17 Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.
21 An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning will not be blessed in the end.
This is great counsel for people who struggle with sin. Yeah, that’s all of us. We are often tempted to take the easy road or to benefit at someone else’s expense because we want the immediate gratification. But Solomon warns us that while it might taste good for a moment or a period of time, it will lead to judgment and consequence. Bread that is sweet is not worth a mouth full of gravel. There are so many things on which we are tempted to compromise. These things seem little and/or we think, “No one will know.” So we take a taste or just a look. The problem is the prize or satisfaction is so fleeting and will not last long.
Consider a few potent examples:
The person who gives into sexual engagement outside of marriage experiences a short escapade and climax that is here and then gone. But the grief and guilt and consequence of that passion played out can truly be exponential.
This is why Paul was so strong in his words in 1 Corinthians 6:18, which says, “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.”
Another example is spending money you do not have. The temptation to buy something you really want now, even though God has not yet entrusted you with the money to afford it is very strong. The society we live in is constantly pushing this drug on us.
“Buy now and pay later,” or “It will never be this cheap again,” or telling you that you deserve to splurge a little.
The problem is spending money you don’t yet have means you are now indebted to another, and the amount you will pay in interest by the time it’s paid off means you paid three or four times the amount it cost to begin with. So much for saving money because it was on sale! I have seen this affect families and set them back for years if not decades. Talk about a mouth full of gravel.
Instead of looking to the things of the world to satisfy us, we are desperate to look to Christ alone for satisfaction.
-C.S. Lewis once said, “…it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
We are guilty of dreaming for and chasing scraps, as we try to find deep, lasting pleasure in fast cars, big screen TV’s, extra-marital sex, and tasty meals.
Pascal once said, “But these are all inadequate, because…the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable Object, that is to say, only by God Himself.”
Christian, instead of selling out for fleeting things and buying yourself a bunch of consequence and heartache, consider the words of the Psalmist:
Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord. And he will give you the desires of your heart!
Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 36:8 They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.
In the Psalms, God is the “all-satisfying object.”
In Him alone we find the source of complete and unending pleasure!
Psalm 16:11 You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
If we are to avoid the pitfalls of sinful decisions for instant gratification, then we must fight back those temptations with a greater affection that we have in Jesus.
Jesus said in John 15:4-5, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
We must remain or abide in Jesus every day, all day, as long as it’s called today. Why? Because the temptation to see and savor something else, something in creation over the Creator, is very real and constant.
When we abide or remain in Jesus, we will bear good fruit--the fruit of the Spirit-- instead of bearing bad fruit and life-altering consequences like Solomon warns about in Proverbs 20. How do we remain in Jesus? The answer is by holding fast to His word and inviting in the other branches (mature Christians) in your life to constantly reorient your focus and cling to Jesus.
This is a beautiful gift God has given us in our salvation: to walk in the body in unity and not try to navigate this treacherous life alone. We need our blood-bought brothers and sisters in our lives constantly to remind us of the beauty of the gospel and to help us stay focused on Jesus.
The Author of Hebrews said this so well in chapter 12:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2