“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” Matthew 6:19-29 (NIV)
I should have known something was up by the black blanket draped over the merchandise. I was combing the streets of Chinatown in Manhattan, New York, when I spotted a petite Chinese lady pushing a wooden cart. As soon as our eyes met, she motioned for me to come over and view her goods. She lifted the blanket just enough for me to see inside. There it was, the perfect gift to bring home to my children; a brand new, shrink-wrapped video of the movie “FindingNemo.” I squealed and clapped as I explained that my children had been holding their breath for that movie to come out on video. Uninterested in striking up a conversation with me, the woman looked cautiously from side to side and quickly hissed, “Three dolla. Give me thee dolla.” Astonished by the inexpensive price, I eagerly pulled three dollars from my pocket and held it out to the woman. She greedily snatched the moneyfrom my hand, yanked the blanket back over her cart, and shoved off to find her next buyer.
When I caught up with my group, I smugly bragged about the deal I had gotten on the video. “Oh, no!” exclaimed my tour guide, “You didn’t purchase that video from the woman pushing the cart did you?” Feeling my pride deflate like a balloon, I dropped my shoulders. “Uh huh,” I whimpered, sensing a lecture was coming. The tour guide explained that the videos were counterfeit and illegal. Ashamed that I had broken the law my second day in New York, I tried to analyze my guilt away. A - I didn’t recognize the video as being counterfeit so I was an innocent victim. B – It was too late to take it back, so I might as well enjoy the purchase. After all, I did get a steal on it. Although I regretted buying an illegal video, I secretly looked forward to enjoying the benefits.
Upon returning home from the trip, I pulled the video out of my “I Love New York” bag and handed it to my kids. In explaining that I had brought it back all the way from Chinatown, I simply left out the fact that I could have gone to jail if I had been caught buying it. We popped in the movie and snuggled together on the couch. Nothing.The blue light of a blank tape illuminated the living room. Not only had I risked being arrested; now I had nothing to show for it.
Isn’t that just like the enemy? Satan lurks around waiting for an opportunity to lift his wicked blanket and entice us with his goods.Sure, they look appealing at first. He never lures us with unappealing temptations. He cleverly dangles a counterfeit of the real thing before us. When we take the bait and run, we later find that he has left us with nothing but empty promises.
We need to be aware of the counterfeit joy that the prince of the world offers. Let’s not seek after empty pleasures, but instead, pursue the genuine riches that are found only in Jesus Christ. When we put our hope in Jesus, the light of His love will illuminate our lives with peace, comfort, and joy. Now that’s the real thing!
Lord, help me to recognize and flee from the temptations of the enemy. Stir in me a passion for pleasing you in all that I do. May I bring you glory, while enjoying the abundant life that comes from seeking you. Amen!
Think of something that brings you temporary satisfaction but leaves you empty later. Consider substituting this activity with one that will build you up in the joy and peace of Christ.
How are the choices I’m making bringing me closer to God?
Is there something in my life that brings only temporary satisfaction?
What counterfeit sources of joy can I give up?
I Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (NIV)
Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak.” (NIV)
1 Peter 5:8 “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (NIV)
Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (NIV)
2 Peter 1:2 “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (NIV)