A Healthy Addiction (the household of Stephanas)
Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 16:13-18
“They have addicted themselves to the ministry” (1 Corinthians 16:15, KJV).
According to Webster’s Dictionary, to be addicted is “to devote or surrender oneself to something habitually or obsessively.” There are a great number of things to which people are prone to become addicted—alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, video games, etc. People can even be addicted to shopping. Oniomania is the technical name given to that disorder. Funny, I’m never prone to exhibiting oniomania when I visit a fabric store, but maybe if I’m looking for sporting goods!
We are prone, by nature, to addictive behavior. The lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and boastful pride of life constitute desires within us that beg for satisfaction (1 John 2:16). The pleasure realized in the practice of any particular sin quickly diminishes, leaving in its path a hunger for more or better. We are all born into this world as sin-addicts, foolishly attempting to satisfy our thirst for God in the empty promises of broken cisterns (1 Peter 1:18; Romans 6:21).
Jesus was an addict of another kind. His life was utterly devoid of sin. He was addicted to serving—indeed, that was the purpose for which He came (Mark 10:45). To be delivered from sin-addiction and to be made a “slave of righteousness” is a glorious work He alone can do ( Romans 6:1-14). Having trusted in Jesus for salvation, the believer is set free from sin-dependence, and born again to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4-7). There is a healthy addiction to which God would then direct us–serving others.
Paul commended the household of Stephanas. “They have addicted themselves to the ministry,” he said (1 Corinthians 16:15, KJV). The term “addicted” translates a Greek term that means “to arrange, assign, order.” The thought here is that they had so ordered their lives that ministry to others came first (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:5). The term “ministry” is the Greek, “diakonia,” which speaks of service. It is the same term elsewhere translated “deacon.” The household of Stephanas was addicted to ministry in the sense that they had prioritized their lives such that the service of others mattered most. They were given to it. Their lives were characterized by it. They were devoted to serving Christ by serving others.
Paul exhorted the Corinthians to “be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors” (1 Corinthians 16:16) Many in the church in Corinth were walking as “mere men” and behaving in selfish and childish ways (1 Corinthians 3:1-4; 13:11-13). Paul directed them all to the better example of the household of Stephanas, who were walking in an exemplary fashion (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17). The church needed to follow their example.
God has called us to a radically different way of thinking and living. A way of life exemplified in Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served. Serving others in Jesus’ name is at the heart of worship (Hebrews 13:15-16; 2 Corinthians 9:12); will be rewarded at the judgment seat (2 Corinthians 5:10); and works to bless others in a variety of ways. Love calls us to serve: “through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13), and when it comes to serving, we don’t need to worry ourselves about becoming addicted; for it is a healthy addiction of which God approves. And it’s part of what it means to love like Jesus.
Serving Others in Love is a Healthy Addiction of Which God Approves
Lord Jesus. We were slaves to sin, but then You worked to set us free. Now we’ve been born again to serve You, and in serving You we find a true purpose. You are worthy, Lord! Worthy of our praise and thanksgiving, and worthy of our faithful service. Forgive us our forgetfulness and negligence. May the Spirit work in our hearts to kindle afresh the love we had at first. That love which captivated our being and worked to lead us along to wherever You might send us. Opportunities for serving You abound, grant us eyes to see and hearts to care and hands ready to do Your bidding–each and every day! May others see You in us, and look to You as the sole source of all that is good! In Your Name. Amen.