The Holiness of Abstaining

bible and addiction

We live in a culture that is focused on the self. Everything is marketed to us in a way that suggests we deserve everything we want, and we deserve it now. This promotes a self-serving attitude where we are focused solely on getting whatever it is that we want.

In the bible and in other religious doctrines, it is a value to abstain; abstain from food, from wine, from sex or from revelries. This is counter intuitive to everything we are taught today, so what is the benefit of abstaining from pleasurable activities? Because denying the self is good for the soul, and serves as a kind of spiritual reset button.

The bible makes it clear that God specifically designed pleasurable activities for us to enjoy, but when we place them above him in importance, we throw off the balance in our lives and follow our sinful nature. A balanced person can enjoy a glass of wine without needing it. A healthy couple can enjoy an active sex life without becoming sex addicts.

We are all aware that this kind of balance is difficult to achieve. For people with addictive tendencies, it can be nearly impossible. For true addicts, there is a reason that sobriety, abstention and detoxification are recommended. When we turn to the bible, we find that this abstention is not a form of punishment for enjoying something too much, it is a purifying cleanse to restore our health. When someone finds they have been craving something pleasurable too strongly, removing it from their life will bring their life back into balance.

People who struggle with addiction are free to work toward balance, meaning they can set a goal of being able to enjoy the pleasurable activity within moderation, but many find that because they are naturally so wired to overindulge, they are better off permanently abstaining. The bible encourages us to worship God alone, not false idols. If we begin to love something pleasurable to the extent that it becomes a false idol, or a distraction from God, it can only hurt us and we should eliminate it from our lives.