Is it wrong to crave and desire a piece of apple pie for the pleasure it brings our taste buds? The Bible tells us to “abstain from fleshly lusts” in I Peter 2:11. In Colossians 3:2 we are told “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” So it would appear to some Christians that God commands Christians to stay away from and not seek after earthly pleasures including seeking after a piece of their favorite apple pie.
This is certainly not the first time I have written on the subject of Christians and earthly pleasures and it won’t be the last. But in this instance I want to tackle this from a different point of view based on a conversation I had with a young woman who emailed me. She wanted to share some of her personal insights from studying the book of Ecclesiastes and see what I thought of her interpretation of this great book of the Bible.
She asked to be called “Young and Restless” (and she is in her early 20s).
Below are some excerpts from what she originally sent me:
“Some people think that the focus or emphasis of Ecclesiastes is to enjoy pleasure. They point to the verses about enjoying the fruit of their labour, as if that is what the central message of Ecclesiastes is:
Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.
Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.
For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.
However, this is only part of the story. The book of Ecclesiastes is a book which recounts all of Solomon’s earthly pursuits by which he seeks pleasure. If anyone had it all, it was Solomon. Yet, he calls it all vanity of vanities, all is vanities. Solomon speaks more about his grief and despair than his joy found in earthly pleasures. Yet, some try to emphase the earthly pleasures, which is because they find it hard to accept that all they have on earth is vanity. They are too focused and distracted by earthly pleasures, and that is a problem
All earthly pleasures, whether it be marriage, family, food or wine are fleeting. You better accept this or else you are a fool. The seeking of such pleasures itself will ultimately lead to a lack of fulfillment. When all such things are gone, one will despair. This explains why so many people in old age who cannot enjoy such things are in despair, because they pursued these things, as opposed to the fear of God”
My First response to Young and Restless’s interpretation of Ecclesiastes view of earthly pleasures
I have studied Ecclesiastes many times over the years. Both from studying the book itself as well as the account of Solomon’s life in other books I would summarize it as this:
Solomon was a man who started off honoring God with his life but quickly was pulled into pursuing the pleasures of this world rather than serving God. He allowed his heart to be lead astray by heathen wives. He pursued every physical pleasure both sexual and non-sexual that a man could ever desire. He had wealth beyond measure.
His discovery at the end of his life was how much his life was wasted and meaningless because he did not make obedience to God and fearing God the central focus of his life. He made the pursuit of pleasure the central focus of his life – and this is the very definition of sensuality – when one makes the pursuit of physical pleasures the focus of their life.
He abused “the gift of God”. The ability of a man to labor and enjoy the fruits of his labor with a wife and children by his side are indeed a gift of God as Solomon alludes to in this book. But this gift can be abused when we make it the central focus of our life rather than serving God with our life.
This is why I always maintain on my site we must always maintain balance in this life. The Scriptures tell us “Do not turn to the right nor to the left; Turn your foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:27).
On one side we have the Christian ascetics who taught (and some Christians today still teach) that all pleasures of this world are evil and to be avoided. On the other side we have those engaged in materialism and sensuality that have made the entire focus of their life earthly pleasures. The truth is that God gave us pleasures in this world as a gift – but not as something to be the central focus of our lives. He wants us to serve him and fear him and in serving him and fearing him we may along the way experience some pleasures in this world – but we will also experience hurt and pain. But we are to follow the Apostle Paul’s example in this regard:
“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:10-13 (NASB)
Young and Restless’s first response to me
“Thanks for the feedback. I don’t know about you, but you seem to use a more academic approach to studying the Bible. I think that there is a such thing as spiritual revelation that is needed in reading the Bible, and that no matter how many times you study a book in the Bible, there is always more that you can learn.
So, I think there is so much to learn from it than a summary.
‘Balance’ can be a dangerous concept as it can often just another word for compromise on good but hard doctrine, with bad but easy-to-accept doctrine.
If you think I am trying to promote asceticism, no I am not. I never said that they are to be avoided altogether. Saying that pursuing them for pleasure in themselves and finding contentment in them is not “asceticism”. It is truth.”
My second response to Young and Restless on the subject of earthly pleasures
First and foremost I agree with you that the Bible is a spiritually discerned book – but we must take it as a whole and we must let the Scriptures interpret the Scriptures. In my life I have far too often seen people claim “spiritual revelation” with absolutely zero Scriptural backing or I have seen those who take one part of the Scriptures that fits their beliefs while leaving out others. We must take all of it to learn the full truth of any matter.
