“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good … she took some and ate it…” (Genesis 3:6, emphases added).
And so began the story of human gratification – a pattern that is repeated over and over in the biblical story:
“The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were beautiful and they took them” (Genesis 6:2, emphases added).
“When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her …” (Genesis 34:2, emphases added).
In all of these examples – and many more – we see the same pattern repeated. The Hebrew words for “saw” (ra’ah), “good”or “beautiful” (tov), and “took” (laqach) are identical in each case. We see the same pattern of stimulus and response, seeing and taking – with essentially nothing between them.
We have expressions for this pattern today – “impulse buying,” “see and grab,” “instant gratification,” and so on. The very number of such expressions shows how common the pattern is in our society. Yet if we go back to the biblical accounts, we find something interesting. The pattern of see+take or see+act so often recorded in the narrative books of the Bible is said almost invariably of those who rejected or did not know God.
When we look at the accounts of those who followed God, we see stories that just as invariably show a different pattern: “see+consider+act.” This pattern is often clear in stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and other servants of God. Look at a single example:
In 1 Samuel 24, we find the story of how David saw an opportunity to kill Saul, who was hunting him, but after brief reflection, did not. This has everything to do with instant gratification. David had already been anointed to replace Saul as king (1 Samuel 16:1-13), and it was only a matter of time before David would become king in Saul’s place. In this instance there was a very rational reason to go along with the drive of “see+take.” Yet David resisted the desire to take Saul’s life, considered the situation, and waited once he saw God’s will in the matter (1 Samuel 24:3-6).
In examples like this we see the people of God placing thought and the application of knowledge between seeing and acting – and time and again they are credited for righteousness in doing so. The nature of the opposite approach is also repeatedly made clear. Take a single example of that also: “Desire without knowledge is not good— how much more will hasty feet miss the way!” (Proverbs 19:2). We can see and desire, but if we do not think about what we need to consider – apply knowledge to the situation – then our hasty feet “miss the way” which is so often a synonym for sin throughout the Hebrew Bible.
This pattern of delayed versus instant gratification, of placing thought between seeing and taking or other forms of action, is not just something that applies to wise shopping habits – it is a principle as broad as life itself. Interestingly, while God doubtless does not need to delay before acting, we find scriptures that indicate that he nevertheless does pause and consider. We see him waiting before acting in the days of Noah (1 Peter 3:20) and in the days of Lot (Luke 17:28). And we see God’s way of seeing, considering, and then acting extolled in the Psalms: “But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand …” (Psalm 10:14, emphases added).
Even God considers between seeing and acting. How much more should we!