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The Genesis of Addiction

Updated: May 14

Where did addiction begin? How should we understand the struggle with addiction? This article is shared with permission from our friends at Hope for Glasgow.

Genesis 3:1-24

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’” “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful, and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So, she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.  

At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So, they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So, they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?” “The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed  more than all animals, domestic and wild.You will crawl on your belly,  groveling in the dust as long as you live. And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.He will strike your head,  and you will strike his heel.” Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth.And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you." And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree   whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you.  All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow  will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live. And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife. Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

At Hope for Glasgow (and Hope for Addiction), we view the Bible as central to understanding the life of addiction. You may ask, What on earth would an ancient book have to say to the person whose life is caught up in lies, unruly desires, hiding, covering up, blame-shifting, destructive consequences, and misery?


We don’t have to look much further than the first few pages of the Bible to see that Genesis 3 speaks volumes to such a person. In fact, it reminds us of the addict that is in all of us, whether that be an addiction to a substance or something else. We may not have drink or drugs ruling our lives, but each one of us has become a slave to sinful habits, allowing things other than God to control and have mastery over us. And these verses help retell our story of addiction where we see enticement, bad choices, and their consequences.


The first 2 chapters in Genesis recount how Adam and Eve lived, knowing God’s good presence, provision, and authority in their lives. His blessing on them came with one simple instruction that carried a warning for disobedience, ‘you will certainly die’ (Genesis 2:16). In Genesis 3:1 we see Eve being enticed by a lie as we are introduced to another voice other than God’s: that of a deceitful snake. ‘Did God really say?’ enticed Eve to question what she knew to be true of her Creator. Would disobeying God really result in destruction, or would it in fact offer something that God didn’t want them to have?


We can all be deceived and buy into things that promise one thing but deliver another. The guarantee of pleasure, comfort, escape, courage or even the chance to forget can easily entice us and yet fail to deliver. We all live daily with this temptation to question God’s good provision and authority over our lives. When we fail to listen and remember God’s Word to us, we can so easily find ourselves led by the world and the evil one. As author Ed Welch puts it,

From a distance, foolishness sounds ridiculous. It makes promises it can’t keep, and it has nothing to give except death anyway. But close up, when it conjures up a mirage that matches our desires, foolishness sounds like life itself.


How many of us read those opening lines of Genesis 3 and scoff at the unwise choice of Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and succumb to the devil and his lies? Yet, does not Eve’s demise describe perfectly how we all scrap around life, being enticed by other things rather than listening and obeying our good God?


Of course, Eve was not merely enticed by the snake’s lies, she quickly falls for them. In the first instance, she did push back. She did remember what the Lord had said and recounted to the serpent God’s command and the consequences of disobedience (Genesis 3:2-3). Yet, desire for something other than the worship of God and obedience to Him builds, and as Satan tempts her again, Eve sees the food as pleasing to the eye and desirable for something other than worshipping the Lord.


Does this seem familiar? How often do we find ourselves in Eve’s shoes? An initial enticement can easily lead to the recalling of God’s ways in our minds, yet our hearts are easily craving something other than pleasing the Lord. And so it goes with all of us as we find ourselves in the thick of temptation, where we may in fact know right from wrong, but we all too easily give up the fight and are deceived.


And the result of this one sinful act sees a further unravelling of sinful behavior as Adam and Eve fail to take responsibility for their actions. A wrong choice leads to shame about what they have done, which leads to hiding from God and further leads to a feeble attempt to cover up their sin. When confronted by God, we still see a lack of ownership of their wrongdoing and the blame-shifting begins – Eve blames the serpent, Adam blames God for giving him Eve, and then blames Eve for giving him the fruit.


Perfect relationship is shattered – a perfect relationship not only between God and humanity, but also between Adam and Eve. Ugly consequences result in curse, banishment misery and destruction.


Genesis 3 might retell our story, but it is also the beginnings of rewriting our story. There is a way out from a life that has become undone because of sinful choices. We can choose to remain in this destructive pattern of addiction, we can even scurry around trying to cover up our behavior, or when that fails, we can start blaming others, our upbringing, or our circumstances.


The good news, there is another way – we can take responsibility, unlike Adam and Eve, and respond to the hope held out in Genesis 3. We do not see a God here who wipes Adam and Eve from the face of the earth, instead we find a God who is compassionate and gracious. The Lord clothes them, he provides a greater clothing for them when their feeble attempts prove inadequate (Genesis 3:21). God did not leave them as they were, instead he graciously intervenes and once again provides for them. This foreshadows what God has done for us in Christ – the Savior who came to be that ultimate covering for us, dealing with the consequences of our wrong choices and covering up our sinful exposed lives.

Hebrews 4:13-16 encourages and helps us:

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.


 Learn more about the great sacrifice of Jesus to break the chains of sin and addiction by talking with a Christian friend or visit a Recovering Hope meeting.

Thanks to Hope for Glasgow and the author Nicki Adams for permission to share this article.



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