“And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all our heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:37 ESV
We live in a world where drugs and alcohol consumption are prevalent. Not one day goes by that we do not hear or read about lives lost due to drug overdose. When we consider the magnitude of the overdose crisis, it’s imperative we consider what the Bible says about the use of drugs and alcohol.
According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 841,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose. In 2019 alone, 70,630 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States.
A global event, International Overdose Awareness Day, is held on August 31 each year to raise awareness of overdose, to remember those who have died, and to acknowledge the grief of their family and friends who are left behind.
You may be wondering why I am blogging this month about what the Bible has to say about drugs. My family has experienced firsthand the devastating effects of drugs and alcohol. My sons have struggled with addiction, my father with alcohol, and my husband developed a dependency on pain pills following many back surgeries and the ensuing chronic pain.
I understand the heartache of addiction in the lives it touches. It has hit my family...hard. To help other women who are facing the pain of seeing their loved ones destroyed by addiction, I started a ministry called The Faith to Flourish and a support group for Christian moms of addicted children. It is my prayer that the church will be a light in the darkness for a world that needs healing, as together we share the message of hope through Jesus Christ.
“and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5 ESV
The Bible Has Much to Say About Drugs
What does the Bible say about the use of drugs? Actually, more than you think. At first glance, it appears the Bible has very little, if anything to say about drugs. The reason is that drugs, as we know them today, were virtually non-existent during the time the Bible was written. Alcohol was mentioned frequently in both the Old and New Testaments.
Ephesians 5:18 says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…”
While the Bible does not strictly forbid the consumption of alcohol, it warns against its overuse, as it is a powerful and enslaving substance.
“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. ‘They struck me,’ you will say, ‘but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it.’” Proverbs 23:25-35 ESV
When a substance is continually abused, the person develops a physical dependence on it, which leads to addiction. The person no longer is in control of the substance; it controls them. This can happen to anyone, not just those who say they have an “addictive personality or family predisposition.” So, while the Bible does not specifically prohibit the consumption of alcohol or drugs, it warns against the abuse of them.
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 ESV
Mark Shaw, in his book, The Heart of Addiction: A Biblical Perspective, describes the term addiction as,
“The persistent, habitual thoughts, words, and actions associated with excessive pleasure-seeking which are known to the user to be harmful and physically enslaving, sinful, and willful choices to disobey God (whether one acknowledges it or not).”
In 2 Timothy 3:4 we are warned against being, “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” He goes on to write,
“Substance abuse and addiction manifest as a physical problem, but the root issues are in the spiritual realms of one’s own heart.”
No one sets out to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. They begin using them for many reasons. Once started, they can become enslaved to them quickly. This is one reason the Bible warns against their use.
In his book, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, Ed Welch states,
“The biblical view of drunkenness - the prototype of all addictions - is that it is always called sin, never sickness. Drunkenness is against God and his law.”
Proverbs 23:19 – 21 ESV “Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way. Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”
Biblical Hope for Those Struggling with Addiction
“Wait, a minute!” you might be saying about now. “Addiction is a disease. It controls them. They don’t control it. How can the Bible be calling it a sin?” Please don’t shoot the messenger. While research and science have made great strides in understanding addiction and its treatment, they cannot explain the spiritual aspects and roots of addiction. This is where science and the Bible part ways. They are both, however, unified in their desire to help those trapped in its snare. Consider the following verses.
Galatians 5:17-24 “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
In the Message Version, we read in the book of Ephesians,
“Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.” (vs. 18-20)
Paul addresses what attitude should be when in we partake in eating, drinking or any activity.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV
Considering these commandments in the Bible, how can we offer hope instead of judging or shaming those caught up by addiction’s snare? The current trend in addiction treatment is to believe that “once an addict, always an addict.” Without rigid attendance of meetings and the possible addition of medication assisted treatment, the person bound to substances will never have a chance at long term sobriety, much less freedom. And while we are grateful for any resources available to help our loved ones survive and maintain long-term sobriety, true freedom comes only through Jesus Christ.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 ESV
“I have crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who love me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 ESV
When the substance user stops trying to overcome his (her) addiction by flying solo and asks the Lord to take over the controls, the Spirit of God will fight his battles for him. He won’t have to go it on willpower alone.
"When the substance user stops trying to overcome his (her) addiction by flying solo and asks the Lord to take over the controls, the Spirit of God will fight his battles for him. He won’t have to go it on willpower alone." ~ Dawn Ward
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these two are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing what you want to do.” Galatians 5:16-17 ESV
1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you are bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
With Jesus, victory over drugs is more than possible; it is probable. It will take sacrifice and determination, but our addicted loved ones will not be alone. The Spirit of God will be there to strengthen them to do the will of God. His grace will redeem them. His love will fill them. His presence will lead them. In faith, they will say…
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 ESV
A Prayer for Freedom from Drugs
Dear Lord Jesus.
We cry out for our families, our friends, and our nation. Many are trapped in the bondage of addiction. They feel alone, afraid, and ashamed. Others have lost their lives, leaving their families devastated. We ask you to call them out of the darkness into your marvelous light. Wrap your arms of mercy around the hurting, the enslaved, the wayward, and lead them home to you. In their brokenness of mind and body, comfort them in their spirits and grant them serenity as they surrender to you. Lord, we have hope because you are the God of hope who grants new beginnings to those who cry out to you. We praise you because nothing is impossible for those who believe in you. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Dawn Ward is the founder of The Faith to Flourish, a ministry for women whose loved ones struggle with substance abuse, alcoholism, or other life-controlling addictions. For moms with children struggling with addiction and in need of support, look up her Facebook group, Christian Moms of Addicted Children. For those who are looking to grow in their faith, discover their inner and outer beauty, embrace their true identity, and grow in connection and community, you are welcome to join her Facebook Community, She Walks in Beauty. She can also be found on most social media sites.