What The Bible Says About Addiction: Scriptures On Addiction
The stories of the Bible are profound, archetypal commentaries on the meaning of being human. Even today, our culture describes a power imbalance as a “David and Goliath” story and a stranger who unexpectedly blesses another person as a “Good Samaritan.”
They still resonate with us today because the ancient writers of the Bible wrote about unavoidably human people. From the king who had one of his most trusted servants killed to cover up an affair to one of Jesus’ disciples who denied Him three times, the characters of the Bible comprise the best and worst of us.
It’s no wonder people wonder what the Bible says about addiction. Considering what the Bible says about still-relevant parts of human existence, such as love, mercy, forgiveness, etc., what does the Bible say about addiction?
For those looking for clear examples of addictions in the bible, there are curiously few to be found.
The Bible (originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) was finished in writing approximately 2000 years ago, whereas the English language didn’t contain the word “addiction” until the 16th century. Hebrew was transformed from a primarily liturgical language to a marketplace spoken language starting in the late 19th century. Thus, the Hebrew word for addiction (הִתְמַכְּרוּת) wasn’t invented until centuries after the Bible was written.
While the Bible has plenty to say on topics like “idolatry” and “pride,” it has little to say specifically on “addiction”:
- “Idolatry” is defined as worshiping anything other than the Lord. Whether the object of worship is another God, another person, an item, an idea, or a substance, idolatry means you have elevated something in importance above your relationship with God.
- “Pride” is a presenting symptom of unrepentant sin. God continually calls the Israelites to humble themselves, and he will heal them of their sins and bless their families. When people resist humbling themselves, they invoke the wrath of God.
But, just because the word “addiction” doesn’t appear in the Bible doesn’t mean there aren’t characters in the Bible who present with addictive behaviors. The Bible has plenty of prohibitions and warnings against what would be called today “alcohol use disorder” and “sex addiction.”
The use of alcohol is not prohibited in the Bible. Far from it. Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine for a wedding celebration.
However, the overindulgence of wine is repeatedly warned against. Noah got drunk with wine after the great flood, and the disciples were accused of being drunk on the day of Pentecost. Some admonishing scriptures include:
“Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” (Prov 20:1, New International Version or NIV)
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph 5:18, NIV)
King David is the most famous example of sex addiction in the Bible.
While King David was famously described as a “man after God’s own heart,” he also had acquired at least 8 named wives and many more unnamed wives and concubines. Nevertheless, as he was walking his palace rooftop one day, he saw the wife of one of his trusted guards bathing herself.
Her husband was off at war, fighting in Israel’s army where King David should have been. He sent a messenger to bring her to his palace despite being reminded exactly who she was by a palace attendant.
He slept with her, she conceived, and he covered up the affair by having her husband killed on the front lines. God punished him by suffering the death of the conceived child and losing his God-given authority as king in a coup.
Matt Chandler of the Village Church teaches how the gospel is the remedy to fix all broken things. While we generally seek satisfaction in ourselves, others, the world, or religion, none of them will fill the void. But, a relationship with Jesus can. There are 12 sessions and free teaching videos for each session.
Joshua Staton began “Overcome” in 2013 as an addiction support group. Since then, it’s morphed into a curriculum with 17 topical chapters replete with stories of struggle, addiction, inspiration, transformation, and recovery. The love of God is central to every story in the curriculum.
Michael Mason guides readers through how addictions are related to sin and how forgiveness and healing can be achieved through offering their hearts, minds, and bodies to Jesus Christ.
If you’re wondering what the Bible says on addiction in terms of how to break an addiction biblically, there are several options:
A certified Christian counselor can help you process your addiction in light of the truth and transformative power of God’s Word
Prayer is the single most powerful tool in a Christian’s toolbox. It’s a two-way conversation with God in which you disclose everything going on with your life, and God discloses Himself. A prayer group can provide both emotional and spiritual encouragement to get you through the worst days of your recovery.
The Bible says “when you fast,” not “if you fast.” An intermittent fast could benefit any upcoming important decisions. Fasting helps focus your thoughts on your relationship with God rather than the negative thought patterns it gets stuck in.
There are many Christian support groups, such as “Celebrate Recovery,” which offer the structure of 12-step programs with explicit Christian vocabulary, scripture, and traditions. These groups provide accountability for people in the recovery process.
Sometimes, people need a single person to help keep them accountable. An accountability partner is someone who knows what you are struggling with, and you can call anytime to get advice or extra strength to stay sober.
While there are no explicit Bible scriptures on addiction for reasons already mentioned, there are many scriptures concerning temptation, idolatry, and right living.
Ironically, a fantastic Psalm for addiction is Psalm 23–written by none other than King David (who likely suffered from sex addiction) as he was experiencing great fear at the hands of a power he could not control.
(All Bible passages referenced are quoted from the New International Version or NIV.)
10 Scriptures On Addiction
“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.” (Rom 7:18)
This verse is the closest example of an addiction described in the Bible: Wanting to do good, but being unable to do it. It’s a surprising admission from the Apostle Paul, who wrote half of the books of the New Testament. It should give us a little hope that even someone as respected as Paul can struggle with addictions.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Phil 2:13)
The knowledge that God is inside us and giving us the power to do what pleases him should encourage us to know we have all the power we need to fight this addiction.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Rom 12:1)
When you sacrifice something, you give up control of it. When we were in control of our bodies, we ended up with an addiction. We should give control of our bodies to God, who is a God of righteousness, healing, and mercy.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
we must disclose our shortcomings to God. God already knows all about your addiction, but he wants the relationship. He has promised to forgive our sins and cleanse us from wrongdoing.
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor 10:12)
Over-confidence is negatively associated with long-term sobriety. Be careful that you don’t think to assume your progress is stronger than it is, and remain humble.
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:1)
This verse describes a persistent sin in the life of another believer. This sin could easily be an addiction. The verse is directed at the church community to help the person with the addiction back to the right path. It’s a community effort, not an individual effort.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
Being sober-minded is the opposite of addiction. Addiction clouds your mind and severs the connection between spirit and body. Being sober-minded is how you can stand guard against the devil’s schemes.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” (1 Cor 6:19-20)
Ancient temples were considered the divine resting place of the gods. As such, they were kept pristine, and no expense was spared. In the Roman city of Corinth, many temples were dedicated to numerous Roman gods. The apostle Paul was making a comparison point by comparing Christians’ bodies to these pristine, expensive temples: Treat your bodies like they are the resting place of the Lord.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Cor 10:13)
God will always give you the strength to stay sober if you trust in him.
“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
Speaking to the woman at the well, for the first time, Jesus revealed his divine nature. She was getting water, and he observed that she would have to do this repeatedly, but her thirst would never go away. This is similar to the way alcohol-use disorder functions. But, if she drank from him (i.e., established a personal relationship), she would never thirst again.
A fantastic prayer to pray for the right perspective during recovery is the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
 Full article: The etymology and early history of ‘addiction.’ (n.d.). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/16066359.2018.1543412