I would agree with you that the primary emphasis of Ecclesiastes is not to teach us “to enjoy pleasure”. But I would also humbly submit to you that the primary message of Ecclesiastes is not to tell us that seeking out or enjoying the pleasures of this world are sinful, vain and meaningless as your article states.
The primary focus of the book of Ecclesiastes is that the most important thing in our life – the thing that gives our life meaning when all other things fade away is to fear God and keep his commandments. Our relationship with God is a never ending source of joy even in the darkest times of life.
Just because somethings last only a short time does not make them of no value
Yes earthly pleasures such as marriage, having children and family, food and wine are fleeting. They are of this temporary world. But guess what else is fleeting? Our lives.
“15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. 16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.”
Psalm 103:15-16 (KJV)
Does this mean our lives are meaningless just because they fleeting? Does this mean our marriages and our children are meaningless just because they are fleeting when compared to eternity? No that is not what these passages teach my friend. They teach that all these things are meaningless when we make idols of them – when these things become the central focus of our lives and we forget God. When we no longer remember our creator or fear him.
I can accept that my life and my children’s lives are fleeting like a flower on the ground that withers away and dies. Amen and Amen. But is a flower any less special even though it lives such a short time? Is it any less a beautiful and magnificent part of God’s creation? Was the birth of each of my children any less precious because I knew one day they would die? That their life is fleeing? Of course not! This is one of the reasons we as Christians oppose abortion for children who may not live long after birth. Are the few days or weeks that a sick infant lives not precious because his life is fleeting?
Riches and wealth, and the power to eat of the fruits of our labor, the ability for us to even labor itself and of course marriage and children are the gift of God. Yet you claim “The seeking of such pleasures itself will ultimately lead to a lack of fulfillment”. If you had finished your statement with “if we make them the central focus of our lives as opposed to fearing and serving God.” I would agree. Amen and Amen.
I agree that balance can be used to justify false doctrine – but sometimes it is used to help us from truly going off track as well. I truly see in the Scriptures two ditches we can fall into.
On the left is slavery to materialism and sensuality where people put the pursuit of worldly pleasures at the center of their life and they forget God and do not serve and worship him. On the right is asceticism – another ditch we can fall into where we believe we may not experience pleasure in this world or that we may only experience pleasure as a result of others actions toward us – but we may never seek to it out.
Young and Restless’s Summary Statements of her beliefs and our differences
I won’t bother with the entirety of our email chain as it is a bit long and sometimes goes off the topic at hand which is “Is it Biblical to seek to earthly pleasure?” I will just give two statements from Young and Restless that I believe honestly sum up the differences we have on this issue of earthly pleasures.
“I am not saying that God has created bad gifts, or that they are meaningless and vain. Rather, I am saying that seeking such gifts in and of themselves are. How hard is that to understand? There is a difference between seeking these gifts, and simply humbly, and gratefully enjoying that as God has given to oneself, which you do not seem to understand.”
“I think the problem is that you seem to think that desire for earthly things is legitimate, as long as it is used rightly. However, the problem is the desire for earthly things in and of themselves, is not a desire to delight in God. Rather, it is a desire that is earthly itself. You seem to not even know the difference between desire for something in and of itself, and the desire for it as a means to do the will of God.”
These are the beliefs she has that we can draw from her statements:
- We are only to seek pleasure in God and contentment in God and never in any earthly things.
- We may not desire earthly things in and of themselves simply for the pleasure they bring us, but only as a means of doing the will of God.
- It is not wrong for us to experience the earthly gifts God gives to us such as marriage, sex, children, good food and other things but we cannot seek out these gifts – they must be given to us by God.
Let me practically apply her principles as stated to marriage as an example.
Based on her beliefs it is not wrong for a man to seek marriage to a woman if his only motivating factor is to obey God’s command to be fruitful and multiply and honor God by living out the role of a husband and father while he spiritually leads his wife and future children. However if any part of his motivation for marriage is his desire to have this woman sexually pleasure him this by definition is sin because he is never to seek out any kind of earthly pleasure for himself. Now if his wife seeks to bless him by giving him sex then he may “simply humbly, and gratefully enjoying that as God has given”.
Now I know based on numerous emails with her that she is not against a man initiating sex with his wife. But based on these principles she expounded – the only way he could righteously initiate sex with his wife was if his motive was for one of two reasons:
- His motivation is completely selfless in that he simply wants to give his wife pleasure. His own desire for physical pleasure with his wife plays no part in his initiating sex because to do so would be him seeking after earthly pleasures instead seeking to delight in God which should be the only thing he seeks after.
