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The trap of instant gratification | Worship


It is easy to fall into the trap of instant gratification.

We make the mistake of acting on impulse, satisfying our immediate desires without considering the long-term consequences of what we do.

We go after things we think we must have right away. We make rash decisions in order to make ourselves feel better, only to find it all comes back to bite us.

We buy that thing we thought we so desperately needed, only to regret our purchase when the bill collector comes calling.

We have a sexual encounter with someone other than our spouse, getting caught up in the pleasure of the moment, only to experience guilt and the pain of a broken marriage.

It happens in the realm of business: an opportunity for easy money, a shady business practice, an impulse of greed, and the illegal or unethical deed is done.

But then the law may come calling, or if not the law, the call of one's own conscience that won't let you rest.

It doesn’t help that the shapers and influencers of culture today work hard to keep all our appetites and passions aflame. “Go ahead, indulge yourself!” is the constant message. You deserve it!

We are a society that encourages binging without regard to the consequences: we binge on food, on drink, on sex, on pornography, on work, on TV, on video games, on sports, on spending.

Somehow we have bought into the lie that casting off all restraint and giving in to every momentary impulse will bring us happiness and freedom.

But look out! It’s a trap that leads to unhappiness and bondage. We can so fall into the trap of instant self-gratification that we lose complete control of ourselves. We discover we are no long the captain of our souls.

We become slaves to our passions – to our base impulses – and that can only lead to heartache and pain.

Jesus, himself, warned of allowing ourselves to be led by our selfish impulses: “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34).

How are we to avoid falling into the trap of immediate gratification? We can put it this way: The answer to our craving for the immediate is to focus on the eternal.

It is to keep a long-term, eternal perspective, by being grounded in long-term spiritual goals and core values, and focusing on what we are is truly important to us.

What are we willing to trade for the things we want? Do we find ourselves at times willing to negotiate anything for what we feel we need now? Does our family, spouse, integrity, body, our soul get thrown into these deals?

Do we sometimes feel that the important things of life escaped while we were grabbing for something else?

Someone has offered this bit of advice: "Define yourself, and stay connected." How much thought have we given to what's truly important to us? What is non-negotiable for us in life – the things we simply won't trade for anything?

A helpful exercise is to try to write our own personal mission statement – putting on one page what we are about as a person, what we want to become, listing those qualities and values that are most important to us and that we will strive to practice with God's help.

Define yourself and then stay connected, so that when temptations of the moment come, you will remain true to your best self.

We all need the long-term perspective that enables us to say: "I am governed in my conduct by something other than my own immediate desires."

People of faith find that eternal perspective in God and in God’s design for living. Follow God’s plan, and you won’t be sorry later.

Mark Smith is the senior pastor of Mukilteo Presbyterian Church. The church is at 4514 84th Street SW in Mukilteo. For more information, visit


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