Addiction – Slavery to the Body!
The Bible teaches that within the stewardship of each one of us there is both a body and a soul, and of the two, the soul takes priority (Matthew 10:28). The body, therefore, is a tool by which to develop the soul and the soul’s relationship to God. The interaction between the two, however, is intimate and bidirectional. The soul experiences the activities of the body; the body provides the context for the growth and development of the soul. So, while the body is a tool, it is not a mere tool; it is not a dispensable tool. The body will always provide the soul a context of experience even in eternity (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Nevertheless, the body is servant to the soul; the aim of the body is the growth, development, and salvation of the soul (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Our physical bodies are corruptible, dishonorable, weak, and natural (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). They are composed of flesh, and contain powerful passions. These passions are present to help us survive in the world. They move us to eat, drink, sleep, and engage in other physical activities. These physical activities are not ends in themselves (Romans 14:17). They are part of the context of the development and salvation of our souls. When these activities become ends in and of themselves, the soul begins to serve the body and its passions. When the passions of the body rule, addiction begins, the development of the soul ceases, and the flesh takes control. In such a state we begin to “mind the things of the flesh” (Romans 8:5). We become addicted to flesh.
Anything can become an addiction because addiction is based within the desires of the body. People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder become addicted to the simplest of activities: hand washing, twisting hair, looking in the mirror, thumb twiddling, clipping one’s nails, etc. One would not think that such seemingly ordinary activities would be spiritually damaging. However, if the focus of one’s life becomes one’s body, to whatever extent that the focus is on the body, the soul has lost control. It is the soul that must remain in control of the body; it is spirit that must prevail over flesh.
It is imperative, therefore, that the mind of the spirit rules each one’s life. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:13). Just as the soul is not the body, so also spirit is not flesh. Spirit has a different set of desires than flesh. It is the desires of spirit that must be followed. We do not naturally know those desires, as we naturally know the desires of the flesh. Only God’s Spirit can reveal the desires of spirit to us through His word (1 Corinthians 2:10).
This sets up a contrast between spiritual desires and fleshly desires. Spiritual desires are absolute; fleshly desires are relative. Spiritual desires are objective; fleshly desires are subjective. Addiction is wholesale abandonment of the control of the spirit over the flesh, and when we permit the flesh to control the spirit, we return to the beggarly elements of the world (Galatians 4:9). We become slaves to the body (John 8:34, Romans 6:16, 2 Peter 2:19).
There is no shortage in the list of addictions. This issue of the Christian Worker seeks to deal with some of the chief of these addictions: alcoholism, drug abuse, tobacco, pornography, gluttony, sex abuse, personal fashion abuse. There is also a segment in this issue on some “up and coming” addictions related to the advent of personal technologies: technology abuse, television abuse, entertainment abuse. To this list could be added: gambling, activities of leisure, sports, working, and even sleeping (Proverbs 6:9-10). Any desire of the flesh can become an addiction.
In focusing upon these particular addictions, we hope that each one will awake to the potential slavery of all fleshly desires. With awareness of such things, we can order our lives to be governed by the spiritual, so that the fleshly has no power. Only when the desires of flesh are ruled by the desires of spirit, may the desires of flesh be used to God’s glory. Only then can we hope to find spiritual peace. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).