I was flipping through the television channels the other evening and happened to stop for a minute on an infomercial. On the screen were beautiful people extolling the virtues of their amazing product. Featured in attractive lighting and on polished sets, they demonstrated its versatility, explained its durability and lauded its affordability. The more I listened the more attractive the product became. Only at the very end, after reading the fine print and factoring in the overpriced shipping cost, was the total price revealed. And even though it was spread out over “six easy, convenient payments,” the final tally was still staggering to most folks trying to live on a budget. At first glance, it really was a cool gadget, but after considering the full cost, I decided that some things just aren’t worth it.
As I reached for the remote to change the channel, I found myself thinking about the story I’d recently read in the book of Joshua. When chapter 7 opens, the Israelites are still basking in their recent victory over mighty Jericho. They were likely shuffling through the shouldering ruins of the once impressive city as their eyes fell on their next target.
By comparison, the city of Ai seemed barely worth noticing. Their small numbers and apparent lack of skilled warriors encouraged and fed an over-confident and caviler attitude in the Israelites. Anticipating an easy victory, only a few fighting men marched on the unsuspecting inhabitants… but instead of a walk-through battle, Israel was handed a resounding defeat. (vs 3-5)
As Joshua soon found out, it wasn’t lack of military prowess or strategy that was their undoing; their defeat was due to their failure to follow God’s instructions after Jericho was conquered. The Hebrew soldiers were specifically told to bring all the silver and gold from the defeated city into the nation’s treasury. (Joshua 6:19) However, ignoring that command, a man named Achan took for himself a robe, a couple stacks of silver, and a gold bar. (vs 21)
The tragic story culminates when Achan’s sin against the Lord is revealed… ultimately, resulting in his complete destruction. Achan and his family were stoned to death, and along with all his possessions, they were burned, then buried in the Valley of Achor. (vs 24-26)
In hindsight, I’m pretty sure that Achan would have walked right by that stack of loot if he’d have taken the time to read and consider the fine print that was scrawled into the bottom of that gold brick. But he coveted the shiny things and took what he wanted without ever realizing that the true cost of his ‘purchase’ would include the life of the beautiful cherub-faced boy that called him Daddy, the brown-eyed little girl who pulled on the back of his robe, and the faithful wife who held his hand every night.
That’s the way it is with all temptation to do wrong. Satan is a master salesman, and sin and rebellion are his products. He taps into our unbridled cravings by spit-shining his wares, all the while concealing the true final costs under layers of our own desire. Too often we chose to satisfy self-centered longings with promises of imaginary benefits that never quite deliver as promised. We sign on the dotted line while our tempter spills out his smooth pitch, and before the ink dries, it’s often too late to undo the damage when his final “Gotcha!” is delivered.
So how do you avoid buying into the wrong things?
I say, use a little imagination!
Most of us have no trouble caressing sinful thoughts and letting our minds create delicious scenarios where we get what we want with no consequences. But, instead of allowing your inner creativity to lead you away from the Lord, why not couple your imagination with the Word of God and let it act as a tether to help you stay close to Him?
Before you accept that invitation, make that shady financial decision, enjoy a lingering embrace, or choose any clearly wrong behavior, think about and imagine the consequences. Don’t be distracted by dwelling on the pleasure you might enjoy. Instead, soberly consider the pain you could, and will feel, if you follow through.
Imagine your wife or husband’s heartache when your secret is revealed.
Envision the embarrassment when you’re fired from your job.
Visualize the haunting regret of repeatedly saying “if only I had…”
Picture yourself bearing the humiliation of lost respect, disapproving glances and becoming the subject of one of those ‘don’t let this happen to you’ stories.
Use your mind to logically anticipate the impact of your disobedience on your life and the lives of others.
Galatians 6:7 exhorts us to “not be deceived” because “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Remember, there are always consequences to disobedience and to ignore the predictable outcome is to buy into the enemy’s temptations and begin a journey to your own destruction.
God calls us to His Word and our minds to see reality and then choose to ‘change the channel,’ tear up the contract, and walk away from deception, believing the scriptural truth that “godliness with contentment is (the ultimate) great gain.” (1 Tim. 6:6)