Monday, April 26, 2010

Food, Smoking, and Video Games

Have you ever heard somebody say "We all have that one thing that we keep going back to."? Perhaps you've heard it said, "Everyone has one sin that they just keep falling into." There are a lot of other ways it's said, too. But here's a question: is it true?

In one church I was involved in, there were several regular attendees that smoked. Some of them were members (which is another question about membership in the Church of the Nazarene). One couple who smoked worked in the children's department. Sometimes on Sunday mornings, they would take turns going out into the parking lot to take a smoke break.

In the church that I grew up in one of my friends had what some people call a "food addiction." I think there were some medical causes involved, but he was probably somewhere around 300lbs.

I like to play video games. I play on Xbox Live several days a week. I almost always find someone who is spectacular at whatever game I am playing. Now, I play video games quite a few hours each week, spread out in various sittings. These players that I am talking about must play 20, 40, or maybe even more hours each week.

Now, there are plenty other "addictions" or "vices" that fall into this category. Some of them are much more intrinsically sinful than these three I've talked about. Pornography, lying, gossipping, a violence would all be on our lists of things we should be involved in.

Perhaps you could find yourself connected to one of these things that I've listed. Or maybe, you there is some other addiction that has you that you can't get away from. Some agree with the statement that opened this blog "we all have our one thing/addiction/vice/sin..." Others, however, think that's a bunch of balogne.

Here's some Scripture that I think helps dictate how we should understand such addictions:

"But you know that [Christ] appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him." 1 John 3:5-6 (NIV)

"My little children, I am wirting these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins..." 1 John 2:1-2a (NRSV)

"If we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prsopect of judgment..." Hebrew 10:26-27a (NRSV)

Scripture explicitly explains some things as sinful: adultery, gluttony, slander, untruthful speach, acts of hatred, etc. There are other actions that can be explained as sinful that are not sinful in themselves. For example, drinking alcohol, smoking, and video games are not explained in Scripture as sins. Some would use 1 Corinthians 3 & 6 as some passages to argue against these -- our body is a temple, and we should take care of it. While this may be legitimate in some regards, this would be applying these specific passages to a universal mandate that is maybe not necessarily included in these chapters.

I believe all addictions to be hindrances to our relationships with God and other people. This consequence is in addition to whatever consequence the action has in itself. In other words, even addictions that aren't explicitly sinful can be hindrances to our relationships. There are four themes in Scripture from which I draw to come to this conclusion: 1) You shall have no other God's before me 2) I shall not be mastered by anything 3) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and 4) I shouldn't do anything that could cause my brother to stumble. Here is how addictions hinder our relationships:

WITH GOD: Addictions can keep us from hearing God or being able to obey God.
Hearing: Susanna Wesley once said, "Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of the body over the mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may seem in itself." If you have ever played video games or watched TV for hours on end, you may have experienced this phenomenon in very real ways. Drinking alchohol or smoking in such a way that it effects your cognitive processes would also fall into this category. A good question to ask yourself about situations is "if God were to speak to me here, would I be able to hear Him?"
Obeying: Often, our addictions inhibit us from being able to be entirely available to God. If you are addicted to caffeine, and God asks you to go be a missionary in a remote location where caffeine is not available to you you just plain won't be as effective as you go through your withdrawl. I know people who are so addicted to cigarettes that they could barely go a few hours, let alone a few days, without smoking. How would they be able to be a camp counselor at a Christian summer camp where smoking is not allowed? How can a person who is extremely overweight keep up with little children or volunteer on a work & witness trip? If you are truly addicted to video games, you may choose to play video games over doing devotions or going to a special church event.
Addictions can often hinder us from hearing and obeying God.

WITH PEOPLE: Addictions can often cause people to treat others poorly and not spend the time investing in important relationships.
Actions: As you probably know, many of the addictions which people are caught up in cause various physiological changes in the body which may change physical health, mental capacities, emotional awareness, and even one's mood. Personally, I know that whenever I play video games for too long, I become quite snappy. In these moments, I don't like for my wife to interupt me at all. Every one knows how smoking and drinking can effect your relationships with other people -- especially if you don't get your fix on these. Eating can have similar effects. Even caffeine (or lack-there-of) can change how people treat other people.
Time: Addictions take time. If a person is so concerned about how or when he is going to be able to get "his fix," the time he is spending with other people is not effective in building relationships and sharing time together. Christian theology tells us that God is eternally Triune -- in other words He has always been and will always be the Trinity. It is part of His nature to live in community (Father-Son-Holy Spirit). If we are to be like Him, we too are supposed to live in community. So, whenever our addictions hinder us from doing this, we are not living the holy lives God has called us to live.

So, thus far we have established that 1) people have addictions 2) addictions aren't good for our relationships with God and others. We have not answered the question: Is it possible to live without these addictions?

I think that the answer is yes. The verses above from 1 John and Hebrews seem to indicate that life without sin is the life we have been invited to participate in through Christ. 1 Peter, Matthew, and many many many other passages in OT and NT declare that followers of God are to live holy lives. This seems to indicate life without sin. It also does not seem logical that God would invite or tell us to live in a way that is impossible to achieve (although it is without Christ).

In conclusion, we don't all have to have addictions, vices, or sins that keep getting us down or away from God. Although there may be certain sins that each person is more susceptible to, it doesn't mean that he/she has to be enslaved by those sins for his/her whole life.

What do you think?


  1. I've always been jealous of the person who says, "I surrendered it to Jesus and have never done it since." Whatever "it" is for them. I've asked myself 100 times, "am I not surrendering?" Because I'm the guy who'll stumble over the same issue time after time. It feels like I'm surrendering! I've heard a person teach that God will transform a person who cannot bear the load, but place on a path the person who can. So I've added begging for transformation to my surrendering. I've argued with God that I can't make it on a path and begged for transformation. I'm not proud of it, just sharing... maybe someone can relate? If this struggle is part of my journey, I suppose it has purpose and I should be thankful. I'm also sure that if I spent as much time in prayer as I do online, I'd do a much better job of staying on the path God asks me to walk! My next door neighbor is an alcoholic, he'll be an alcoholic his whole life. But he's been sober for 15 years. That should describe me, I wish I could tell you that I had been "sober" of my addiction for 15 years... So your conclusion is correct, there is no reason we have to be enslaved our whole life. Good topic for blogging Keith

  2. I hear what you mean. I, too, have struggled with different addictions in my life. I can definitely relate to your struggle with God, begging to be changed while still falling and struggling with the same sin/addiction.

    Sometimes, God does a miraculous and immediate work in changing the individual immediately. I've heard stories of smokers and drinkers who became Christians and their taste for those things was completely gone. I also know Christians who have been Christians for decades but haven't even slowed down with their smoking habbit.

    The struggle with addictions is a long journey. And really, I don't really think that God wants us to occassionaly keep falling in order to teach us a lesson about the journey. I have a few comments on this, perhaps that will be next Monday's blog!


What do you think?