What’s Wrong With Pleasure?
Is having a good time a bad thing? There are some believers who do not allow themselves to participate in fun activities such as dancing or even card games (the non-gambling kind). The reason they give for these restrictions is that they have the potential to lead people to other undesirable activities such as premarital sex and drug abuse. Are these Christians justified in placing such bans on pleasure? Is the pursuit of pleasure a sin?
The preacher in Ecclesiastes wanted to find out. In chapter 2, verses 3-9, he describes what I call his “pleasure quest”. His reason for doing this was to: “see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.” (verse 3- NIV) Tempered with godly wisdom, the preacher tells us, in detail, how he pursued pleasure.
Pursuing Fun Projects
In verses 4-6, the preacher describes the various projects that he indulged in. From building mansions for himself to building water reservoirs for gardens he planted, there was no limit he placed upon himself as he sought pleasure. However, even this was not enough; he wanted more.
Buying All Kinds of Toys
The preacher then tells us in verses 7-8 all the things that he had bought during his pleasure quest. Like his projects, he did not put a restriction on his spending; only godly wisdom prevented him from going overboard. His purchases ranged from servants to livestock; and even with all that the preacher bought, he still had money to spare. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. (verse 9- NIV)
Reflection of His Quest
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. (verse 10- NIV) You would think that after all that pleasure seeking, the preacher would be happy. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (verse 11- NIV) Why would the preacher say that seeking pleasure is meaningless? Is it because such indulgence is a bad thing as some believers think?
Origin of Pleasure
I do not believe that is the reason why the preacher said that pleasure is meaningless. Let’s consider the origin of pleasure. When God created the heavens and the earth, he declared that it was all very good. It gave the Almighty pleasure to see what He had made. Therefore, pleasure started when God saw all that He did and said it was good.
Made to Find Pleasure
Now when God made humanity in His image, He imprinted in them the same desire to seek out those things that are good also, so that they would find pleasure in them too. With that in mind, if we were made to find pleasure in this life, why does the preacher declare it is meaningless to do so?
Our Drive for Pleasure
I think the answer lies in our reason to find pleasure. When the Lord designed us to seek out what is good, it was to seek the one thing that is truly good and that is God Himself. Unfortunately, because of our fall into sin, we have lost sight of what is truly good and seek out cheap imitations.
What is even worse, we pursue pleasure for all the wrong reasons. For example, suppose you have a bad day. Instead of talking about it, you go to a dance club and have fun. Your hope is that all the pleasure you have at the club will help you forget about your problems. The problem is, the moment you leave the club, the problems are still there for you deal with; pleasure does not take away our problems.
A Good Reason To Have Fun
When we seek out pleasure, it must be for the right reasons. Suppose you go to a party. What is your motivation to go? Is it to fulfill your selfish desires or to build relationships with your friends?
What if you wish to build a house? Do you do it out of a selfish urge to show off or do you do it because you hope the house would be a good home for somebody? Seeking pleasure for yourself is a fruitless exercise because the rewards do not last long. On the other hand, if we pursue pleasure in order to help others, the rewards are more fulfilling, for it is better to give than to receive.
One Warning About Pleasure
With all this in mind, the pursuit of pleasure is not sinful. However, when we decide to do something fun, we must be careful. When the preacher went on his pleasure quest, he applied godly wisdom on his journey. For he knew that to go down the road of pleasure without a plan is very dangerous. Pursue the good things of life wisely and for the right reasons. Failure to do so will lead you down a path that is sinful.