What is the prize that you seek in life? Leonard Pitts of the “Miami Herald” recently penned a column that instructed young people to “never do what feels good in the moment if it’s going to cost you something that matters a whole lot more in the end. The trade is never worth it.” That is good advice for all of us. Any long-term goal that we are reaching for requires sacrifice in the short term.
Think of trying to lose weight. The goal is there. You want to lose weight for a variety of reasons – your health, your self-esteem and your energy level. You know what you have to do to get there – change your eating habits and exercise more, but right in front of you is the double chocolate fudge cake just screaming to be eaten. What matters more, the immediate satisfaction or the long-term goal?
Or think about finishing or continuing your education. The goal is good – the opportunity to create or advance your career, but the sacrifice can be huge in terms of both time and money. Is it worth it to skip class and not take the education seriously in order to go out and party now?
The same test can be applied to our spiritual life. The goal is heaven. Most of us will probably admit that we are not hoping to get there tomorrow seeing that we are enjoying life where we are, but we do want to go! Yet every day, we are faced with choices that ask us to decide whether we care more about the present moment or the ultimate destination.
If you think about it, most of the time we sin because it feels good at the moment. Gluttony? We had to have the food. It looked so good and was so tasty. Lust? Fornication? Adultery? We were in love. It felt so right. How could it be wrong? Greed? Envy? We were entitled to those things. Our lives are better when we have more.
We sin because in our estimation, the sin somehow improves our lives in the short term. We lie to keep ourselves out of trouble. We engage in behavior we normally wouldn’t because it increases our status in the eyes of our friends or colleagues. We react in anger instead of love because we feel justified that we are right. It gives us some temporary satisfaction to make someone else uncomfortable to “pay them back” for whatever wrong they perpetrated against us.
At times when the temptation to sin comes, we need to remember what is at stake. We have choices. Do we keep our eyes on the prize that is eternal life or do we turn our back on God for some momentary pleasure?