Commentary on Sabbath School lesson dated 3.12.11
What are you addicted to? You’ll notice that I didn’t ask if you have an addiction. That’s because, in my own unscientific opinion, I believe that all of us are addicted to something; just some of our addictions are harder on us than others. Mind you, I don’t have one shred of evidence to back me up, but think about it for a second. Our sinful natures have given us all addictive personalities to one degree or another. Some people struggle with the big name addictions like alcohol, cigarettes, illegal or prescription drugs. Almost anything can become an addiction: shopping, cleaning, reading, working…
Have you ever seen the TV show, Hoarders: Buried Alive? Hoarders are addicted to saving things, usually things that shouldn’t be saved. A lot of us hang onto useless things that we have sentimental attachments too, right? But these poor folks hang on to things like pizza boxes, broken hangers, and gloves without mates. They hang onto them for years until their homes are practically filled up so that they have to walk through and on the stuff they’re saving. Their lives and the lives of their family members are pretty much dominated by stuff.
Some addictions are quite subtle.
“Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, has lectured throughout this country on the powerful, and often negative, impact of words. He often asks audiences if they can go 24 hours without saying any unkind words about, or to, another person. Invariably, a small number of listeners raise their hands, signifying ‘yes.’ Others laugh, and quite a large number call out, ‘no!’“Telushkin responds: ‘Those who can't answer “yes” must recognize that you have a serious problem. If you cannot go 24 hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol. If you cannot go 24 hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine. Similarly, if you cannot go 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you have lost control over your tongue.’”
What do you think? What are you addicted to? And why can’t we be addicted to good stuff, like healthy food, reading our Bibles and speaking kind words?
Have you ever wondered how people get addicted to things? I’m pretty sure nobody starts out by saying to themselves, “I’m going to collect so much stuff that I won’t be able to walk on the floor or find the stove and dishwasher.” or “I think I’ll become addicted to crack so I can sleep in a refrigerator box under the expressway.” So how do some of us end up that way?
Because when we just start out, what we’re doing seems so small and innocent, and lots of times, it’s fun.
“Some years ago, while our family was vacationing in northern Minnesota, we decided to visit a small county fair near the town of Babbitt. There weren't many people there that morning. In fact, we were about the only ones visiting the carnival rides. So when I climbed into the Tilt-O-Wheel with my three kids, we hoped the operator would give us a decent ride—even though we were the only ones on it.“Little did we know what we were getting involved in. The first few minutes were rather fun. We laughed and enjoyed the funny feeling inside our stomachs. But after a while, it got to be not so much fun. And after some more time—way past the length of an ordinary ride—I began to feel queasy.“I wanted to get out, but I couldn't. First, we were going to fast to escape. Second, the centrifugal force had me pressed firmly against the back of the car. I was immobilized. Every time we spun past the operator, I looked pleadingly at him. ‘Please! Read my eyes! I need to get off!’ But the operator kept the ride going. I guess he thought he'd let it run until more customers showed up.“After another few minutes, the ride became miserable. The funny feeling inside my stomach had turned into a churning concoction that had a faint resemblance of my morning's breakfast. I had no control over my life. I was caught, going around in circles, held down by a merciless carnival ride operator.“Only after what seemed like three or four hours did he finally relent and stop the ride. I'm sure I looked completely green by this time. I staggered off the platform and made it about 20 feet, where I bent over and lost my breakfast. Of course, my kids gathered around, cheering me on. They thought this was the best part of the ride.“If you're caught in the grip of a diabolical ride that started out fun but has turned into an addiction—if you're going around in circles, powerless to get off—you know the helpless feeling of losing control of your life. You know what it means to need God's supernatural help to stop the ride so you can escape.”
And there’s the answer to my other question. How do some of us avoid ending up living in a refrigerator box under the expressway?
The truth is, because we live in a sinful world, we have a sinful nature that dominates everything we do, think, or say just like an alcoholic or any other addict’s life is dominated by his (or her) addiction. Try to overcome our sinful nature (sin addiction) without bringing Jesus into our lives is like trying to tuck in an octopus – just about the time you get one or two arms down, three or four different ones will pop up. All the good intentions in the world are useless until we can admit that we have a problem that we can’t fix by ourselves.
“There are those who attempt to ascend the ladder of Christian progress; but as they advance they begin to put their trust in the power of man, and soon lose sight of Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their faith. The result is failure—the loss of all that has been gained. … ‘He that lacketh these things,’ declares the apostle, ‘is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.’”
Are you ready to quit? There’s only one way:
“The work of transformation from unholiness to holiness is a continuous one. Day by day God labors for man’s sanctification, and man is to co-operate with Him, putting forth persevering efforts in the cultivation of right habits. He is to add grace to grace; and as he thus works on the plan of addition, God works for him on the plan of multiplication. Our Saviour is always ready to hear and answer the prayer of the contrite heart, and grace and peace are multiplied to His faithful ones. Gladly He grants them the blessings they need in their struggle against the evils that beset them.”
Or, as John explains it:
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
Face it, you and I can’t quit, but we can reach out for the One who has already bought our cure. We’d be crazy to turn it down!