November 11, 1997
In 1991, 52,406 minors were arrested in the United States for drug abuse, particularly marijuana. In 1995, that number rose to 124,467. More recent statistics show little change from in teen marijuana use, but the use of hallucinogens nearly doubled in two years and the rate of heroin initiation for the 12-17 age group has reached historic levels.
A frog will sit in tepid water that is heated to a boil and die rather than jump out because it is oblivious to the danger. Could this be what is happening to young people? Some statistics indicated that less and less young people see a risk in taking heroin. Perhaps using a milder drug numbs discernment and prepares the way for stronger addictions.
How can it be explained that people will try something harmful hoping for some benefit but not finding it, then instead of abandoning that behavior, try something even more harmful?
In the beginning chapters of the Bible, there is one explanation. It tells the story of sin beginning with the first two people eating forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. While it seems a good idea to know the difference, they did not realize until it was too late that evil has an alluring and addictive power. They would seek it but not be satisfied by it.
Since then, the human soul seems to seek experiential knowledge of evil. It isn’t enough to know about it but to taste it, to find out for ourselves what it is like. But sin, like salted peanuts, suggests that just one more will satisfy that inner craving. By the time the bowl is empty, we are far more thirsty than we were to begin with.
Drugs do that too. There is a sense of the cravings relieved as long as the drug is available but when it dries up, the craving rages and abusers find themselves enslaved.
Suggested solutions include stricter laws, more education and increased public programs that offer youth other worthwhile things to do. Oddly, these correspond to some solutions people in the Bible attempt in their efforts to conquer all forms of sin.
The Jews thought the answer was in the Law. They lived with rigid rules but were never satisfied and had no assurance that God was pleased with them. No wonder. Jesus told them they didn’t fulfill the Law because it was humanly impossible. In fact, they became slaves to a legalism that held them in bondage.
Education has more promise. Jesus even said, “If you know the truth, the truth will set you free.” However, educators tend to think of truth as being mere information. When Jesus talked about the truth, He was talking about Himself. If people wanted to escape the revolving door of sin and death, they needed to know Him and He would set them free.
Doing good also has merit. The biggest drawback is that the standard of good that lifts us above sin is not possible to us. Again, Jesus said, “There is none good but God.” The Bible completely affirms that everyone falls short.
What we really need for escaping sin, whether it be bondage to drugs or any other enslaving habits, is a radical change inside our hearts, one that causes us to think differently about the temptations of evil. We need the God of the Universe to not only clean up our soul’s sinful cravings but satisfy it with the only thing that can fill that inner void — Himself.
How is that possible? Humanly, we cannot make it happen. All we can do is humble ourselves before God, admit we need help, and ask for His mercy. It is up to Him to move into our lives bringing grace and truth to set us free from the sins that enslave us.
Will we do it? Without Him, even humility escapes us. We tend to easily swallow the lie that drugs or some other allurement will lift us out of our personal pits, but reject the truth that only Christ can give us abundant life.