My friend Libby and I were playing in my backyard sandbox. We were five years old, and I was drooling over the change of clothes she’d brought for her doll. I wanted that stunning, store-bought outfit for my own doll more than anything. Libby was no fool, however; she required a trade, and the only items I had to intrigue her were my mother’s Spoolie hair curlers.
These marvels of engineering were shaped like little pink wine glasses. As I recall, my mother wound a lock of hair around each rubbery stem, then folded the wider end down to hold the hair in place. Overnight, these devices provided her with pin-curl satisfaction. To a kid, however, the thrill was in popping them open and closed, open and closed—not unlike the fun of bursting bubble wrap.
Libby went home with several Spoolie curlers tucked into her pocket, and I had possession of the beautiful doll outfit. Of course, my mother spotted my acquisition right away. I caved under her interrogation, confessing how I had negotiated this transaction with her possessions. I don’t know why I thought I could get away with a curler disappearance and an unexplained wardrobe upgrade for my doll, but I wasn’t surprised I was commanded to make the trek down the street to Libby’s house. My assignment was to return the outfit, retrieve the curlers, and tell Libby’s mom I was sorry—all despite my tears and objections. I had a lesson to learn about foolish pursuits.
Mom might have thought this humiliation was enough for the lesson to stick. But one Sunday morning, I sneaked home from the church my father pastored to look inside her jewelry box. We lived next door, our small-town doors were unlocked during the day, and children could wander within reason. All that made this caper doable.
I was mesmerized by the sapphire-like stone in the ring my mother wore with the blue satin dress she reserved for fancy affairs. A pint-sized sneak with more cunning would have tried on the ring and put it back, but temptation got the best of me. I decided to hide it so I could view its splendor whenever I wanted. Alas, before I could make my getaway, I was once again under parental interrogation.
“What are you doing here by yourself, and what are you hiding behind your back?”
The truth that pretty and shiny were not always mine to chase began to sink in.
We can so easily convince ourselves that pursuing what’s not ours is acceptable, even viewing it as a smart move when we develop a “good reason” and a “good plan.” I see that over there. It’s better than what I have. I want it. I deserve it. What’s the real harm in doing whatever it takes to get it? If I do this right, no one will even know.
The temptation can come from Satan, but the voice we hear telling lies can also be our own. James 1:14 says, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (ESV). The catalytic lies supporting an ill-advised yearning might not have been as blatantly obvious, but were you ever tempted to pursue a pretty or shiny “object” not meant to be yours? A job or project or promotion? A position of power or influence? A relationship? A possession just because you wanted it—or didn’t want someone else to have it?
In The Message, Proverbs 14:18 says, “Foolish dreamers live in a world of illusion.” That foolish dreaming could include a desire based on covetousness, jealousy, envy, or greed. Proverbs 10:2 says, “Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value.” Amid intense temptation, we can overlook “foolish” and “ill-gotten.” The temptation to pursue something beyond reasonable ambition or desire can also result from lies so subtle that we find ourselves on a wild ride we never saw coming—violating the Golden Rule, careening in deceptive disguise, pushing outside our heavenly Father’s plan.
Paul offers hope for the battle in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “You are tempted in the same way all other human beings are. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted any more than you can take. But when you are tempted, God will give you a way out. Then you will be able to deal with it” (NIrV).
The temptation to go after what’s not meant to be ours is common, but we can pray for a God-given escape from the desire for ill-gotten treasures. We can deal a blow to covetousness, jealousy, envy, and greed. We can experience deliverance from the foolish pursuit of shiny and pretty objects that are not ours to have.
We can fight the battle and win.
Jean Kavich Bloom is a champion coffee drinker and a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries. She doesn’t garden, bake, or knit, but insists playing Scrabble is exactly the same thing. Jean and her husband, Cal, live in central Indiana. They have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren. She blogs at bloominwordstoo.blogspot.com.
Photograph © Jony Ariadi, used with permission