived others in my idolatry?
What am I doing about it?
Find hope in the truth that when we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive. Choose to agree with God
about what you are doing, feeling, and thinking, and then boldly ask for help!