We like nice things. It’s an American tradition. I don’t really know why, but it is. Maybe it’s ingrained in the fabric of this nation by our attitudes of being able to provide for ourselves and achieve the “American dream”. We tend to look at people who live a life of luxury as someone who has “made it”.
It’s very rare to hear of someone who has all the worldly possessions that most people could only dream of, and then give it all up. Maybe they would give it up temporarily for some reason, but rarely is it done with the intent of it being permanent.
The Bible records one such incident happening. Have you ever stepped back and thought about the life that Moses gave up when he decided to leave Egypt? When he was found floating in the basket in the river, he was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter. She took him in and, after he was weaned, raised him as if he was her own son (Exodus 2:10). So in other words, Moses became the grandson of Pharaoh. I can only imagine the life that he lived in the palace as adopted royalty. Some historians believe that this Pharaoh had no sons at the time and that Moses was being groomed as the heir to the throne (Acts 7:20-22, though this passage is absolutely not definitive proof of that assumption).
No matter how you look at it, Moses had it all. If he wanted to take a day off and lay around while someone dropped grapes in his mouth, he could probably make that happen. If he wanted to sleep in, he probably had the best sheets that the world could produce. If he wanted to have a say in the political landscape, he had the opportunity to play that role.
But he gave it up. He got to a point in his life where he no longer wanted to be part of the royal family (Hebrews 11:24). But he didn’t just walk out the door on some kind of independence kick and say that he wanted to try and make it on his own. It wasn’t some adolescent phase where he wanted to prove himself. He was a full grown man when he left (Acts 7:23; Exodus 2:11). Why would anyone choose to leave such an easy, cushioned life?
The Hebrews writer gives us the answer. In Hebrews 11:25, it says that Moses chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasure of sin…”. Did you catch that? Moses understood that all this luxury he had, all this privilege he had, all this wealth and nobility he had was temporary. He knew it wasn’t going to last forever. The key to Moses’ decision, however, is found in the next verse: “esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.” [Hebrews 11:26, emphasis added].
There it is. Not only did Moses understand that what he had wouldn’t last, but his understanding was much deeper. He knew there was either a reward or a punishment coming at the end, and the life that he was living was not going to lead to that reward. He could see past the riches that were lying right in front of him, and instead he focused on his eternal salvation.
We may say that we would have done the same thing if we had been in his sandals. It’s always easy to say what you would have done when you already know the outcome. But do we show that same dedication in our spiritual lives? We may not have a life of royalty tempting us, but we are constantly faced with the “passing pleasure of sin”. When tempted to say something I shouldn’t say, to look at something I shouldn’t look at, to laugh at something I shouldn’t laugh at, or to overlook the needy when I know I should help, do I look past the temptation and focus instead on the reward? Or does my own spiritual shortsightedness cause me to succumb to the life I know I shouldn’t live.
It isn’t easy. Even Paul himself struggled with overcoming the desires of the flesh (Romans 7:18-20). The struggle is real. But that’s not an excuse to become an easy target to the lion that seeks to devour us (I Peter 5:8). We must continue to strive for the prize that lies ahead (Philippians 3:14) and ignore the temporary pleasures that lie in front of us.
If you had been in Moses’ position, would you have left Egypt?