How sinful can I be and still go to heaven? Have you ever wondered it? Com’on, admit it. You have.
I unconsciously ask myself this question on a daily basis. I don’t use these exact words. But my actions speak louder than words.
How much can I get away with? How worldly can I be? How close can I get to the line that divides sin from holiness and still be OK with God?
All very wrongheaded questions. But I ask them. I don’t use these exact words. But my actions speak louder than words.
Getting wrapped up in sinful pleasures and lusts (self-indulgence) isn’t something that many Christians do on purpose. It creeps in, bit by bit.
Self-Indulgence Gets Bigger and Bigger, Little by Little
Let’s talk about the things we indulge in. What’s your definition of an “indulgence”?
- A car with a big bow on it like in the commercials.
- The whole package of cookies gobbled in one sitting.
- Watching an entire season of my show in a weekend.
- A whole day to do whatever I choose.
We each imagine something different that appeals to us rightnowatthismoment. And it hits us where our worldly appetite is most voracious.
The things I’ve listed aren’t inherently sinful, so that’s why I want to pose this question:
Self-indulgence is pretty much the opposite of self-denial, so does that make it unequivocally bad?
Is it OK to indulge a little? Or should we stay strictly in the zones of moderation and privation (like Mother Teresa)?
If you want my personal opinion, I think it’s perfectly okay to “indulge” in innocent pleasures and to feel joy. (I don’t wanna be a lemon-juice Christian.) We use the word “indulge” because the thing feels like a special treat.
I also think it’s never okay to indulge in evil things, even in moderation. Cheating on one test question is a sin. I don’t have to cheat on 10 questions for it to cross the line into sinful territory. God doesn’t want even a smidge of sin inside His children.
The harder part, though, is when those innocent pleasures (the ones I listed before) slide into sinful territory. Because they can and do slide.
How does that happen? At what point do they go from being fine to being sinful?
That new car with the bow? What if, eventually, I feel entitled to too many expensive doo-dads, and I’m dissatisfied if I don’t get them?
The box of cookies. What if I look forward to those “reward” cookies so much that eating them is what anchors my whole week? (Church…not my anchor. Cookies are my anchor. Fast and pray? Forget it!)
I need my TV time to function. Read scripture? Oh, I never have time for that.
Me-time is sacred. As in more prized and plentiful than family time, God time, or service time.
See what I mean? Innocent indulgences can be habit-forming to a fault.
Self-Discipline Wins (So Says Scripture)
After studying some scripture on this, I found plenty of hearty warnings against self-indulgence and a bunch of praise for moderation (Alma 38:12) and even privation. (You go, Mother Teresa!)
There are an inordinate number of scriptures with huge, flashing neon signs saying:
“Warning! Self-indulgence = Danger!”
(Shocker: I didn’t find any scriptures that say “Warning! Self-discipline = Danger!”)
When I throw off restraint and discipline and yield to selfish appetites, I may find pleasure, but it’s temporary and hollow. Prov. 14:13 tells me that even when I laugh, my heart will be sad and “the end (result) of that mirth is heaviness.”
The car is mine, the box of cookies is eaten, and my life isn’t any better than it was before.
My calendar is overflowing with me-time, and my energy cells are still blinking low.
So, like an addict, I return again and again to that indulgence, never questioning whether or not it’s the solution I need.
Besides living a shiftless, frivolous life and becoming a slave to my whims, are there other consequences to living a self-indulgent life? Here you go:
- Poverty and ruin: Prov. 21:17, 23:21-23
- Worldliness: 1 John 2:16, Mosiah 11:2
- Spiritual barrenness and death: Luke 8:14, 1 Tim. 5:6, 1 Peter 2:11
- God’s judgment: Jeremiah 14:10, Helaman 7:21-22
2 Timothy 3:4 says that in the last days “men will be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.”
As things get worse in the world, and as Christianity becomes increasingly despised, I want to be like Moses as described in Hebrews 11:25. He gave up his cushy life in Pharaoh’s house and chose to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
“If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Rom. 8:13)
When I lose my grip on worldly pleasures, then my hands are free to accept the gift of true and lasting satisfaction—a cup of Living Water that quenches every thirst.
Next Friday: Denying My Desire to Be Boss (to Gain a Leader Worth Following)
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.