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7 Examples of Addiction in the Bible — Path to Self-Control

Explore examples of addictions in the Bible through biblical figures who struggled. Find hope for overcoming your own challenges towards freedom and healing.

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“In Christ alone there is deliverance from man’s tortured thoughts and freedom from the sordid habits which are destroying so many people.”

Billy Graham

We all have a longing inside ourselves for something more. Of course, the thing we truly crave is a relationship with our Heavenly Father, yet we often try to fill that God-shaped hole with everything else. 

Addiction isn’t just tied to a particular substance, it’s anything that causes us to exhibit behaviors that erode our self-control and attempt to fill the emptiness inside our hearts with anything not God honoring. 

This isn’t unique to our time and place, but is a story as old as time itself. As we turn the pages of the Bible, we see the same struggles we face today played out in the lives of the men and women of times past. 

These Biblical examples of addiction demonstrate potential pitfalls and provide insight into cultivating self-control. Continue reading to learn more. 

7 Biblical Accounts of Addiction That Teach Us Self-Control

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Example 1: Samson and the Addiction of Lust

In Judges 13-16 we read the account of Samson. Born during the period known as the Rule of the Judges, Samson was one of twelve judges appointed by God to lead his people and deliver them from their enemies.

Samson was called by God to be a Nazarite from birth. This was a special vow that restricted the types of food they ate and prohibited the drinking of strong drink and the cutting of hair. In exchange for these restrictions, God gifted Samson with incredible strength.

Samson did a lot of truly incredible things with the gift of strength God gave him. But he had a really big weakness, and that was lust. Most of us can’t think about Samson without also thinking about the infamous woman, Deliliah. 

Samson was so enamored with Deliliah that he let his guard down around her. Falling prey to her temptation and schemes to discover the source of his strength, he allowed her to wear him down. Lacking any self-control, Samson finally told her the source of his strength. 

And we all know how that ended. Samson’s addiction to lust saw him bound and blinded by his enemies, dying in captivity. A man divinely appointed by God was ruled by his sinful addictions and compulsions. 

Samson could have used this advice from Solomon in Proverbs 6:25:

“Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;”

Proverbs 6:25

Another applicable verse is Proverbs 25:28:

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

Proverbs 25:28

Samson let all of his defenses down and was completely defenseless when the enemy came. All because of his addiction to lust and his lack of self control.

Example 2: King Saul and the Addiction of Envy

King Saul was the first king God appointed to rule and reign over Israel. He was doing pretty good until he allowed pride to take over and failed to follow God’s commands. Unbeknownst to him, God decided to appoint a new king, David.

Now David comes on the scene and he’s getting a lot of praise. He’s killing giants and slaying enemies left and right, and Saul is feeling pretty jealous. It doesn’t help that Saul overhears the women in town singing:

“And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”

1 Samuel 18:

The more Saul slips into the addiction of envy, the faster he spirals downward. Saul becomes convinced that David is his enemy and he’s got to take him out. But even that isn’t enough. When killing David eludes him, Saul doesn’t hesitate to start taking out the people around him. 

Saul’s lack of virtue and self control leads to his ultimate demise. He becomes a man obsessed with killing another. We can see his mental state decline as his murder attempts become more desperate. Finally, we see Saul killed in battle and Davd anointed as the next King of Israel.

James 3:14-16 says:

“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”

James 3:14-16

We see this verse characterized in Saul’s life. Once he allowed envy and selfish ambition to enter his life, and gave himself over to their addictions, he found himself in the midst of disorder and vile practices. Like the verse says, this is not the wisdom that comes from above.

Example 3: Noah and the Addiction of Alcohol

We all know the story of Noah. He was one of only eight righteous people living in an extremely wicked and perverse time. God tells him He plans to destroy the earth with a flood, and tasks Noah to build a giant ark to save his family and two of each kind of animal.

And Noah,exercising faithfulness, does as he’s commanded. God preserves him and his family during the most catastrophic event the world has ever seen. It’s an truly amazing story.

But it doesn’t end there. After the flood waters recede and Noah and his family begin to repopulate the earth, Noah builds a vineyard. And at some point after that, he gets intoxicated. 

Nowhere does the Bible imply the drunkenness of Noah was a regular occurrence, so I’m not sure we can infer he had an addiction to alcohol. But, we do see him over indulging in this account, and we see the consequences that follow.

Ham comes in and sees his fathers drunken nakedness and, whatever is meant by this, it’s so terrible that, when Noah sobers up, he curses all of Ham’s descendants. 

We can clearly see that Noah lacked self control at this moment. So did Ham. Had they both exercised more discipline and self control, they probably would not have found themselves in the situations they ended up in. 

Ham ended up being the father of the Canaanites, Israel’s long time enemies and an incredibly wicked nation. 

The lesson we can learn from Noah is that, while alcohol in and of itself is not wrong, the results of too much alcohol can be detrimental in our lives. We must exercise moderation and self-control when it comes to drinking wine and other strong drinks. And we must not allow ourselves to become addicted and enslaved to alcohol. 

Example 4: Judas Iscariot and the Addiction of Greed

Judas Iscariot. The most infamous man in the Bible. The man who allowed his love of money to overpower him, the man who would go down in history as the one who betrayed our Lord Jesus Christ.

Even before we see Judas going to the High Priests and Pharisees to bargain for Jesus’ life, we pick up that there was an addiction to money in his life. Judas was the treasurer for Jesus and the disciples, so he was close to the money. 

In the account of Mary pouring the expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, just days before His crucifixion, Judas gets upset and claims the perfume would have been better off sold and the money given to the poor. But John reveals the true motives of his heart in John 12:6:

“He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.”

