STUDY ELEVEN: ADDICTIONS
© Rosemary Bardsley 2006, 2016
Please note: this is a brief study. For further information and help please click the links at the end of the study.
A. ADDICTIONS IN CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY
Addiction involves a person in an inescapable and uncontrollable bondage. Psychology Today posts this definition:
‘Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health. Users may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.’
A.1 Substance addictions
Make a list of substance addictions in your community
Substance addictions cause physical and psychological harm. Some of them cause social and relational harm, resulting in broken people, broken relationships and broken or dysfunctional families. They also cause financial harm, impacting not only personal and family finances, but also the national economy through loss of productivity and health care and rehabilitation costs. A by-product of many drug addictions is also increased crime and suffering, with the associated expenses and stretching of law-enforcement facilities.
When we look later at the biblical perspective on addictions these affects of addictions play a significant part.
A.2 Behavioural addictions
Humans are also troubled by addictive behaviours. These are behaviours that are out of control, and that dominate a person’s life, or specific sections of a person’s life. We can include here: gambling addiction, spending addiction, sexual addictions [including pornography], work addictions and food-related addictions. Like drug addictions these have undesirable and/or destructive effects.
A.3 Causes of addictions
The causes of addictions are complex and multiple. There does not appear to be a single cause of addictions, but a wide range of causes all contributing to the progressive development of addictions.
Among the contributing causes listed are:
But the presence of one or more of these factors does not mean that a person will become addicted.
B. WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH ABOUT ADDICTIONS
The Bible doesn’t mention the concept of ‘addictions’ specifically. There are however, several pointers that indicate that addictions are contrary to God’s purpose for human life. Like other issues we have studied in this series on Christian Ethics, there is a direct link between addictions and our view of human life. A biblical perspective on both the sanctity of human life and the purpose of human life stands in stark contrast to the mindset that plummets people into addictions. The addictive mindset also conflicts with a biblical understanding of God and resulting trust in God and his good and sovereign purpose. The addict is focused on his/her addiction, and on the urgent need to support and engage in that addiction, often to the exclusion of all other concerns, instead of being focused and centred on God, and committed to obeying God’s commands and seeking his kingdom.
[We are treading here on sensitive ground, and must also state that once a person is in the grip of an addiction, particularly an addiction that has created a physical and/or psychological dependence on an addictive substance, a biblically informed mind, or even a genuinely repentant mind, does not automatically liberate the person from the addiction. The dividing line between physical dependence and psychological dependence on an addictive substance or behaviour is not easy to define. The conforming of the mind to biblical principles and truths will indeed bring freedom from addictions in some cases, and is essential in any recovery, but because physical/psychological aspects are involved in some addictions, physical interventions are sometimes also essential in these cases.]
In addition to addictions and the mindset out of which addictions come, addictions produce actions that are contrary to the scriptures. We find people stealing, embezzling, killing, lusting, engaging in prostitution, depriving their families of physical necessities, inflicting emotional and physical harm on themselves and their families, and so on as a direct result of their addictions. Statistics reveal that where gambling increases so does the suicide rate, revealing the emotional harm done by this addiction to the addicts themselves.
Study these scriptures. What are their implications for addictions or addictive behaviours? What perceptions or attitudes do they command that would help to strengthen a person to avoid or to recover from addictions? [Where only part of the passage is quoted below, please read the whole passage.]
Matthew 6:25-34: [The command against anxious thought (verse 25 -32) directly confronts the mindset of the addict, who is focused on ensuring he/she can get the next fix.]
Romans 6:16-22: ‘ … just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness …’
1Corinthians 6:12: ‘I will not be mastered by anything’
1Corinthians 6:19,20: ‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit … You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.’
1Corinthians 10:31,32: ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble …’
Galatians 5:13-15: ‘ … do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love …’
Galatians 5:22: the fruit of the Spirit is … self control
Ephesians 4:17-19: ‘You must no longer live as the Gentiles do … they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more’
Ephesians 5:18: ‘Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.’
Colossians 1:16b: ‘… all things were created by him and for him.’
2Peter 1:5,6: ‘… add to your faith … self-control …
Quote from MacArthur and Mack:
‘The idea that addictions are diseases has become so pervasive it seems foolish to speak against it. However, the idea that medical science has proven addictions to be actual organic diseases is entirely without foundation. The medical and scientific communities remain greatly divided over the issue of the disease versus non-disease models. … The Bible declares that drunkenness – the non-medical, non-prescribed introduction of chemicals into the body for the purpose of gaining pleasure or altering perceptions of reality in order to cope with or escape from the trials and struggles of life – is sin (Gal 5:17-21; Eph 5:18; 1 Pet 4:3-5). These chemicals are alcohol or drugs of various types. The ingestion of these substances is a personal choice completely within the control of the individual. To postulate otherwise is to suggest a genetic predisposition to addiction or to suggest that as the substance-abuse continues a person gradually loses the ability to choose not to continue in this pattern of life.’ [p380f Introduction to Biblical Counselling].
C. PERSONAL APPLICATION
None of us can be certain that we will not become trapped in substance addictions or addictive behaviours. At this point in the study it is necessary to stop looking at addictions as an objective issue, and to consider the subjective application of what has been learned about addictions.
List any actual addictions or addictive behaviours that you currently have
List any areas in your life where you can see the possibility or potential of an addiction or addictive behaviour developing
What aspects of contemporary culture do you think contribute to the high level of addictions, and make it easy for people to become trapped in addictions?
Explain why it is inappropriate for a Christian to be under the control of an addiction.
Explain why it is inappropriate for a person involved in serving God to be under the control of an addiction
From what you have learned in this study, what can you do to help yourself or someone else overcome an addiction or an addictive behaviour?
If you are currently trapped in an addiction, define the repentance that your allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ requires of you.
This study addresses sexual addictions.
This website is a ministry for those trapped in porn addictions and sex addictions and their families.