Addiction sermon ideas

At the root of addiction is longing, a vital spiritual force. Addiction is a complex, progressive, injurious, and often disabling attachment to a substance (alcohol, drugs, food, money) or behavior (sex, pornography use, work, gambling) in which a person compulsively seeks a sense of wholeness or a change of mood. In worship and in sermons, we can embrace those struggling with addictions of various kinds, give thanks for recovery programs, and preach about Bible passages related to addiction. 

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What does the Bible say about addiction?

Our working definition of addiction is very different now than when the biblical texts were written. There are plenty of Bible verses that address addictive patterns, including examples of and warnings against sins such as avarice, gluttony, and lust. It's doubtful that the Bible treats addiction as having the kind of clinical definitions we're familiar with today. But it comes close, by describing bondage of the passions and bondage of the will. It also provides words of hope for release, recovery, and restoration. The Bible passages below can be used in sermons, prayers, pastoral care, or worship planning focused on addiction. 

Examples

  • John 2:16addiction as idolatry (the cleansing of the temple)
  • Romans 5:3-5, battling addiction requires endurance (endurance and hope in the midst of affliction)
  • Romans 7:19-20, addiction as a battle of the will (I do the evil I don't want to do rather than the good I want to do)
  • Ephesians 5:18, command against addictive behaviors (avoid drunkenness and be filled with the Spirit)
  • 2 Peter 2:19, addiction enslaves (people are slaves to whatever masters them)

Warning and comforts

  • John 16:33, comfort for those facing addiction (take heart: though you will face trials, Jesus has overcome the world)
  • Romans 6:6, Jesus has freed us from slavery to sin
  • Romans 13:14, turn to Jesus and don't think about gratifying the desires of the flesh
  • 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, God is faithful and will not let you be tested beyond your strength
  • Galations 5:1, Jesus has set us free, so don't submit again to a yoke of slavery
  • Titus 2:11-12, grace brings salvation, training us to live godly, self-controlled lives

Recovery from Addiction

  • Psalm 18:2-6, the Lord is our deliver, our refuge, our help in times of distress
  • 1 Corinthians 6:12, all things are permitted, but not all things are beneficial; do not be dominated by anything
  • James 5:15-16, confess your sins and pray for one another, so that you may be healed

    Sermon ideas about addiction

    Addictive spiral 

    Sermons about addiction could discuss the escalating nature of addiction. People who struggle with addiction long for wholeness or fulfillment, but they choose substances or behaviors that fail to deliver and that can be ultimately disabling. Whether they long for God or for self-transcendence, for joy or for pleasure, those struggling with addiction eventually long for mere escape from pain. Addiction taps into longing in a way that often escalates, progressing from mild to serious forms.  To those with serious addictions, the addiction feels wily and perverse. It can feel demonically alive, as if not someone first tempts them and then mocks them for succumbing, thus flooding them with guilt and shame.   In the classic addictive spiral, people feel increasingly distressed over a divided will—they keep doing what they don't want to do—and over how to combat this distress. They try to relieve their distress by indulging in the same behavior that caused it, thereby starting a new round of the spiral. 

    Sin or sickness? 

    Sermons about addiction can also address the complex sources of addictive behavior. Addiction may be triggered by sin—by drunkenness, for instance, or consumption of porn. But it can also be the result of factors outside the addicted person's control, as in the case of a child in utero hooked on its mother's abused substance. And there are physical, social, and psychological factors make some of us much more vulnerable to addiction than others. God alone knows whether or to what degree people are culpable for their compulsions and addictive behaviors.  In any case, those who are serious about recovery will at some point take responsibility for the wreckage that surrounds their addiction and for the salvage work that needs to start. Alcoholics Anonymous insists that alcoholism is an illness and that those who experience it have lost the power of choice over alcohol; yet Alcoholics Anonymous also insists that alcoholics need to take full responsibility for their disease and face it head on. 

    Excerpts about addiction 

    Following are sample excerpts from Zeteosearch.org sermon resources about addiction: 

    "Addictions begin with essentially good, created stuff; even the chemical that become addictive drugs are part of God's good creation and often have beneficial uses in the right context. But in the throes of addiction, we invest that created stuff with transcendent exepctations." Sermon Preparation or Illustration by Andy Crouch from The Pastor's Workshop

    "Preachers can bring an Anti-Addiction Day message to liturgical life by crafting a rhetorical strategy that crosses all socio-political and socio-cultural boundaries." Sermon Preparation or Illustration by Joseph Evans from The African American Lectionary

    "An addict may be loved deeply, but like Narcissus he is blind to it, trapped in a desperate cycle of attempted self-salvation. Adam and Eve had everything, but they perceived that something was missing and then took satisfaction into their own hands rather than embracing their creaturely, God-given limits." Book Quote by Chuck DeGroat from The Pastor's Workshop

    "But compulsive sexual behavior … can systematically destroy a person's life much as addictions to alcohol or drugs can. And it's affecting an increasing number of Americans, say psychiatrists and addiction experts." Sermon Preparation or Illustration from Preaching Today 

    "[Jesus'] authority rebukes every evil that plagues us—reminds us that we are always more than the sum of our sins. Reminds us that we are not our demons, not our addictions, not our mental illness, our fears, our failures. We are not our scars, no matter how deeply they cut; no matter how disfiguring they may be." Poetry and Scripture Meditation or Sermon by Susan McGurgan from  Preaching Hope

    Worship ideas about addiction 

    Following are sample excerpts from Zeteosearch.org worship resources about addiction: 

    "Great Redeemer, we need your good news for all of us who are captive to addictions. Good news for people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Good news for people who are addicted to gambling. Good news for people who are addicted to tobacco or food. Good news for people who are addicted to pornography. Good news for people who are addicted to work." Prayer by Carol Penner from Leading in Worship

    "Yet, our bodies and our souls bear the scars of these things that we grip so tightly—that grip us so tightly. So, we muster our courage here today to bring before you the addictions that have brought us so much shame." Prayer by Chris Klein from The CRC Network

    "If your church houses a recovery group, then your church is a part of the proclamation against evil. Find a way to celebrate that mission and ministry housed in your building." Sermon Preparation or Illustration from Discipleship Ministries

    "Into the heart of one who is addicted may your Kingdom come. Into the heart of one who is faced with unpayable debt may your Kingdom come. Into the heart of the lonely may your Kingdom come. Into the heart of the fearful may your Kingdom come. … Into the heart of our world may your Kingdom come." Prayer of Intercession from re:Worship

    "Mary, the Mother of Jesus, stands as a towering figure of light in the darkness. She is a timeless reminder of God's abiding and gentle love for each of us, no matter who we are, what we do, or how many times we stumble on our journey." Artwork by Brother Mickey McGrath from Global Worship