But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13 (ESV)
Evil is notorious for not delivering on its promises. This idea permeates even popular culture where the devil is depicted as a sneaky schemer who tries to trick people out of theirs souls (think Faust or “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”). After all, the serpent promised Eve enlightenment, but all she got was death.
If you read the story again, though, there’s a sense in which sin delivers exactly what it promises. Satan isn’t called the father of lies because he’s a bad liar–he’s actually such a clever liar that he can tell a lie with truthful words. Take the garden, for instance. He actually told Eve that she would know evil if she tasted the fruit. This was true–but he failed to mention this knowledge would be experiential and would cost her everything. He told her she would not die—this was (to an extent) true. Only her spiritual death came immediately; physically, she lived on for hundreds of years. More often than not, sin lures us by giving us exactly what it offers. It offers us our hearts’ desires–and it gives us just that: desire. Consider the “seven deadly sins.”
Lust (sexual or otherwise) tempts us to crave what is forbidden. The word actually means something like “passionate desire.” The evil here is not the object of our desire–after all, everything God made was declared “good.” Rather, the evil is that we desire something or someone that is not ours to desire. The evil lies in our unwillingness to be satisfied with what God has given us.
Gluttony tempts us to inordinately crave food. The food itself is not evil–nor is the act of eating. Rather, when we have eaten our share (in quantity or cost), we desire more. The evil lies in our unwillingness to be satisfied with what God has given us.
Greed tempts us to inordinately crave wealth or possessions. The money itself is not evil–nor is it evil to earn it or have it. Rather, we look at what we have and say “not enough.” The evil lies in our unwillingness to be satisfied with what God has given us.
Sloth tempts us to inordinately crave rest. Rest itself is not evil–in fact, it is ordained by God. Rather, when we have received sufficient rest, we still demand more leisure. The evil lies in our unwillingness to be satisfied with what God has given us.
Wrath tempts us to crave justice…on our own terms. Anger at injustice is not evil–God Himself is described as being angry. Rather, when God promises us his justice, we angrily retort, “I WILL JUDGE NOW! MY WILL BE DONE!” The evil lies in our unwillingness to be satisfied with what God has given us.
Envy tempts us to crave what belongs to others. It is not evil to have what others have–surely, all of us have certain resources, abilities, and circumstances in common. Rather, having been given our lot by God, we demand the gifts of others too–or at least we demand that they not have it either. The evil lies in our unwillingness to be satisfied with what God has given us.
Pride tempts us to desire status. It is not evil to be a person of worth, nor is a crime to practice God-given authority. Rather, having been assigned a role in God’s world, we desire more credit, more recognition–even worship. The evil lies in our unwillingness to be satisfied with what God has given us.
Should it surprise us, then, that hell is described as a place (or perhaps a state) where “the fire is not quenched” (Mk. 9:48)? Should it surprise us that the rich man in hell is thirsty (Lk 16:24)? How fearful it would be to be handed over to our passions–to desire, and desire, and desire without ever having enough! Perhaps the only thing now keeping sinners from utter torment in this life is the hopeful promise of fulfillment–the enduring offer of the good thing for which we crave.
Perhaps (whether we know it or not), the sinner and the saint are both sustained by a hope for Heaven. We live this way, always grasping at this hope until the day when it is revealed and we find that it is Christ himself! How dreadful it would be to discover that God offered himself to us, but we could not be satisfied in him. What horror to find that we had grown so used to saying “more” that we had forgotten how to say “thank you.”
Let us run to the one who says: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Let us drink deeply and give thanks. Let us learn to say, “It is enough.”