Addiction is a hard thing for many people, for they are addicted to hard masters.
Individuals who have given control of their lives over to drugs, alcohol, or any number of vices find that the object of their addiction desires ever more from them, leaving less and less room in their lives for other things. Health, jobs, property, and even family all take a backseat to the overwhelming need to fulfill their craving for that which has them in its clutches.
The problems caused by these addictions are manifold and manifest; we don’t have to look far to find them. Broken homes and broken lives litter our community and those around us. People living without homes, without income and without support suffer before us. A sizeable number, driven by their addictions, turn to stealing, or worse, in order to support their habits. They very often seem miserable and unhappy. Those who have succumbed to addiction prove the truth of Scripture: “The way of peace they have not known.” (Isaiah 59:8; Romans 3:17)
Addiction doesn’t begin, however, as it ends. Before a drunk is vomiting in a ditch, or swerving his car into oncoming traffic, there was a first drink, in better circumstances and a false assumption of safety. Before the drug addict murders his family for their money, there was a first hit, a first high, probably with friends in what seemed to be good circumstances. Before the serial philanderer is abandoning his wife and children for yet another liaison, there was a first lustful thought, likely excused.
Sin is a hard master, taking people further than they wanted to go and costing them more than they wanted to pay, which is one of the reasons God warns us against sinful activities.
God cautions us, saying: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” (Romans 6:12; NKJV) And telling us bluntly, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16; NKJV)
There is a progression to sin. One might begin by simply taking sinful advice and counsel, but when one starts down the path of iniquity it ends with acceptance of the same and a lifestyle that is at odds with God and His word. (cf. Psalms 1:1) More than that, it ends in unhappiness and divine condemnation (cf. Psalms 1:4-6). James described it this way in the Bible: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15; NKJV)
But there is another way to walk. While we can choose to give ourselves as slaves to sin, leading to death, we can also choose to be the slave of righteousness, leading to life (cf. Romans 6:16).
Jesus said to men, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30; NKJV) Jesus was offering men a yoke it is true, a bondage of sorts; but it was a yoke of righteousness and a bondage to His service in love and mercy.
Solomon counseled that in contrast to the way of sin, in which there is no peace, that the path of wisdom is pleasantness and peace and life (cf. Proverbs 3:17-18). Wise men know that ever before they start down a path that will lead to unhappiness, they should choose the path of self-control and righteousness that leads to life and joy.
Jesus came to free those that had already chosen a yoke of sin. He came to set the captives free and bring them into a right relationship with the Holy God who created them. (cf. Luke 4:18). If sin has a hold on your life, there is hope for a better life, if you will only choose a different master, a loving master. If you are addicted to those things that bring destruction, there is a way to replace them with a yoke that is easier and brings life. If you are on the path of condemnation, Jesus can put you on the path of life and peace, if you will, in obedience, choose Him.
The church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ, Gallipolis.