True or False: God says pleasure is sin. T ___: F ___.
Pleasure is one of the most commonly misunderstood subjects relating to Christians. If we refer to someone as a ‘Puritan’, what is implied? We’re saying they are against pleasure. Let’s face it, Christians are generally characterized as people who think pleasure is a sin, so they avoid pleasure, or at least appear to avoid it, and are called hypocrites if they are found to have participated in any form of it.
As we have been exploring the sixteenth psalm, we have discovered some surprises. We have found that God is a safe place to take refuge; His mastery is good for us; His followers are a family that brings delight to one another and glory to God; worship of God protects people from entering into idolatry; and those who entrust themselves to Jesus have security for eternity. To all this, the psalmist, David, adds another grace for which followers can be thankful.
“The boundary lines,” he explains, “have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance” (Psalm 16:6). What David means is that God created us to experience and appreciate pleasure—real pleasure, not the cheap, gaudy, penny-candy type but true, soul-deep spirit-maturing pleasure. God also created us to bring pleasure to Himself. Pleasure, in fact, is God’s idea. It is His domain. That is why there are so many references to words like “rejoice” and “be glad” and “blessed” found in Scripture. Corrupted pleasure is what God rejects because He knows the ultimate harm that results from its practice. Corrupted pleasure is theft; it is stealing forbidden fruit for its immediate gratification only to find ourselves unable to enjoy any healthy fruit thereafter. It is the apple laced with poison Snow White’s deceptor gleefully offers her hapless victim.
C.S. Lewis writes of corrupted pleasure in his satire “The Screwtape Letters” where we hear demons describing their attempts to “encourage humans” to become hell-bound. Keep in mind that the “Enemy”, from Screwtape’s perspective, is God.
“Never forget,” (writes the demon Screwtape), “that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.”
Pleasure is God’s invention. And pleasure must have its boundaries—for our good, not to kill joy but to expand it. The psalmist confirms this by observing that “the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” All true pleasure has boundary lines that protect us from falling over the edge into an abyss of corrupted pleasures that destroy us.
Pure pleasures that come to us from God leave no regrets. Not one. They fill us with life and spirit-health and a compassion for others to experience the same pleasures. They are the pleasures of enjoying God’s creation, of loving Him with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind, of loving others as ourselves. They are the pleasures of living by God’s standards of justice and goodness, even when it hurts us, and of seeing others we love being healed by God and enjoying His pure pleasures too. We inherit these God-focused pleasures now in tidbits as we can manage them, and in greater portions as we experience them in God’s presence throughout our day. Like rich, fresh and healthy fruit they feed us and help us stay on the heavenward path toward Jesus, “who, for the joy (pleasure) set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). That is what God-given pleasure appetizes us for—eternal life.
Now we are able to answer the question in a new way. True or false: God says pure pleasure is God’s gift and inheritance for those who come to Him. T: ___; F: ___.
(Photo Credit: “Calvados Apfel 0596” by Harald Bischoff – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Calvados_Apfel_0596.jpg#/media/File:Calvados_Apfel_0596.jpg)