Is addiction a sign that someone is not a Christian?
There is language in Hebrews 12 where the author of Hebrews talks about “that sin which so easily besets us,” or “that sin which so easily entangles us” (Heb. 12:1). Historically, people would come and say, “What is your besetting sin?” While we certainly can have one or a few besetting sins, that passage is getting at the reality that sin itself—not just one sin, but all sin—is entangling. It besets us.
The image is like that of weeds coming up from the ground and entangling themselves around our ankles. If you’re a runner, imagine weeds coming up and grabbing you. There’s a scene from Harry Potter that I have in mind of a vine taking one of the students into its clutches. That’s the imagery. All sin is besetting. And in one sense, all sin is addictive. Some addictive sin is not as prominent as other addictive sin, but all sin is besetting and addictive. That’s an important thing that we need to consider.
If all sin is addictive in some sense, and we fall into certain sins, then the question is: Are we repenting of those sins? Are we truly broken and contrite over those sins? And here’s the big one that a lot of people don’t want to think about, or don’t consider, or sometimes is not taught about—it is not only whether we are contrite, not only whether we have confessed that sin, but are we truly striving to walk a consecrated life apart from that sin? What steps are we taking in our lives to live in that way?
I pray every day in my life for certain things. I pray that God would help me to be disciplined in my eating and drinking, whatever I put in my body, and my exercising. I pray that God would help me to be disciplined in my spending and in my saving. I pray that God would help me to be disciplined with my mouth, which I’m not always, and that He would help me control my tongue so that I would say things that are kind and gentle, not harsh or unkind. And I can be harsh. I can hurt people’s feelings. I can say unkind things. In one sense those are patterns that become addictive. Sometimes you don’t even realize it. Sometimes they are blind spots.
Whether they are sexual sins, or sins of substances like drugs or alcohol, we need to take steps to get help and accountability. We need to take things away from our lives. We need to put up barriers and guards. We need friends, and we need to be able to be open about our sins.
We need to be able to talk about our sins. The church shouldn’t be the last place you go; it should be the first place you go. And if you can’t go to your elder in your church and talk to him about your sin because you’re afraid, you probably need to find a church where they’re going to be ready to show you grace, love, and forgiveness, but where they’re also willing to help you get the help you need.
This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Burk Parsons and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.