Sin or Disease?
He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Luke 20:16
Modern medicine teaches that addictive tendencies are roughly 50% genetic and 50% environment. We have this genetic predisposition that shapes our personal traits, but then our experiences in life further mold us into who we are today.
I’ve heard Christians object to a genetic cause, insisting that addiction is simply a sinful choice. Those who believe this way reject addiction as a genetic disease, mainly on the grounds that if it’s a disease, this seems to let the addict off the hook. It’s a choice and it’s a sin. If he’s born this way, then the addict can’t help it.
I would insist however, that our very nature is diseased with self-destructive tendencies. Since the fall, in the garden, we’re all born with appetites, desires, and behaviors that cause us to follow our way, rebelling against God’s. The fact that this is partly genetic doesn’t mean it’s not self-destructive or sinful.
In today’s passage, Jesus told the parable of a landowner who rented his vineyard out to tenants while he was away. In his absence, he sent emissaries to collect payment, but the tenants beat them, turning them away. Finally, the landowner sent his beloved son, whom the tenants killed, thinking they would then inherit the land. In the end, the tenant’s pathologic behavior brought about their own destruction.
God is the landowner in the story, and whether we like it or not, we’re the tenants. It’s our nature to rebel against God, going our way instead of his. We may object and say that it’s not our fault that we’re born this way, but that doesn’t make our self-destructive behavior any less self-destructive.
We’re all afflicted with the disease of a sinful nature that desires our way instead of God’s. This manifests differently in everyone. Some of us struggle with drugs, while others wrestle with greed, lust, gluttony, pride, vanity, or the desire for power. The fact that we’re born with these tendencies doesn’t mean the behavior that stems from them isn’t wrong.
We may not be responsible for our genetic predispositions, but God holds us responsible for our behavior. He’s allowed us to be born, afflicted with self-destructive desires, but he’s also given us the freedom, in Christ, to daily follow ourselves or him. Our disease doesn’t have to determine our destiny. In following ourselves, we find misery and pain. In following God, we find freedom, life, and healing.