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Welcome back to the eighth part of our Biggest Parenting Challenges You Will Ever Face series. Today we’re talking about children and addictions, and I need to encourage all of you to stick with us regardless of the age of your children.
Recently I was in a board meeting, and we were observing how the board member’s children ranged from just over 1 year to 18-plus years. And I can say — beyond a shadow of all possible doubt — that every single one of our — the TLP board members — kids struggles with addiction.
And yours do too.
But before we tackle this difficult topic, I want to remind you that Truth.Love.Parent. is in the final stages of becoming a non-profit. That means that we don’t make the funds necessary to create all of these free, biblical parenting resources . . . we receive the funds from donors who love God, love strong families, and love TLP. We call them our TLP Friends, and I invite you to click on the "TLP Friend" link in the description of this episode so you can learn more about how to support Truth.Love.Parent. as we glorify God by equipping families to be everything He called and created them to be.
And while you’re at TruthLoveParent.com make sure to download your free episode notes from our blog, Taking Back the Family.
And — with that — let’s apply our minds to the Scripture in order to understand how all parents are going to have to parent addicted children.
As usual, I want to start with a review.
By the way, if you haven’t heard parts 1-7, you really need to do that. Part 1 — in particular — is absolutely necessary to understanding everything I’m going to say today.
So, here we go.
It doesn’t matter if your teenager is addicted to opioids or your elementary schooler is enslaved by the primary addiction that plagues all mankind, the addiction itself is not the main problem. The addiction is a symptom of the problem.
I’ve worked with too many parents and spouses who thought that as long as the individual overcame the substances addictive hold over them by “getting clean,” that the problem would be fixed. But that only ever ends in disaster.
“Getting clean” is very important, but it’s never enough.
Why is that?
Well, if a young lady believes that her greatest safety and satisfaction is going to be achieved by pursuing them herself, then she will use all technology at her disposal to gain more and more of it. The more she gains, the more autonomous she feels, and the more she’ll throw off the authority in her life that’s dissuading her from pursuing her sinful pleasure.
Once she is the functioning god of her own life, she will define morality however she pleases, and — in the same way that redefinition will affect her view concerning sexuality and the family structure — it’s going to impact how she thinks about addiction.
Some people embrace addiction. Some people live in denial about it. Some hate it, but only in certain manifestations.
Either way, addiction to substances, behaviors, lifestyles, events, and the like is a result of pursuing our own pleasure. The more we gain, the more we get addicted to the momentary pleasure our sin affords.
But — before we can continue — we need to all agree on a working definition of addiction.
According to Merriam-Webster, the first definition of addiction is “a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms upon withdrawal or abstinence.” The second definition is less clinical and reads, “a strong inclination to do, use, or indulge in something repeatedly.”
The first definition is fine and good, but the second definition is probably more helpful. Allow me to repeat it: “a strong inclination to do, use, or indulge in something repeatedly.”
If we make just one adjustment to this definition, then I believe we’ll have a definition for addiction that lines up well with the Bible’s handling of the subject.
Of course, the Bible doesn’t use the words addiction or addicted, but the concept is definitely there, and — I would argue — is illustrated in a far more dramatic way.
Consider Isaiah 5:11. “Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink,
Who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them!”
Obviously this is referring to substance abuse, but I want you to focus on the word “pursue.” They wake up early and stay up late in order to pursue strong drink.
There’s another less obvious way the Bible refers to addictive behavior. In I Corinthians 5:11 we read, “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”
The first observation is that the Greek words employed here give us the impression of someone who engages in these behaviors repeatedly. Someone who occasionally drinks a small amount of alcohol is not called a drunkard. The same would apply to a reviler. This is not merely someone who reviled once or twice in high school. The word describes a repeated, consistent habit.
As we all know, “a habit” is another word used to describe an addiction.
But there’s another important consideration we can learn from this passage.
A couple of the items on that list are clearly addictive. We know that people can be addicted to alcohol as well as sexual immorality. But please notice that covetousness, idolatry, reveling, and swindling are also on the list.
What this shows us is that those behaviors are just as addictive as alcoholism and sexual sin.
“Well, Aaron, that seems like a bit of a stretch.”
Okay, let’s allow Jesus to clarify the issue.
In John 8:34-36, “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”
Did you catch the terminology?
Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
This wording is used all through the Bible. Consider Romans 16:17-18, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.”
These people are enslaved to their appetites.
Titus 3:3, “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.”
II Peter 2:17-19 describes apostates as being “springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.”
What does all of this mean for us and our kids?
The primary addiction from which all other addictions grow is the addiction to sin. Sin — in every form — is the perfect drug.
Sin feels good. Hebrews 11:25 tells us that sin is pleasurable for a season.
We interpret that good feeling as satisfaction and safety, and we want more and more of it. And the more we habitually pursue it, the more addicted to the sin we become.
Therefore, physical addiction to drugs and alcohol is merely a result of being addicted to the sin of striving for my own pleasure via drugs and alcohol.
I Corinthians 6:12-20 tells us, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”
The word “mastered” refers to being controlled by something.
Then the passage continues. “13 Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. 14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.”
Then Paul discusses sexual addiction in particular, and then he gets to the familiar verses of 19 and 20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."
How does Paul plan to not be mastered by food and sex? He plans on submitting his body to the Lord.
This is consistent with what we learn in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
We can only ever be enslaved to one thing. The cure for being enslaved to sin is to be enslaved to God.
Romans 6:6-7 explains this glorious cure, “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.”
Later in the same chapter we learn (Romans 6:16-23), “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 12:9-11 Paul tells us that the only way to escape unrighteous addictions is to serve the Lord. The word translated “serve” at the end of verse 11 is the same word used elsewhere for being enslaved to sin. “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”
And none of this should surprise us. If addictive behavior is simply the consequence of habitually seeking our own pleasure by our own means, then — clearly — like with every other parenting challenge we’ve discussed, the answer is to trust God and seek the satisfaction that He offers when we live according to His will.
We must follow Christ.
Galatians 4:7-9 says, “Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. 8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?”
And Galatians 5:1 reads, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
This is why I can confidently say that “getting clean” and finding a substitute for our addictions — like broccoli instead of chocolate or community service instead of sex — is never going to fix anything.
The issue is not the addictive behavior, but what it reveals about us. The addictive behavior simply shows that we’re trying to reap our security in our own way. What good is it going to do to replace idolatry in my Mountain Dew consumption with idolatry in my smoothie consumption?
The heart of the issue is still an issue of the heart, and it doesn’t matter if I replace one sacrifice for another if I’m offering those sacrifices to self instead of God.
Yes, your children — especially if they aren’t born again — are addicted to the primary addiction of self worship which is the ultimate sin in that it breaks the first and greatest commandment — you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Now, yes, if you have a family member who is chemically addicted to a substance, you really need to get them into a good detox and rehab program. Seriously bad things can happen to their body if it’s not done correctly.
But the best way to help our family members with addictive behavior is to break their addiction to self and teach them to serve God.
Allow me to finish with I John 3:6-10, “No one who abides in [Christ] sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.”
Did you hear how many times John referred to our practice of sin and righteousness? Christians should not be defined by their addiction to sin. Will they sin? Yes. Should they be defined by that sin? Never.
Now, we are very close to the end of this series. If it has blessed you in any way, we’d love for you to leave us a 5-star rating as well as share this series with your friends.
And if you need assistance battling your secondary or primary addictions and helping your family to do the same, please email us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com or call us at (828) 423-0894.
I hope you’ll join us next time as we open God’s Word to discover how to parent our children for life and godliness by discussing part 9 of this series — children and identity.
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