What Is Your Addiction?
One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. Luke 18:22
Addiction is characterized by the compulsive repetition of a self-destructive behavior despite negative, painful consequences. In my own life, this has most obviously involved opiate pain medications. Finding immediate gratification in pills, I used them repeatedly, until I became addicted. I encountered painful repercussions and was aware of far worse consequences that were coming if I didn’t stop, but I couldn’t quit.
Addiction of course, doesn’t just involve drugs or alcohol. We can be addicted to food, pornography, gambling, or screen time. We find immediate gratification in something, and so, we do it repeatedly. We do it so many times, that our brain becomes rewired. Soon, that one behavior dominates our lives as other behaviors begin to revolve it. Our addiction may injure us and our loved ones, but still, we cling to it, unable to stop.
Addiction isn’t always immediately and obviously destructive though. Sometimes, our addictions masquerade as good things. Just like a drug, we can be addicted to status, success, or money. In today’s passage, Jesus met a rich young man who appeared to have it all together. He’d followed the ten commandments and he probably looked religious to those around him. He believed in and wanted to know God. Moreover, he was rich. This was a guy who appeared to be winning at life.
Still, he didn’t know God. He could feel that something was missing, and, in his emptiness, he went to Jesus, asking what he lacked. Jesus – who could see right through him – knew that money was this man’s god. Until he abandoned his addiction, he could never really know the real God. So, Jesus told him to give up his money and follow Christ. Then, and only then, would he know recovery and life.
The rich young man walked away sad. He’d chosen his god and despite the painful consequences, he couldn’t abandon his addiction. What does this mean for us? Is Jesus asking us to give away all that we have? Maybe. God asks that we love him above all. Anything that we love more than him, by definition, has become our god. Any god above God, is a self-destructive addiction and must be abandoned if we truly want to know true joy, life, and recovery.