When thinking about the term addictions, most people have the idea of someone who is struggling against being addicted to drugs and alcohol. Likewise, many people who have been addicted to drugs or alcohol have had the experience of being in “rehab.” Depending on the program, rehab may or may not be successful in breaking their addiction. This is because no matter what the addiction, there is a spiritual aspect that needs to be addressed. For this reason, some key Bible verses for counseling about addictions are needed to address the spiritual aspect of addiction.
What is an addiction?
An addiction is the state of being in a person’s life where they have dedicated themselves to something. The same is found in the term addict, which refers to a person that had dedicated themselves to something (1)(2). We find a reference to being addicted in Scripture as follows:
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity. I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth. I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such. (1 Corinthians 16:13-18)
We see from this reference that there are many things to consider when considering an addiction. In this case, the Apostle Paul was discussing how certain believers had addicted themselves to the ministry, or service, of the saints. This passage also demonstrates to us that an addiction does not necessarily have to be bad or involve the use of substances such drugs or alcohol or food.
What are key elements of addressing an addiction?
First, we see in the passage above that Paul says, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” The phrase “Watch ye” indicates that the first guard against any addiction is to watch so that you are alert and aware of the possibility of anything that could be addictive. Second, he says to “stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” This indicates to us that our faith in what the Bible teaches about salvation and the issues of life will enable us to be strong in avoiding or quitting an addiction.
Paul continues by advising to “Let all your things be done with charity.” The word charity is the Greek word agape, which is the word for an unconditional love that comes from the Holy Spirit. We see this word used extensively throughout 1 Corinthians 13 in the King James Bible. This then teaches us that we must have a Holy Spirit led motivation of love toward God and our neighbor to break the addictions to things that are not of God (Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:28-34; Romans 13:9-10; 1 John 4:19). Generally, this would be anything of the world such as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and pride that command our devotion and attention (1 John 2:15-16).
Paul continues by describing the household of Stephanas that had addicted themselves to ministry in serving the believers. He adds that they should “submit themselves” to the ministry workers. This indicates a voluntary humbling of themselves and their own thoughts and desires and becoming involved in the work of the Lord.
Finally, Paul concludes by saying, “For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.” This indicates that by doing so, our souls will be refreshed and that we should teach others about what they are doing. This is where the spiritual connection of dealing with addiction is highlighted.
What Scriptures provide practical application for counseling about addictions?
First, we must have a new heart by trusting Christ for our salvation so that our motivations are changed.
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Psalm 24:4-5)
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:7-10)
Next we must take account of the things in our life that we allow to take up a lot of our time and influences us to in ways that are contrary to the thinking and example of Christ and resolve to avoid them.
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:22-24)
Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again. (Proverbs 23:29-35)
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Ephesians 5:18-20)
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:13-16)
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:6-17)
Finally, we must actively seek to addict ourselves to the work of the Lord. By deliberately placing God’s Word and His work into our lives. This changes our desires so that we do not want to return to those things that we were once addicted.
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James 1:21-25)
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:4-6)
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13)
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2)
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:13-16)
An addiction is the state of being in a person’s life where they have dedicated themselves to something. An addiction may or may not involve the use of substance such as drugs or alcohol. The key to overcoming a harmful addiction is to first have a new heart by trusting Christ for our salvation so that our motivations are changed. Then we must look to see what we allow to take up our time and influences us in ways that are contrary to the thinking and example of Christ. Finally, we must replace those addictions by deliberately placing God’s Word and His work into our lives so that we become addicted to Him and His ministry.
Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. (1) Webster, Noah (1828) “Wealth”. Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1828): American Dictionary of the English Language, Retrieved from http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/addict. (2) Online Etymology Dictionary (2015). “Addict”. Retrieved from Online Etymology Dictionary,http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=addict