Addictions—Are They Sinful?

Written by Karen Carlson


Hmm…so are addictions sinful?  Before we explore this question, let’s first provide a definition of the word ‘addiction’.  According to, it means:  ‘The enslavement to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation can cause severe trauma.’

I find it interesting that the definition used the word ‘enslavement’ since, biblically speaking, that is very accurate. And any enslavement that causes discomfort or dysfunction is not from God.  Whether sexual obsessions or chronic shopping due to never feeling you have enough to drug dependency, etc.—an addiction that controls you is dark, oppressive and spiritual in nature.  But we are all accountable since addictions begin because we allow them to.   And once the obsessions have embedded themselves in our psyche, we become a ‘paralyzed’ victim.    Wanting to rid ourselves of the addiction, though difficult, is another choice we can make, or not make.

What Does God’s Word Say?

Let’s take a look at several Bible verses that can give us some clarifying insight on this very topic:

1 Corinthians 10:13

“…but with the temptation He will, also, provide a way for escape…”  Addictions are escapable; but we have to want to escape from their hold on us.  And notice how it says ‘He (God) will provide a way for escape.”  God is our beyond-human strength if we seek His intervention and  choose for Him to rescue us.

1 Peter 5:8

Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  Whether your addiction is a mistress or video gaming for hours on end or getting drunk every weekend, the Bible tells us to be ‘watchful’ and ‘sober-minded’ since Satan and his minions are literally waiting for the next victim that has become weakened, mentally and emotionally.  When we surrender to our weaknesses, our psyche is defenseless and we are instant prey for spiritual warfare and attacks.  We may think we are in control with our obsessions, but the exact opposite is true.  Becoming convinced we are in control is just another deception to keep our minds and bodies addicted to our poison of choice.

James 1:14,15

“…But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  The desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin…”  It couldn’t be more clear, here, that even though we might be seduced, beckoned and tantalized, our ‘own desire’ will determine if we cave in, or not.  We have the ability to say no, we have the ability to turn our heads, we have the ability to just not go there.  But if we choose to go there, we are fully accountable for saying, ‘Yes, I’ll do that!” 

I think it’s important to point out here that to be tempted is not sinful; in fact, Jesus was tempted by Satan while in the wilderness.  The issue lies with what we do with that temptation.  Jesus quoted Holy Scripture every time Satan made any attempt to entice Jesus into succumbing to Satan’s persuasions.  Though Jesus was clearly tempted, He didn’t allow Himself to give in.

And perhaps the verse from James best answers the initial question:  “Are addictions sinful?”  When we become enslaved to anything, we are slaves to whatever obsession we have chosen.  That obsession becomes our god; so now, on top of the addiction, per se, we have committed a gross sin, in God’s eyes, in that the obsession of choice has become our god of choice.  That brings a couple other verses to mind:

Romans 6:16

“…you are slaves of the one whom you obey…”  In other words, if you obey your obsession and follow it and wallow in it and continually return to its hold on you, that obsession is your master—not you and not Yahweh, the God of the Bible.   You are the slave of whatever you succumb to on a regular basis.  It has you—you don’t have itIt is your master.

Exodus 20:3

Thou shalt have no other gods before Me…nor serve them…” Anything you hold up, hold onto, cling to or value higher than God, that activity or object IS your god, whether your realize that or not and whether you are willing to accept that or not.

Addictions Originate From A Dark World:

This is why God warns us to be ever-so-vigilant and keenly aware of our thoughts and desires, since distancing ourselves from Him can happen so easily to any one of us.  And the farther we distance ourselves from Him with our addictions, the deeper we embed ourselves in spiritual darkness.   And, if at some point, we begin to truly understand what God is warning us about, we start to realize that we’re not fighting the addictive drugs or the sensuous magazine covers or the starving-oneself-to-death anorexia—what we are truly battling is far more powerful and far more insidious.   We are fighting something we can’t see—spiritual forces that tempt us every single day to come into their world….and stay there.  What we do with those ‘invitations’ is our choice.   But isn’t it reassuring to know we have a God whose power usurps any other power known or unknown, seen or unseen.

Ephesians 6:12—“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against evil authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”