When you hear the word addiction, think enslavement. The difference in wording is crucial—you can be freed from enslavement, but you cannot ultimately be freed from an addiction. Why? Because as the world so joyfully and pessimistically exclaims, once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. Once addicted to pornography, always addicted to pornography. But that’s just not true.
You’re not going to find the word addiction in your Bible. The word comes from a Latin term which means a hopeless dependence. But what does the Bible say about the issue of addiction?
When you hear the word addiction, think enslavement. The difference in wording is crucial—you can be freed from enslavement, but you cannot ultimately be freed from an addiction. Why? Because as the world so joyfully and pessimistically exclaims, once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. Once addicted to pornography, always addicted to pornography.
But that’s just not true.
Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Do not be deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” And then he writes, “Such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
Were—past tense. In other words, Alcoholics Anonymous sells a lie. They sell that you can never ultimately change. But God says you can.
“Such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).
There can be change. Once a chemical abuser, not always a chemical abuse. Once an alcoholic, not always an alcoholic. There is always hope of liberation.
So, how are we to think about this biblically in a world of confusion?
The first thing we must do is understand man.
One thing we know from Scripture is, by nature, man is dependent. God created him this way. Even from the beginning, Adam and Eve were created to be dependent upon food, water, and everything around them.
But man ultimately was created to be dependent upon God. Even in heaven, we will be entirely dependent upon God, but there it will be a welcomed dependence. For now, man rebels against it. You can feel it in your flesh; your flesh craves to be autonomous of His sovereignty.
Man was created to live dependently on God in order to find life and blessing. But as a result of the fall, man aches for autonomy. He doesn’t want to be dependent upon anything. Essentially, man desires to be God. Man chases autonomy like a dog his tail—round and round and round. Self-improvement seminars, counseling, life coaches—they all say the same tired things: “You make your own life; you determine yourself; you self-identify; you do whatever you want to do. It’s all up to you.”
But that’s just not true.
Man strives for autonomy and self-sufficiency, and he finds this to be an impossible aim. Man remains a dependent creature in spite of his sin. So where does this leave him? In rejecting God, he turns to other things in his dependence. These things become the idols he morning and night worships.
Every avowed atheist has idols. Why? Because every human heart was created to worship. Man has to worship something, whether that be himself or his materialistic lifestyle. He takes whatever it is he thinks most important and begins to worship it as god. His dependence then turns to these things. The idol he trusts and treasures then gradually entangles him. This is what the world terms addiction.
So why do people become dependent upon substances and pleasures? People become dependent because they were created to be dependent. Everybody is dependent. It just depends what you are dependent upon.
Let me define enslavement, and then explain it.