The Idol of Substance Abuse
Addictions to chemical substances can be dangerous for anybody physically and spiritually. Some refer to this area as “chemical dependency.” Many in our country turn to things like narcotics, prescription drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, or illegal drugs such as marijuana. They can become sinful idols whenever these are the things we run to for an escape and for ultimate fulfillment in life. And it becomes even worse when one becomes hooked on these things. There are many who look at these things to be their life. They need them to survive. For instance, let’s talk about what many refer to as alcoholism. Many in our society look at this as a disease… but the Bible has it’s own word for it: being a drunkard. Alcohol becomes the thing by which they find their identity in. It completely wrecks the lives of so many people in our world today. It dominates their lives; their home life, their work life, their spiritual life, can all be destroyed by the effects of alcohol. And the Spirit’s affect in our lives can be destroyed. Paul says in Ephesians 5:18-19:
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord”
Paul uses the example of being drunk with wine in this passage, but I believe any chemical substance we can partake of or be controlled by applies also. Regarding drinking of the intoxicating substance of wine, the idea that Paul is giving us here is that it is wasteful to get drunk with wine. The reason why this is the case is that the more that we are filled with wine, the less we will be filled with the Spirit of God. The idea of “filled” in this passage carry’s along with it the ideas of “permeation” or “being led by or influenced.” What we allow to fill us is what controls us… It can be the Spirit and His word, or it can be other things. Alcohol is the example that Paul uses. The more you drink, the more it will permeate you, overpower you and control you, and in the end, lead you to do things that are contrary to the word of God. When one is enslaved by alcohol (which is not the disease of alcoholism, but is the sin of drunkenness) or by other chemical substances, the desire for these things and the meeting of these desires become gods to us. It is what controls us and our thinking.
Regarding the idea of addictions, one author says, "Addiction is a state of compulsion, obsession, or preoccupation that enslaves a person’s will and desire. Addiction sidetracks and eclipses the energy of our deepest, truest desire for love and goodness.” We are talking about things in our lives that can overcome and enslave us if we are not careful; things that we end up running to these things to be an escape for us when we have a bad day. We trust in these things to take away our pain and to free us from our frustrations and anxieties INSTEAD OF GOD. They are idols.
We need to see the dangers of being addicted to these substances and flee them so we can be fruitful and grow in our godliness.
 Gerald May, Addiction and Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions.
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