I’ll confess a certain hedonistic tendency. If you’re honest my guess is you’ve found yourself strung out on pleasure seeking from time to time as well. That’s just it, pleasure, the Bible doesn’t condemn it unless it becomes the only thing we find worth living for. Or if it becomes the only way we know how to cope with life. In fact I would say pleasure has always been God’s idea. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” And remember Jesus words in John 10:10, “…I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”(The Message)
Sounds like a thumbs up for pleasure to me. So there’s a reason we’re created with certain pleasure sensors in our bodies. There’s a reason why parts of our brains light up during sex, eating good food, and even when we solve a difficult problem. There you have it! Pleasure is just something we were born for! Let’s eat, drink, and be merry people! (by the way that’s in Ecclesiastes 8:15)
But still, as a Christian it’s easy to be suspect of pleasure and whether or not God is pleased with my being pleased. After all there’s an overwhelming amount of self-denial, and sacrifice talk in scripture. That seems far more inline with how Jesus lived. But could it be that our guilt about pleasure stems from a lingering belief that I still have a debt to pay? In other words, while I understand what was accomplished through Jesus, that “my debt” is paid, and I am “saved”, I still struggle with having it too good. But that really is the point. We have it really good, that’s what the gospel is, really, really, “good news!” It’s good news about freedom, joy, salvation, and yes, even pleasure.
Again, it can’t be overlooked that our tendency is to go overboard on this pleasure thing. That’s why even though we know the gospel, and the good that it brings, there’s the need for caution. Too much of a good thing is still too much. So while pleasure isn’t prohibited for the Christian a hedonistic approach to pleasure is. For the hedonist it’s all about the next pleasure trip. It’s always self-serving, and it has no limits.
That really is the issue. We have to set limits. I know it’s unheard of in our country, where it’s life to the max, but for believers it’s the only way we live well in obedience to God. I love the way Paul puts it in I Corinthians 10:23, “Looking at it one way, you could say, ‘Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.’ But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well…”
So I leave you with these three ideas about pleasure and living well…
- Love Jesus more than pleasure.
- Live the gospel when it comes to pleasure.
- Limit pleasure for the sake of living well.