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Grandchild of desire

James 1:14-15 describes the mechanics of temptation.  It starts with our own desires, takes a middle step of pleasure, then finishes really heavy.  It’s a thing of price versus cost.

Economists tell us there’s a big difference between the price of a thing and its cost.  The price of a new railroad is so many dollars per mile.  The cost of the railroad is all the resources it takes to build and operate it along with all that it consumes later on.  That would include all the unforeseen factors such as the inconvenience of having to wait on the trains to pass at crossings, noise, or even the lives lost when people don’t wait at crossings.  The price is measured in dollars.  The cost is measured by all the materials, opportunities, and lives involved.

The price of evil is usually quite low.  That’s why it’s attractive.  If we knew the full story ahead of time, it would diminish the attraction for sure.  You wouldn’t go bungee jumping if you knew the rubber band was going to pop.  As long as people think the price of sin isn’t too high, they’re willing to go for it.

The sinner’s stubborn preference for thinking about sin’s pleasure and not its true effect is what makes a fool a fool in the biblical sense of the term.  A biblical fool is not a person with a low IQ.  It’s a person who “hates knowledge,” (Prov 1:22) meaning that fools have a minimal understanding of right and wrong, but they hate the right and delight in the wrong.

The problem with sin is that it never stops with the asking price.  The full cost has to be borne.  The internet abbreviation IRL applies here.  It means, “in real life,” and IRL the costs simply are what they are.  In the soul transaction where the heart gives in to sin, the wayward mind figures only the sticker price, never the full cost.

The cost of sin can be lopsided all out of proportion to its apparent price.  A visiting preacher at our church told a story about a leading citizen in his town whose son kept getting speeding tickets.  With a word to the right people, the man got most of his boy’s tickets revoked.  It was a vanity thing for him; he could pull strings, move things, get things done.  The municipal judge went along with this for a while but eventually got annoyed.  He finally told the man and his son, “This is the last time.  If you come to my court one more time with a speeding ticket, I am going to pull that boy’s license.”  Before another ticket could be issued, however, the son killed himself in a high speed car crash.

The initial price of this sin was a dab of tar on the conscience of the foolish father and judge who conspired to thwart the law.  The final cost of the sin included the destruction of property and the forfeit of a life.  It also included a permanent stain on the career of a judge, and the everlasting grief of a father who knows, now, that Satan used his pride against him and duped him into turning his hand against his own son.

What if every husband understood in advance that a tryst would cost him not just a child support payment and being rid of the old lady, which is the initial price, but also his honor, his children, and the anger of God, which are the true cost?  What if every sinner could see himself in advance trying to explain things to the Light of the World?

Solomon said it’s better to meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs rather than to encounter a fool acting out his folly. (Prov 17:12)  Being a wise man, he had learned that sin is measured by its final cost, not its up-front price.

Consider a footnote to the story about the boy and the tickets.  I used to relate this story from the pulpit from time to time as an illustration.  But then something similar actually came true in the lives of some good friends.  Be forewarned: Satan plays for keeps.  Sin always costs more than the MSRP.  Count on it.

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