(January 23, 1991)
We got a card in the mail the other day that looked like an invoice. It said: “We have your order on reserve, ready to be mailed to you...” The product: “our version of a Rolex watch.” The bottom line... $39.95.
It nearly fooled me. At first I thought my husband decided an imitation would satisfy his desire for that pricey timepiece so he ordered one. Then I looked a little closer. The ink and style of writing were not right. The card was a sales gimmick. I pitched it in the garbage.
Imitation name-brands are usually less expensive. Besides, they look good to the casual observer, adding a touch of status without financial pain. The only problem is that imitations usually don’t last as long as the real thing. A Rolex starts in the hundreds... there is a reason that imitation was $39.95. It may have kept time for a while but somewhere, somehow, its true character would reveal itself.
There is a far more serious imitation being widely advertised and widely purchased. The only difference between it and a cheap watch is that anyone who buys it doesn’t know they have an imitation. They are convinced that what they have is the real thing. I’m talking about imitation pleasure.
Before you say, “pleasure is pleasure,” consider a verse that talks about the faith of Moses. It says he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; and choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.
Moses had been raised in a palace. He probably would be the next ruler in Egypt. He had wealth and education. He had all anyone could hope for in life. However, God made a claim on his life. He then had a choice to make: serve God or stay where he was. Saying no would be a sin; preferring anything other than serving God would be a sin. No matter how good the good life in the palace seemed, if Moses picked it, he would be picking sin. Instead, he choose to serve God and leave behind “the pleasures of sin.”
It is important to recognize that sin does include pleasure. When I think of someone killing a child or robbing a bank, I don’t think of the thrill they might get out of it; I think of the horror and the guilt. Yet there are sins that have enticed me with a promise of pleasure and when I gave in, I found that they delivered... there sometimes is pleasure in doing the wrong thing.
But the pleasure of sin is like other imitations. Up front, it seems the easier, less expensive route. Sometimes it offers status or at least a notch in one’s belt or a sense of personal achievement. It does the job, at least for a time... one version of the Bible translates it as “a short while.”
I’ve heard that some sins offer very intense pleasure. However, in spite of the intensity, there is no lasting satisfaction. Sin’s victim is duped into thinking if they could just get a little more, it would be enough. Slowly (or sometimes very quickly), they are addicted and they cannot stop. It is precisely here that imitation pleasure can be detected... it is never enough. There is no lasting satisfaction. The sinner is hooked.
By the grace of God, it is possible to escape that kind of addiction. Hope can be found in this truth: The imitation may seem great and offer what seems good for a short time, but God offers a pleasure that cannot even be compared with the real thing. It is the lasting joy of righteous living, a joy that Jesus told the disciples was “meat to eat that you know nothing of..”
It requires faith to forsake the imitation, but once the real thing is experienced, imitations can’t touch it.