Monday, February 27, 2017

addiction (of all sorts) is rough business

Addiction is rough business.

In its most "popular" forms-- performance-impeding substance abuse-- addiction leads to degeneracy and various deficiencies. But addiction (defined coherently) is much more prevalent than that. For example, you might need to have Starbucks every morning or a glass of wine at every dinner; play sports talk radio every time you're in the car; hit your devices at every turn; reflexively watch national TV news/politics.

In Christian theology, addictions are one form of idolatry. Idols always look better than they are, deliver less than advertised, and cost you much more than you can (easily) see.

What to do? In Ephesians 4:22-24, Paul talks about "putting off the old man" and "putting on the new man". Both "putting off" and "putting on" require action, discipline, wisdom, and often, courage. In terms of thoughts, words, and actions, "putting off" is akin to pulling weeds; "putting on" is akin to planting flowers. Pulling weeds is a good start, but the goal is for us to have a garden.

From there, Paul follows up with eight verses, applying this principle to several key categories: the tongue, work, kindness, and anger. For example, in 4:29, he exhorts us to no longer use words that make people less whole, but to use words that "build others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." 

Along the same lines: If you're wondering whether you're an addict on X, see if you can give it up for a significant period of time. Practice a "weed/flower" spiritual discipline of giving up X and adding in Z.

Let's get specific. Perhaps you quit watching TV news for two weeks and read a book or two instead. Stop Starbucks for a month and give $100 to a local charity. Try silence and meditation in your car for three weeks. For the next 10 weekdays, put your phone down when you get home and don't pick it up until the next morning. 

It's easier to point at people who are clearly a mess. But all of us are a mess. And God's goals for us include a process of sanctification where we partner with Him, continue to have our character and skills refined, becoming more effective in loving God and those around us. Don't let a subtle addiction get in the way of your enjoying the goodness of God's Kingdom.


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