Addiction is a Worship Problem


Addiction Addiction is ultimately an issue of worship.  We worship something other than God.  Relationships, a substance, a feeling, a person.  Addiction, whatever the substance, is ultimately an issue of idolatry.  God says, "Don't have other Gods before me," and we choose something other than Him.  The Israelites throughout history did this in what we most commonly think of as idolatry.

The Israelites actually worship tiny statues as idols.  Because of this odd behavior it may be difficult to make the connection between the Israelites' idolatry and our own, but the purpose of our own false-worship and the Israelites' false-worship is identical.  The purpose of idolatry is always to manipulate the idol for your purposes.

For the Israelites this means if they worship their idols, the gods of their neighbors like Baal, in a certain fashion it will be of great benefit to them.  If they behave in a certain way, if they do certain things, then maybe Baal will be happy with them.  Maybe the gods will be happy with them and respond by giving them the things that they want.  In Israel’s case this was often things like fertility, rain, and growing their crops.  For us that same purpose is true, but instead of little statues, we worship people, experiences, substance, and behaviors.  And if we use those things in a certain way it will give us what we want.  They’ll help us be happy.  They’ll help us deal with our stress.  They’ll help us deal with our self image issues.  Our struggles.

The purpose of idolatry is always to manipulate the idol for your purposes and while the culture of Israel may be significantly different, the struggle is the same.  The idols we worship appeal to us, make promises to us, and then enslave us in their lies.

“They promised freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption for you are slave to whatever controls you.” - 2 Peter 2:19

Our sins promise freedom, but that’s not what they give us.  In addiction sin always progresses.  What started as rebellion progresses to slavery.  What was once a want becomes a need.  What was once desired by you is eventually demanded by your own body.  Addictions - things like anger, drugs, alcohol, shopping, relationships, video games, cutting, lying - all have a physical effect on your body.  This is why addictions begin to feel like the own you.  Because your body literally begins to rewire itself so that your body needs them.  And addictions do not end with slavery to those things, but it often progresses to tragedy.   Addictions destroy families, homes, marriages, emotions.  It creates parents who no longer talk to their children and husbands who no longer know their wives.  Because this is exactly what sin seeks to do.  It starts small and progresses.  What was once slavery to a substance progresses to tragic consequences.

But there's good news.

Even in the midst of this cycle of addiction, God grace does not run out.  By the death and resurrection of Jesus, God declares "My grace is enough."  God responds to our sins with forgiveness.  Our slavery with freedom.  And our tragedy with rescue.  He doesn't just say, "I forgive you" once or twice, but he says it over and over and over again.  Because the depth of our sins don't dictate the mercy of God.  The frequency of our sins don't determine the capacity of God's grace for you.

"Many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin.  Yet he took note of their distress when he heard their cry; for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented." - Psalm 106:43-45

We are all bent on rebellion.  Our addictions will leave us wasting away in our sin.  Our addictions will own us and leave us crying out in distress.  And in the midst of all of this God remembers his great love for us and relents from giving us what we deserve.  And instead he gives his life on the cross.

For more information on this subject, an incredible resource that was very influential in writing this was a book by Edward T Welch called "Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave."
 
Photo Credit: drubuntu

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