John 12:6

We see the consequences of Judas’ addiction to money. He was so greedy that he agreed to betray the man he had followed and called “Teacher” for a mere thirty pieces of silver. In the end, he was so tormented by his actions that, after returning the money he received for the betrayal, he took his own life.

This is a very sobering account of how the addiction to money ruined Judas Iscariot’s life and contributed to his ultimate demise. The Bible warns us in 1 Timothy 6:10:

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

1 Timothy 6:10:

Money in and of itself is not bad. The love of money is the problem. The addiction, the need, the desire to have more and more. That place in our life is for God alone. 

Example 5: The Prodigal Son and the Addiction of Reckless Living

The prodigal son had an addiction for reckless living. No longer was he satisfied to live under his father’s roof. He wanted his inheritance and he wanted it now. He was ready to get out of town and live the good life, or so he thought.

But quickly he squandered all his money and found himself in the middle of a nationwide famine. Alone and broke, he found himself working on a farm feeding pigs, and wishing he could be eating what they were!

His addiction for reckless living ended with him being lower than the pigs. Had he been satisfied with all the good he had back at home, he would have been living much better and more comfortable. 

1 Peter 4:3-5 sums this up pretty well:

“For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”

1 Peter 4:3-5

We are not meant to live this way. God has not designed us to live recklessly. We are created to live according to God’s Word and His laws. Peter continues to lay this out in 1 Peter 4:7-11:

 “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.  Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.  As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

1 Peter 4:7-11

Example 6: The Rich Young Ruler and the Addiction of Materialism

The rich, young ruler came to Jesus one day. His question was, “what must I do to be saved?” Jesus laid it out for him. He told him which commandments he must keep, and the rich, young ruler exclaimed that “yes,” he had kept them all.

Jesus added, “Ok, then, go and sell all of your possessions and give them to the poor. Your treasure will be in Heaven.” Sad and dejected, the rich, young ruler walked away, because he had many possessions.

This young man was so addicted to his stuff, he couldn’t bear the thought of parting with it for eternal life. He walked away from paradise with Jesus because he couldn’t bear the thought of giving up his addiction to materialism.

Have you fallen into the materialism trap? Do you love your things more than you love Jesus? We must cultivate self control when it comes to material things. Yes, we need some things, but there is a line between necessity and addiction. 

Matthew 16:19-21 says:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 16:19-21

Example 7: The Israelites and the Addiction of Gluttony

The Israelites definitely had an addiction to gluttony. During the forty years they wandered in the wilderness, the Israelites turned to idol worship, complained incessantly about their food and drink situations, tried to store food when God expressly told them no, and turned to debauchery when they should have sought holiness.

They continually wanted more than they were given, they lacked patience, and they constantly turned against God in complaint and rebellion. 

It’s easy to find ourselves dissatisfied with what we have and craving more of something else. It’s easy to find ourselves addicted to gluttony and lacking all self control when it comes to all manner of things. But that’s not what God wants for us.  

Philippians 3:19 tell us:

“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”

Philippians 3:19

FAQ’s About The Examples of Addiction in the Bible

Does the Bible specifically address addiction?

While you won’t find the word “addiction” in Scripture,  it’s packed with principles about the struggle for self-control.  Think “gluttony”, “drunkenness”, and “idolatry” (putting anything before God). The Bible doesn’t sidestep the messiness that comes when we give in to those addictive patterns.

Is addiction the same as sin?

This is a tricky one. Yes, actions fueled by addiction often violate God’s commands. But it’s also important to acknowledge addiction as a complex disorder that hijacks the brain.  We need to separate the behavior from the person and extend compassion while also encouraging  accountability and change.

Can someone overcome addiction and find forgiveness with God?

Absolutely! The Bible overflows with stories of redemption and freedom. One of the most beautiful aspects of God’s grace is that it extends to all our brokenness, including addiction.

How does my spiritual relationship with God help me overcome addiction?

Faith offers something addiction never can: meaning, purpose, and a steadfast love that doesn’t let go. Through cultivating that relationship, you connect to a source of strength beyond yourself. Prayer, attending a faith community, and reading scripture can provide anchor points, especially during periods of vulnerability and temptation.

I need practical help, not just Bible verses. Where can I turn?

You’re absolutely right! Here are some practical resources alongside spiritual support: National Institute on Drug Abuse: Resources on substance abuse treatment and prevention, including finding hotlines and local services.
Focus on the Family : Offers Christian faith-based counseling and support for individuals and families grappling with addiction.
You don’t have to face this battle alone!

Lessons from Biblical Addictions

Addictions are allowed to blossom in the absence of self-control. Will we experience feelings and emotions like the ones we see listed above? Probably. How can we keep those things from becoming full-blown addictions in our lives? By exercising self-control in every area of our lives.

We need to pray and ask God to help increase our willpower and resilience as we wrestle with some of the things mentioned above. He will give us help in overcoming these desires and finding victory in Him. Through the power of His Holy Spirit we can experience freedom from vice in our lives.

These aren’t just Sunday School Bible lessons that are outdated and not applicable to your life today. These are completely applicable. These were real life people who felt all the things you feel and experienced all the things you experience. And we can learn from their mistakes and failures. 

Do these Biblical examples resonate with your own life or with someone you love? As you read their accounts are you finding similarities to your own life, or someone you know?

It’s not too late to make a change. It’s not too late to turn around. Jesus is standing behind you with open arms just waiting for you to be ready to lay all of it down and turn back to Him.

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