I’m writing this in frustration of my own recurring tendency to sacrifice worthwhile opportunities for the sake of ephemeral instants of pleasure.
I am reminded of the very meaningful and symbolic biblical story of Esau selling his birthright for a good meal. Although it is easy to judge Esau by saying that he was short-sighted and impulsive, how often we tend to act that way!
When we are in a moment of crisis or weakness as Esau was, it is natural to lose sight of long-term goals and our core values. We feel terrible and all that seems to matter is to resolve the immediate situation.
How often I have sold an opportunity to spend quality time with my wife for an hour of television! How often I have sold meaningful service for selfish indulgence; health for a treat; self-respect for a moment of pleasure…
It is so hard to deny myself of these pleasures when the world is shouting at me that I am entitled to them, that I somehow deserve them, that saying “no” is a sign of weakness! Yet, how many times do I need to learn that indulging leads to no lasting satisfaction or happiness?
In the words of Jesus Christ: “It is better that you should deny yourselves of these things, whereby you take up your cross, than that ye should be cast down to hell”.
Hell is the state of mind in which you are when you act against your better judgement and knowledge, when you commit acts of self-betrayal. It involves remorse, shame, guilt, self-loathing, and is adequately described scripturally as unquenchable fire. No one “casts” us there but ourselves.
Conversely, acting in harmony with our growing knowledge involves daily trials and challenges, but is accompanied by a soothing, healing backdrop of inner peace of conscience. That peace is what Christ suffered for, that treasure for which it is worth denying ourselves of worldly pleasures and, as he did, take up our cross.