by Scott Lawton
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. ~Heb. 11:24-26
Sin. It’s a small word, but it has a huge impact on each of us. We all sin. We all experience the consequences of sin (both our own and that of others). Why is sin so enticing? The author of Hebrews gives us one major reason: sin promises pleasure. More than that, sin actually is pleasurable, at least for a time. Notice that the author doesn’t say that sin is not pleasurable, but he says that the pleasure is fleeting. We do experience pleasure in sin, but it doesn’t last; it doesn’t satisfy us. Instead, it destroys us as we seek the next source of pleasure, and the next, and the next.
So the pleasures of sin are always fleeting, but how long is “fleeting,” exactly? It depends. Sometimes, the pleasure immediately gives way to regret and bitterness. Think of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for some stew. Esau experienced some enjoyment while he was eating that stew, but once he was done we read, “Thus Esau despised his birthright” (Gen. 25:34). Or consider David’s son Amnon. He lusted after his half-sister, Tamar, eventually luring her into his bedroom and violating her. But that despicable act did not lead to true love and lasting delight in marriage. Rather, “Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her” (2 Sam. 13:15).
Sometimes, the pleasures of sin may seem to be lasting, but that is only true when they are viewed in the context of this life. In Psalm 73, the psalmist begins by expressing his envy of the wicked, for it seemed like they continually prospered and everything about their lives was good and enjoyable. The psalmist even begins to despair of having pursued righteousness, thinking that it was all in vain: “Until [he] went into the sanctuary of God; then [he] discerned their end” (Ps. 73:17). He realized that their prosperity would not last. God was not blind to their wickedness and their pleasure would prove to be fleeting in light of eternity.
So what is the antidote to these fleeting pleasures? We must pursue truly lasting pleasures instead. Look at what the author of Hebrews says about Moses: “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt.” Why? “He was looking to the reward.” Moses saw that the eternal rewards for following Christ far outweighed any treasures he could accumulate in Egypt. In the next chapter, we see that it was a similar focus that allowed Jesus to willingly endure the cross: it was “for the joy that was set before him” (12:2). When we are tempted by the fleeting pleasures of sin, we must remember that they are just that: fleeting. They will not last and they will not satisfy.
Look to Jesus, dear Christian, and look to heaven, where “in [God’s] presence there is fullness of joy; at [his] right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).
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