Proverbs (3). Addiction

There are several forms of addiction in the wisdom literature of the Bible. In Proverbs, addiction robs us of our character, morality, spirituality and reduces us to being reactive, instinctual and dependent. Here is wisdom on how to avoid and reduce our struggles with addiction. [Audio | Notes]

Michael Flynn


Audio

Proverbs 23:17-21; 23:30-35; 31:1-7

For further thought

Readings: Proverbs 23:17-21 | 23:30-35 | 31:1-7
There are several forms of addiction in the wisdom literature of the Bible. Our greatest addiction is sin or foolishness (for example: Proverbs 4:14-17) and, in Proverbs, we can also become addicted to the emotions we are trying to control (6:25-29, 12:27, 13:4, 14:17, 15:18). In Proverbs, addiction robs us of our character, morality, spirituality and reduces us to being reactive, instinctual and dependent. 

The science of addiction talks about stimulants and depressants. Some of these come as foods or as the result of physical activity. For example the chemical, dopamine is a stimulant that works in the pleasure centres of the brain. It works over the short term and activated by things like chocolate, coffee, tea and even ‘likes’ on facebook. Serotonin relates to mood and our sense of well being over a longer term, it is increased by things like sea foods and nuts. Endorphins are short term stimulants and help us cope with pain and give us a mild high as when we exercise strenuously. Depressants take the edge off strong emotions, which is the classic use of alcohol. Of course there are also medications and illegal drugs to create and manage our emotions. 

Q: What are the marks of addiction as opposed to the normal variation of our use of foods, behaviour or substances?

Q: What causes us to become addicted to behaviours that have a negative effect on ourselves and others?


In the readings from Proverbs above we are warned about addictions to food, alcohol, sexual pleasure and injustice. 

Q: In the readings what is the effect on the addicted and those the addicted are responsible for of their behaviours? Why does Proverbs want us to see these things?

Q: Why don’t we talk about gluttony as a harmful behaviour in our culture?

Q: What are the costs of these behaviours?

The situation in 31:6,7 is basically one of palliative care.

Q: Why is drunkenness commended in that situation? Why not for other seasons of life?

Grace & Love
According to Assoc. Prof. Alan Gijsbers, in the contemporary treatment of addiction two theological themes are still relied upon. One is recognising our need to call upon grace (a higher power in AA) for forgiveness or help. The second is taking up our responsibilities, or, to put that another way, loving those we are called to have responsibility for. 

Q: How are these two ideas reflected in our readings from Proverbs? 

Q: How can they be encouraged in our own lives and in the lives of those we know are burdened by various forms of addiction?

Q: How may we pray about these things?

In Matthew 11 Jesus said that God had sent him to reveal the reality and power of the Kingdom of God to children. That is, to anyone who entrusts their lives to him and the care of our heavenly Father (Matthew 11:25-27). He concludes with an appeal, not for the self sufficient but for those who know the weight of their need:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 


Amen.