First Aid

When someone has a sinful addiction that affects his physical body, how should he first be helped? For instance, when a drunkard or drug addict is completely overcome by his addiction, what is the first thing you should do? Should you preach the gospel to him? In Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, the author says that the Bible should not be the first step.

In these situations, the physical problem is primary. To focus on the underlying spiritual problems would be like reading Scripture to someone who has just cut her wrists. God’s Word certainly brings hope to the hopeless, but when someone is bleeding, you bandage her wounds and seek medical attention. With actual physical addictions, spiritual ministry begins after the person has medically stabilized or weathered the physical storms of detoxification (p. 31).

My first impression was that the author was leaving the Bible out of the equation. But I don’t think that’s what he is attempting to do. The point is that at the final stages of an addiction a person with these addictions is in such a pitiful condition that he cannot receive the Word until he is helped physically. If a drunkard is starting to black out all the time, the physical problems have to be addressed first. Or if the drug addict is no longer able to think clearly, he has to be detoxed first. But when the person is physically able, it’s time to give them the real answers to their problems. This is why the author’s next paragraph is key.

Biblical approaches to addictions do not deny that the physical body is part of the addictive process. … Where Scripture brings more precision into this discussion is in its teaching that the physical body can’t make us sin. It can make our lives miserable, it can leave us vulnerable to certain temptations, and sometimes it should be the focus of our attention, but it can’t irresistibly force us to violate God’s commands.

This I believe is key to the discussion. The Bible has the answers to those who are able and willing to receive its teaching. And it certainly reveals that we must take responsibility for our own actions instead of labeling it away. As James aptly put it, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”

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