The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: A

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Apart from wine, none of the things to which we can become addicted today are specifically mentioned in the Bible (a fact which some exploit after the "it's not expressly forbidden" manner). We must therefore limit ourselves to broad principles, and cautiously generalise from the example of wine (which is, of course, mentioned frequently). While drugs were not unknown in Biblical times (eg, the gall offered to the Lord as a painkiller may have contained a form of narcotic), there is no example of their abuse in either Old or New Testaments. We do encounter primitive pharmacists in the NT (Greek 'pharmakos', styled "sorcerers" in the KJV). These dealt with potions and poisons (usually the latter) for a fee, and perhaps there is a valid parallel between them and the modern world's traffickers in illicit drugs, similarly profiteering in lethal preparations. References to these persons are few, and invariably critical (Gal 5:20, Rev 9:21; 18:23; 21:8; 22:15). [In the LXX this word describes the magicians of Egypt (Exo 7:11), Jezebel (2Ki 9:22), the "virgin" daughter of Babylon (Isa 47:9,12) and the bloody city Nineveh (Nah 3:4). This last example (the mistress of sorcery selling families into slavery through her sorceries), and its use as a spiritual figure, suggests a double parallel: whereas sorcery leads to drug peddling and in turn to addiction, false teaching leads to slave trade and in turn to bondage to sin.

Broadly speaking

The following are some important principles which have a bearing on our subject. Naturally they overlap a little; naturally, too, we cannot argue that their primary application is as given here; but I believe that they are relevant, and that our every
indulgence bears investigation in their light.

(1) Imitators of Christ

From every point of view the Lord Jesus demonstrated that he was the Son of God. He did nothing that was not of positive advantage to fulfilling this requirement. Of no act of his could it be said "this was not relevant to satisfying his responsibilities". When, in turn, the apostle Paul directs us to be "followers of me, even as I am of Christ" (1Co 11:1), our duty is no less. [Paul's word is 'mimetes', "imitator".] This means refraining from activities and substances which the Lord would have shunned just as much as it means doing the things which he commands.

(2) Unspotted from the world

Here are a few examples of verses which encourage us in living a simple and healthy way of life: "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2Co 7:1). "For God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness" (1Th 4:7). "Keep yourself pure" (1Ti 5:22). "As he who has called you is holy, so be holy in all manner of conversation" (1Pe 1:15).

(3) Squandering our blessings

We believe the Psalmist when he writes "I will praise Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well" (Psa 139:14). Good health is a true blessing from the Lord, something we all recognise when we pray to Him out of sickness and infirmity. It is probably true to say that all addictions are harmful to health, long term. Thus it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the addict is despising one or more of God's greatest gifts to him. Can a smoker plead with God to spare him the ravages of lung cancer? "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?" (Pro 6:27).

(4) As the Lord's free men

The natural state of man is succinctly termed "bondage to sin" by the apostles. From this oppression the saints have been redeemed, not in order to have total liberty, but to serve another, namely God Himself. Our new Master, if altogether more merciful and sympathetic than our former, still requires our complete dedication to Himself. This is relevant to our subject in two ways: (a) many addictions are detrimental to our powers and abilities, and thus diminish our service; and (b) the very nature of addiction brings us under another master, "for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage" (2Pe 2:19). In other words, a man is a slave of whatever overpowers him. So, rather:

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal 5:1)

"Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness... as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness" (Rom 6:16-19).

These verses, while speaking spiritually, should have some application to mundane affairs as well.

(5) Making my brother to offend

We may feel that we are strong enough to continue our "little" indulgence without decline, but we are all required not only to weigh up the consequences our actions have on ourselves, but also to consider any influence they may exert on our brethren. And the sad truth is that one man's liberty may well become another man's poison, or another family's misery. The society in which we live is full of suffering and problems directly attributable to one addiction or another: families deprived by gambling or excessive spending, children physically abused by drunken parents, and so on. The saints should shun any association with evils like these. And none of us may with impunity lead our brethren to exercise what may be (to them) a lethal liberty. "If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth (1Co 8:13). "For meat destroy not the work of God... it is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak" (Rom 14:20,21).


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