I Think I’ll Just Have One
As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5
Nearly eight years ago, I relapsed into drug use and a spiral of dramatic self-destruction. It didn’t start out with me losing my job and going to treatment one day. It started out with just one taste. I’d been sober for a while when I had the opportunity to use and get away with it – I thought. I convinced myself that I could indulge just once and then go back to sobriety the next day. I can still remember the feeling as the drug took over my brain. It was as if a switch flipped in my head, telling me that I wasn’t going to stop or be sober the next day. I wanted more.
It may not be as dramatic or self-destructive, but even if we haven’t all struggled with drugs or alcohol, we can likely all identify in some way. Most of us who have tried to eat healthy have experienced being derailed by just one. Maybe we’ve been avoiding junk food but then encountered a bag of potato chips and thought, I’ll just have one. Once we opened that bag though, putting just one chip in our mouth, a switch flipped in our brains. We were then under the influence of the chip. We’d given over to it and we were no longer in control. Rather, the chips controlled us.
He may not have been talking about potato chips, but Paul addressed this phenomenon in today’s passage. He said that if we wanted to do the work of God, living the life for which we were made, we must be sober-minded. This Greek word, nepho, meaning sober, can be used literally – that our behavior shouldn’t be under the influence of alcohol. Or, it can be meant figuratively, that we should avoid the intoxicating effects of sin. The implication is we must remain rational and that sin makes us irrational.
We know this to be true experientially. Whether it’s just one drink for the alcoholic or just one chip for the glutton, we cannot indulge in some addictive, self-destructive act and expect that it won’t consume our thoughts and behavior. Once we give in, we’ve surrendered to the intoxicating influence of whatever our struggle is – drugs, food, pornography, lust, or greed. So, daily, if we desire a life of joy, meaning, and peace, we must be on our guard, not allowing these things into our lives – even in small amounts. Just one never remains just one. Rather it opens the door in our minds, intoxicating us, assuming control of our behavior. Just one is a lie against which we must daily protect ourselves.