Many Christians act as if sin is not pleasurable. The Bible tells a different story. In Hebrews 11:24–27 we read: “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. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible” (emphasis added).
It is clear from another passage in which the word pleasure is used that enjoyment is the meaning. Paul reminds Timothy that the living God “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17, emphasis added). In the beginning God created mankind in a garden of pleasure. “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:8–9).
The problem is that Adam rebelled against the goodness of God and sought to use God’s creation for his own glory. He loved himself more than God or his neighbor. In the fallen world which resulted from Adam’s sin, people pervert God’s good gifts. God intended his creation to reveal his glory. Now people use it without any regard for him. God created everything to show how wonderful he is. But because of sin, people use every gift without glorifying the Giver (Romans 1:20–21).
God has cursed every abused gift in the sense that it gives only a temporary pleasure and often brings horrible consequences in the present. Gluttony, sexual promiscuity, drunkenness and greed are examples of what sin can do when we use God’s gifts without loving him, and when we fail to use those gifts in the way that he intended. His moral law, summed up in the Ten Commandments, clearly tells us of the proper use of his gifts.
Sin is truly pleasurable or people would not be so addicted to it. The problem is that the pleasure is temporary and the addiction permanent, because sinners disconnect their quest for pleasure from their eternal Creator. He is the author of real enjoyment and true life. This is the reason he refers to us as “dead in ... trespasses” (Ephesians 2:5). Our sin has cut us off from the source of spiritual life. We are like trees disconnected from their roots.
By God’s grace, Moses realized all of this when he lived in Egypt. He was raised in the royal palace of Pharaoh himself, as an adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He had the best education money could buy (Acts 7:22). He had untold wealth, prestige and power. He had a promising future in Egypt. Why, then, was he willing to give it all up? It was not that he saw the immediate consequences of sin. He was not a drunkard. He did not have a communicable disease. No, he recognized something deeper about sin’s beguiling nature. He had access to all the treasures of Egypt; but even legitimate wealth, if used for one’s own glory, is sin in the eyes of God. The passage quoted earlier from 1 Timothy is part of an exhortation to the wealthy in Timothy’s congregations. “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17–19).
Moses realized that God’s blessings must be used in his service or else they become a curse. This reminds us of the man in the parable who stored up all his wealth thinking he was set for life, and that very night he died and had to answer for his sin (Luke 12:13–21). His treasure disappeared. It was temporary. “So is one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). Moses knew that the pleasures of sin are “fleeting.” They are temporary. They do not last. Even if this is for a lifetime, when it is over, all pleasure is gone forever. Think of it! Eternity without one second of enjoyment. This is what hell will be like: no God, no pleasure—for eternity! If you do not turn to him and ask him to forgive your ingratitude, you will be cast into outer darkness and as far from all pleasure as you can imagine (Matthew 25:30–31, 46). And you will deserve it, because you refused to honor the one who gave you so much in this life. This is the awful logic of eternal punishment.
But it is not too late. This is the era of God’s grace. Today, you can be reconciled to God. He has sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, to save sinners such as yourself. He was crucified to pay the penalty for the sins of everyone who turns to him in repentance and faith. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
This is the Lord whom Moses trusted; “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures in Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Heb. 11:26). Moses knew that Christ alone could restore sinful people to their original purpose and attitude toward his gifts. He also knew that Christ would one day restore the entire earth to a garden of pleasure in which a godly enjoyment of God’s creation would be universal. The original Hebrew word for paradise means “a walled garden.”
The book of Revelation pictures, in symbolic terms, the beauty of the “new heavens and the new earth” (chapters 21–22). It will be a place where all human activity will glorify God and be truly enjoyed for eternity. There will be no more sin or selfishness; no more crime, sickness or death. “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son” (Revelation 21:7).
Moses was willing to wait for this reward, because he took God at his word. The Bible says that “he endured as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27). The “seeing” here is the seeing of faith. Paul endured great hardship because he did not “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Those who turn from sin and trust in Christ are given promises that are trustworthy. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). David said that God’s people “feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights” (Psalm 36:8).
God offers you a taste of his goodness even as you read this tract. “To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.... And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 21:6, 22:17). If you are thirsty for forgiveness of your selfish abuse of God’s gifts, then pray: “God, forgive me. I have abused your gifts all of my life and have never been thankful to you, the Giver. I trust your Son Jesus Christ and want to know the real pleasure of serving you.”
If this is your prayer and you mean it, then you are forgiven and you are a follower of Jesus Christ. This means that you need to associate with his people in his church, where his infallible Word, the Bible, is faithfully preached and practiced. He says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
© 2014 Gregory Edward Reynolds
© 2021 The Orthodox Presbyterian Church