My youngest son was only two years old when he told his dad, “I hate the devil — but I don’t hate his candy!” Somehow he was able to put together the evils of the devil and the “goodness” of candy — and still feel no shame!
Isn’t that typical of all us? Maybe not exactly like a two-year-old. But for all of us to some degree, personal pleasure is priority. This is reinforced at a lot of our user-friendly churches, too (the core message of the Prosperity “Gospel”). Sure, we know the devil is bad. And sure, we know that often too much of a “good” thing is also bad. We may even know that the things that please us the most are sometimes the things that can hurt us the most.
But whether pastor or pew warmer, we still like what we like, and we still want what we like, and we still, most of us, go for what we like — with the added boost of the pastor’s teaching and lifestyle.
But how many of us also know, as my son seemed to have stumbled upon back then, that a lot of things we like most in this world are the very things the devil himself uses against us?
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10a). The devil wants your soul; and if he can’t have that because it already belongs to Christ, then he’ll kill your witness. Either way — and indeed with the help of many pastors, teachers, counselors, conference speakers, authors, prayer partners, song writers, life coaches and “reality” show celebrities — the devil’s tactic is to turn your eyes away from the things of God and toward the things of the world. Your heart and life will shortly follow (Matthew 6:19-21,24, NIV):
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. …
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.“
Consider candy. It tastes great. And once you get a taste, you always want more. If allowed and without a balanced diet, you’ll eat it ’til you’re sick and toothless.
Same with the pleasures of life in this world. Aside from vices like drugs, our “candy” may be material wealth, attention, status, work, recreation, food, sex, whatever. There’s nothing wrong with wanting genuinely positive things in life, especially if they were purposefully created for our enjoyment within the proper context ordained by a loving God (e.g., sex in marriage). But leave it to the master of all deceit to distort priorities and pervert those things into objects for our overindulgence. ‘Cause once you get a taste, you always want more.
As one televangelist has wholeheartedly endorsed: “Too many houses, too many cars, too much money!”
Any overindulgence has its corresponding price. The more “candy” you consume without a proper balanced diet of God’s Word and without self-control, the more price you’ll have to pay. Your life will be fed to the full on “empty calories” with no real nourishment to sustain your spirit, bear good fruit and affect the lives of others for the sake of God’s eternal glory. You’ll indulge ’til your spirit gets sick and your witness lacks teeth.
As just one example, 1 Timothy 6:10 says (NIV), “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Consider this even more: The same warning we give our kids about don’t take candy from strangers should also apply in how we all make decisions for our lives (including what church to go to). This is true for non-Christians, as well. The devil entices us with all the various pleasures of this world until we’ve been lured right into his cleverly-disguised trap. He distracts and distorts and deceives until the saved become ineffective in this world and the unsaved remain eternally lost.
To prevent this, we all must be discerning and live by God’s will for our lives. As 1 John 2:15-17 shows us, “candy” corrupts, but God’s will is food for life:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in Him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he that does the will of God abides forever.”