The Living Dead
. . . She who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 1 Timothy 5:6
I’m just so sick of this life. When I meet those newly admitted at the treatment center where I work, I always ask what brought them there. Sometimes they’re legally compelled and sometimes their families brought them. Frequently though, I hear this despondent statement – I’m just so sick of this life. I hear it several times a week. I’ve said it myself, back when my life was a disaster. These are the words of those whose lives have been ravaged by drugs and alcohol.
Drugs weren’t always miserable. We started for a reason. Once, they brought pleasure. That’s the problem. We impulsively wanted to do that which we knew would bring immediate gratification. And it did. Using felt good. Then, we repeated it, reinforcing the behavior, and remodeling our brains so that using became compulsive. Eventually the drugs enslaved us though, so that instead of owning them, they owned us. As the chemicals consumed more and more of our lives, we became more and more miserable. We lost jobs, friends, family, and integrity, as we abandoned any joy and peace that we once might have had. We were technically alive, but we were zombies. The painful irony is that the thing we once sought for pleasure in is the thing that turned us into the living dead.
Paul taught this concept in today’s passage. In the larger passage, he gave Timothy specific instruction regarding widows in the church. In today’s verses though, he taught that the one living for self-indulgence is dead, even though he or she lives.
This isn’t just about drugs and alcohol. This is about attempting to find our purpose and meaning in immediate gratification – whatever that may look like. Immediate gratification, or pleasure, is always easier to find than authentic joy. It’s easier to eat a donut than to train for a marathon. One provides immediate pleasure, with consequences later. The other requires hard work up front, with a lasting joy that comes after. Paul taught that living for immediate gratification, though we may think it’s the quickest route to satisfaction, is actually the quickest route to addiction, slavery, and misery.
We may believe we’re pursuing the passionate life when we seek gratification in our lust, gluttony, or greed. We may even find pleasure for a season. Eventually though, those things enslave us, robbing us of authentic life, making us zombies. If we truly want to know the life of joy and peace for which we were made, we must daily choose God’s path instead of our own. It’s not that we can never know pleasure. We simply must learn to find it the right way, God’s way, instead of our own.