The Grace in Addiction

**Originally Published in The Christian Online Magazine, March 2013**

     I spent many years of my life buried in addiction. Addiction to drugs, to an eating disorder, to acceptance, approval, and a host of other unhealthy substances and emotions. One of the worst things about addiction is not the object of the attachment (though that can be dangerous to one’s health), but the denial of the problem—and its seriousness– in the first place.

 

In his book Addiction and Grace, Gerald G. May, M.D. makes a startling statement: “Addiction also makes idolaters of us all, because it forces us to worship these objects of attachment, thereby preventing us from truly, freely loving God and one another.”

 

How many times have we said in jest, “Oh, I am totally addicted to caffeine”? Or maybe it was sugar, sodas, pastries, salt, or some other food/beverage we knew wasn’t really a healthy choice. We make excuses for ourselves because we choose not to control our eating habits. And then we laugh about it while munching away on another donut.

 

Addiction is akin to idolatry. And God has some strong opinions of idolatry. It’s easy to judge the habits of others, but we all need to consider God’s words to us as His children.

 

“Their idols…became a snare to them.” (Psalm 106:36, NIV)

“Watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol.” (Deuteronomy 4:15-16, NIV)

“All your idols are as empty as the wind.” (Isaiah 41:29, NLT)

“Flee from idolatry.” (1Corinthians 10:14, NIV)

 

Does it seem too extreme to claim that caffeine, sugar, or salt could be a destructive idol in one’s life? I don’t think it is. Our excuses lead us to consume foods we know are not God’s best. We joke about not having self-control over a holiday meal, or not being able to stop eating chocolate, ice cream, or whatever the vice happens to be. But, dear friends, God is not laughing. Self-control is an evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, and to ignore His work is to grieve Him (see Ephesians 4:30). You see, no matter what the substance or object of our addiction is, it is still an addiction—an idol.

 

Is it wrong to drink coffee every day or eat at a fast food restaurant? Of course not, we know from passages like 1 Corinthians 6 that sin does not specifically lay within a food or substance. All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial, is what Paul told us. So the answer to this dilemma is not found in the substance but in our use and desire for that food or substance (in other words, are we obsessing over it and annoyed when we can’t have it?). A good way to determine if a food habit has become an addiction is to eliminate that food from your life for a time. If you experience distress, irritability, or anxiety, then guess what? You have an addiction!

 

God has given us the freedom to choose, and we need to be good stewards of that freedom by making wise choices. We’re getting close to Easter, and many people have chosen to observe Lent. Maybe this is a good time for you to pray and ask God if there is any food habit you need to eradicate from your life. God’s grace is abundant! There is no need to feel condemnation, but instead you can experience the hope and joy of being freed from unnecessary entanglements.

 

Wouldn’t it be nice to drive by that restaurant without thinking about its meals, or attend that holiday dinner without obsessing over getting that last piece of pie, or wake up in the morning and not have the first thing on your mind be a Grande Mocha? Whatever your vice is (and I have mine too), God can give you the grace to overcome it, and in doing so you will not only honor Him, you’ll be doing your body a favor and giving yourself a better chance at living a longer, healthier life in service to Him.

 

  “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, KJV)

© Rebecca Aarup

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Other related posts:

Spiritual Reboot: Four Ways Fasting Benefits Your Body and Spirit

What Does it Mean to be a Healthy Christian?

Letting Ourselves Go

Recognizing the Causes of Over-Indulgence

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup has written devotionals and Bible teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. She just released a new Bible Study The Word: Six Lessons from Psalm 119 which is available as a free download on her website or in print form from Amazon. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and 5 year old, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by subscribing to her blog (it’s free) and following her on twitter and facebook.

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Why We Do What We Do…Part II: Overspending

“Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Does God really care if I buy an extra pair of shoes, a movie, some video games, or that magazine? Doesn’t God have bigger problems then how I spend my money? Isn’t that a bit extreme? After reading Luke 12:35-48 (I’d highly recommend checking it out) I’m convinced it is not too extreme and everything we do is important. Our Master is returning and we’re busy goofing off. He has entrusted us with material and spiritual gifts and He is watching us right now to see if we are using them faithfully. It bears no significance that our name is on the paycheck; it all belongs to Him. (1 Cor. 10:26) Consider this; Jesus is standing in front of you with a wad of cash, assuring you can do whatever you want with it. I don’t know about you, but my first response probably wouldn’t be running to Outback Steakhouse, buying a new T.V., or taking a trip to Disneyland. I’m guessing I would be motivated and obligated to use it for the hungry and needy. I couldn’t say for sure that’s what I’d do, but I have my dreams.

The reality is, every Friday (or whatever the pay day is), we are presented with that very same opportunity! Yes, we have bills to pay and things we need for our survival, but how much of that is truly spent wisely? If Jesus looked through your checkbook register, would you be embarassed? I know I would be. Let’s spend a moment clearing out our spiritual garden again, digging up the roots to our spending habits.

Root #1: I Lust with My Eyes

“For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16

It’s impossible to make an unwise purchase without the sin of lust being involved. We didn’t buy that 80″ big screen television because we had no choice. We saw it with our eyes, we wanted it, we lusted after it, so we bought it! If we want to be good stewards of our finances, we must rectify our eyes of lust, and ask God to give us new eyes; kingdom eyes. Does that mean buying items for entertainment is sin? Only you and God know what is sin for you and your finances (James 4:17 again). If He has convicted you of a certain spending issue, and you ignore it, you are sinning. What’s a sin for me may not be a sin for you; it is up to me and you to listen to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and obey. Maybe you could try praying before making such a purchase, and see what God has to say.

Root #2: I am Discontent

“The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content.” Proverbs 19:23 (Emphasis mine)

A spirit of discontentment will most assuredly lead to over-spending. If we  found our contenment in God, we would be less tempted to buy junk we don’t really need. Jesus warns us, “Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15) Paul instructs us to be content in godliness, rather than accumulation of things. (1 Tim. 6:6) We need to ask ourselves: are we content with what we have or are we constantly looking to have more? (1 Tim. 6:8)

Root #3: I am an Idolator

“Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolator, worshiping the things of this world.” Colossians 3:5 (NLT)

“Greed causes fighting; trusting in the Lord leads to prosperity.” Proverbs 28:25

Ouch! All I have to do is be greedy (selfish) and I am labeled as an idolator! How many times throughout a given day am I more concerned with my rights then the rights of those around me? Selfish ambition is greed. The deep desire for self leads us into all sorts of ugliness, one of which is over-spending. I want what I want and I want it now! I have the money, so why not? Once again we need to consider the source of our desire. Are we making wise choices or selfish choices? I have a friend who almost never makes new purchases for her children. She always uses hand-me-downs from families and friends yet her kids have some pretty cool toys. Many of them were used and they work just as well. We may look at used things as being beneath us or not good enough for us; this is another source of pride, selfishness, and greed. Once again I implore you to seek God’s counsel before making any purchase.

If you’re looking to increase the kingdom of God, and use your finances to glorify Him, consider the above roots and whether they have held a place in your spiritual garden. Seek new ways to be a blessing to someone else, rather then feeding your own desires. One of the best ways to get kingdom focused is to focus on the needs of those around you,  keeping in mind the nice things you have are not going to eternity with you.

(For more information on frugality, see America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right On The Money or Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides: America’s Cheapest Family. You can also see their bio and info on facebook.)