In the daily chaos of parenting, sometimes I need to step back from enforcing individual rules and instructions, and actually explain why the rules exist. Our children aren’t permitted to live on a diet of candy, snacks, and soda, not because I’m arbitrary or mean, but because it’s not suitable to help their bodies operate and grow for a sustained period of time. My wife and I limit screen time, not to curtail our children’s entertainment or education, but because much of what can be found on the TV and computer is – at best – mental cotton candy (and – at worst – social and spiritual poison).
Here’s another revelation, though: Sin is bad for you! It might be fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, and sugar-free (although some of my vices are not), but it’s not cruelty-free, conflict-free, or risk-free.
The following passage reminds us that loving money (not money itself, but placing it on a metaphorical pedestal) leads to harm:
But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
1 TIMOTHY 6:9-10 NASB
We might think of people who love money too much in a comical way, like Scrooge McDuck: eccentric, but overall pretty happy. This verse indicates that the outcome of loving money can be much worse than that, though. The outcome of loving money is too often ending up penniless through gambling debt, rather than living in wealth and luxury. The result of worshiping wealth is too often sadness and pain, rather than being good friends with people who love us for ourselves.
Despite misinterpretations of this passage that – incorrectly – suggest that money causes all sin, there are plenty of other root causes (other than the love of money) that lead us to do the wrong thing. Our selfish desires cause us to take advantage of other people for our personal convenience. Our pride causes us to propagate offenses that damage our relationships, when a simple apology could lead to healing. Our greed causes us to prioritize money over what is more important…although now we’re back to the verses above! (Note that we are still responsible for each of our choices to do wrong things. It’s not like we can just blame our own attributes for our bad choices, as if they were external factors beyond our control.)
As fun as sin might look, it will ultimately let us down. Like when I eat too much sugar for my body to handle, we might stay on an artificial (or chemical) high for a while, through ongoing sinful behavior. When there’s not enough to keep up the distraction, though, sin catches up with us and – whether a sugar crash or something much worse – it extracts a toll from us. Sin costs us our integrity and reputation, our physical well-being, and our friends and relationships, as well as our minds and souls.
To be clear, while sin leads to suffering, not all suffering experienced by an individual has a direct correlation to his or her sins. While some of us suffer from the direct consequences of our own sins; others suffer from the consequences of others’ sins, and yet others suffer because of the general effects of living in a world that is broken and cursed due to sin. Sin isn’t just bad for the sinner; like playing with fire in a forest, it’s bad for everyone.
When Jesus calls us to a life of righteousness (i.e., “not sin”, although following Jesus isn’t at all about just “trying not to sin”), this isn’t because He is trying to rob us from enjoying the things that our friends “get” to do. God’s way is genuinely designed for our health and welfare. It doesn’t guarantee the absence of suffering, but it is the best solution for us, and for those around us.
I know – believe me, I know – that living a healthy lifestyle (both physically and spiritually) is difficult. I am weak, and even with a good relationship with God (thanks to Jesus), I don’t expect to get my bad habits fully exterminated until I get to Heaven. Still, when the sins that I choose to do keep harming me, I know that the obvious solution is, “Stop doing that!” Even as we live in freedom from condemnation (once we’ve repented and started on the path that Jesus paved for us), may each of us be able to imagine the negative outcome of our sins, and be inspired to avoid those pitfalls by making good decisions today.