two biblical addicts

From the temptation in the garden to eat the fruit that could ‘make one wise’, and thus powerful – god-like – through to the depiction of the unholy triune temptation of ‘the world, the flesh and the devil’, we see that humans have always been vulnerable to sin… and when sin becomes habitual, compulsive and obsessive, it morphs into addiction.

David sounds like he knew the experience of the ‘pit’ and ‘miry clay’ of addiction in Psalm 40.  Look especially at verse 12…

For troubles without number surround me;
    my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
    and my heart fails within me.

His ‘troubles’ are not merely of a large number, but they cannot be numbered… ‘more than the hairs of [his] head’…
His ‘sins’ have not just challenged him, they have ‘overtaken’ him…
They have not just impaired his vision, but blinded him…
His heart is not just troubled, but it ‘fails’…
That sounds like the experience of someone despairing in the trap of addiction.

Paul also uses language that sounds remarkably like addiction.  Listen to the conflict and torment of Romans 7, especially verses 14-15, 18-19…

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

Commentators on the book of Romans have said that Paul is writing here both about his prior experience before meeting Christ, and also the experience as a believer struggling against the unholy sinful desires he still carries.  This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t also have a firm and unshakable identity as a new creation in Christ, but it does mean that he has ‘not yet attained’ the perfection he is striving toward (Philippians 3)…

At least at the level of temptation and feeling, he relates to the idea of being a ‘slave to sin’.  He understands what it’s like to despise himself for doing – and keeping on doing –  the very things – evil things – he intends not to do…

So then… what is the point of noting that David and Paul sounded at times like an addict?

It certainly is not to justify any addictive behaviour.

The point is to underline the reality that sin, temptation, and yes addiction, afflicts everyone – at least at some level.  When we can recognize that such characters as King David and the Apostle Paul could relate to addiction, we are less prone to the worst kind of despair; namely the kind that flows from deep shame.

Whatever you have done… whatever you are doing… whatever you keep on doing…
You are not the only one…
You are not alone…
There was a Way out for them…
There is a Way out for you also.

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