Scratch the Itch

by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project

We live in a social culture that promotes the “It’s all about me” ideal. The fact is that it has been all about me and all about you since Adam and Eve. Their sense of feeling dissatisfied led to their self-centeredness. The Bible’s three letter word for self-centered ambition is sin. The Bible instructs that we are born into a culture of sin. In other words, we are born into a world subject to the law of sin and with an inherited predisposition to sin dating all the way back to Adam and Eve. The Bible also teaches us that we sin when we have knowledge of our sin—essentially coming into awareness of right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral. The Apostle Paul uses the parallel of the law, the commandments to Moses, as a barometer by which to gauge our knowledge of sin.

Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in God’s sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20 (NKJV)

He writes that this law is a good thing since it helps us to know the difference between right and wrong. But then Paul makes the point that the more we know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, the more aware we become of how much more we are choosing wrongly and behaving badly.

But sin, even the appearance of sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. Romans 7:13 (NKJV)

This makes sense. We learned the law of sin when Adam consumed knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Paul also said in Romans chapter seven, “For sin seizing the opportunity by the commandment—which was to bring life, deceived me, and by it killed me.” The commandment originally was access to of all the fruit—meaning to enjoy all of God’s provision and blessing, do not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God allowed Adam and Eve to possess and eat of all of the fruit in the garden, giving Adam and Eve total access to possess everything that was his,. . AdamEveEatbut but to eat of the tree of knowledge was certain death. They had it all and then wanted the one thing they could not have. God has given us so much in this life, yet like Adam and Eve, we so often choose that which is unhealthy and destructive. We’ve even been warned of the danger and risk of unhealthy lifestyle choices, and yet we pursue risky and dangerous lifestyle activities anyway. When we learn what hurts, why do we still do it?

It is this lack of or absence of control in our core discontentment and dissatisfaction that leads to our shift in focus. Adam and Eve were focused on the work of God in the world until they became aware of their discontentment that rendered them dissatisfied with what they were, what they had, and what they were doing. Their purpose radically changed from living to please God to protecting their own interests and satisfying themselves. The problem was that, according to this principle of scratching their itch, they would grow increasingly dissatisfied, always more and more itchy.

Scratching our itch is our obsession as human beings. As long as we’re dissatisfied we’ll itch. As long as we itch we’ll scratch. Perhaps President Barack Obama said it best when asked about his greatest moral failure at the Saddleback Presidential Forum, August 16, 2008.

“What I trace this to is selfishness on my part… I was so obsessed with me and the reasons that I might be dissatisfied that I couldn’t focus on other people… When I find myself taking the wrong step, I think a lot of the times it’s because I’m trying to protect myself instead of trying to do God’s work.” 

Our obsession with ourselves is indeed our primary addiction. What we will discover is that, like Adam and Eve, the more we pursue control according to our understanding of what we need to be comfortable, the less we depend on God, and the less we are committed to doing his will in our life, therefore creating greater separation from God. We will discover that the less we live our life God’s way and endeavor to living life our own way, the more we learn one way or another that our way does not work.

It is insufficient and impractical to live according to our own set of expectations, values and standards of morality. Our morals and values are tainted. They are flawed because they are shaped by so many other people throughout our maturation process and social culture whose own morality and value standards are tainted and flawed. This sequence is bent on its own destruction, yet it goes on. In our search for pleasure, and in time, relief from the discomfort of unmet expectations, we tend to continue in destructive patterns of behavior. We become consumed with somehow getting things under control. The net result is the increased severity of our illness from addictive patterns of behavior and the resulting chaos. Our chaos and conflict becomes amplified and we become sicker because our efforts to fix things continue to be infected by sin.

The core issue of sin is its addictive quality. It takes over as it becomes full-grown and we become slaves to it. Eventually circumstances are impacted enough that we experience increasing discomfort in our dissatisfaction. We hurt badly enough to either pursue help or begin to lose one thing after another that is important to us. Unless we seek help to recover from our problem, we invariably experience loss.

Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full grown, brings forth death. James 1:14-15 (NKJV)

What about this problem of sin? What is it to continually and habitually choose a thing or a behavior that inevitably leads to greater discomfort, loss, destruction, and ultimately death? The clinical world refers compulsive lifestyle patterns of behavior as addiction. We are obsessed with what dissatisfies in order to achieve satisfaction or, at least, remedy discomfort. It is the driving force that distracts us from focusing on the person who has the ability and the resources to change everything that detracts us from what is truly fulfilling. I’ll say it again: I am addicted to me, and you are addicted to you.

Addiction is our repetitive surrender to habitual patterns of behavior that render us defective in the very core of our being. Our brains get reprogrammed to the point that the slightest stimulation leads to compulsive thought and feelings that drive our behavior. This is the harsh reality of the problem of addiction. Let’s do the math. If addiction is the result of surrendering to that which is physically, cognitively, behaviorally and spiritually unhealthy, then the solution to the problem of addiction is surrendering to that which is physically, cognitively, behaviorally and spiritually healthy. Since addiction is at its root the surrender to that which is ungodly, then recovery from addiction must be the surrender to that which is godly. Therefore, addiction is a spiritual problem desperately in need of a spiritual solution.

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