- His trying to follow God’s command to be fruitful and multiply – so he is initiating sex not out of a desire to for his own pleasure, but to do the will of God by making his wife pregnant.
The Apple Pie Example
I gave her the following admonition because she often speaks in lofty terms which she does not define in practical ways and then she accuses me of simply not understanding the spiritual truths she is giving me.
I would like you (Young and Restless) to apply your principle here on a practical level. This is something I try to do on my blog – I give what I believe to be a Biblical principle and then I illustrate it in practical everyday situations.
Let’s say I like apple pie. And there is a restaurant down the street that makes the best apple pie I have ever had. I am working late at night (as I often do for my job here at my home office) and I decide to run down the street late at night to get myself a piece of that wonderful apple pie. I purchase it and savor each bite. I have now met my craving and I am content. I go home, finish my work and go to bed.
How does my engaging in my craving for a piece of apple pie “serve God”? How does the exercise of me engaging in my craving for a piece of apple pie “worship God”?
I did this for my own enjoyment, for my own pleasure did I not? And why was this particular action of seeking to have a piece of apple pie that I enjoy wrong (if you view it as wrong)?
Young and Restless’s Answer to the Apple pie dilemma
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).
If your manner of spirit in eating a pie is with a mind set on gaining earthly treasure that is wrong.
However, if you do so remembering that it is from God and that is your manner of spirit in savoring it, it is good.
However, so often when people claim that they are delighting in some earthly things to delight in the Lord, they are really seeking to delight in such earthly things in that wrong manner of spirit.”
My response to the Apple pie dilemma
Young and Restless did not answer my questions directly – but simply responded again with lofty terms. This helps no one. If I have a craving for my favorite apple pie and I go buy it – sit down by myself and eat a slice savoring each bite is that a sin for me? According to her own principles given earlier it is sin because I sought after “an earthly thing” or an “earthly pleasure”. I sought after something simply to experience the pleasure of it and by her understanding of the Song of Solomon as well as Colossians 3:2 I have just sinned against God in acting in such a selfish manner.
Now if she wanted to say – I should receive the apple pie that I had a craving for and bought and am about to eat with thanksgiving to God I would say Amen!
This is what the Scriptures tell us:
“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude”
I Timothy 4:4 (NASB)
Guess what that means? Did God create my taste buds? Did God create my ability to crave and savor the taste of apple pie by those taste buds? You bet he did. And what God created is good. Everything he created is good! It is absolutely ludicrous and unbiblical to say that God gave us taste buds but does not want us to seek to pleasure them by various foods.
In the same way it is absolutely ludicrous and unbiblical to say that God gave men strong sexual desires for women but they are forbidden from acting on them for their own pleasure. Just think about it – by Young and Restless’s beliefs God placed a strong desire for sexual pleasure in a man but he is forbidden to seek it out. He may only experience it as a byproduct of “doing the will of God” by either seeking to give his wife pleasure or impregnating her with a baby.
Young and Restless’s principles are not far from what some of the early church fathers taught about men seeking after sexual pleasure with their wives. See my Article “How the Church made sex dirty” for more on that.
And even outside of food and sex, men have desires to work and sometimes build businesses and other great things to benefit themselves and their families. But according to Young and Restless – this is seeking after “earthly treasures”, something that we are forbidden to do in her view.
Young and Restless is teaching a form of Asceticism
Young and Restless denies she is advocating for Asceticism because she does not believe it is wrong for us avoid all earthly pleasures. She is just saying we are not to seek them out. If they just so happen to land in our lap then it is ok. So in my apple pie example – if my wife knows I enjoy apple pie and she goes to that restaurant and buys me my favorite pie and serves it to me at home then there is no sin in me enjoying the pleasure God has dropped in my lap via my wife’s kindness.
But I am forbidden from seeking the pleasure of that apple pie by myself – that is an earthly desire that is seeking after earthly things – that is not delighting in God in Young and Restless’s view.
But there are two parts of Asceticism. The first is that we should not seek after any earthly pleasure and the second is that we should not allow ourselves to experience any earthly pleasures as either one could tempt us to sin and lead us away from God. Just because she takes the first part and leaves off the second does not make it any less asceticism. That is what it is.
Demolishing the two primary tenets of Asceticism with the Word of God
Ascetic Tenet #1 – We are to “abstain from fleshly lusts”
“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;”
I Peter 2:11
Most Ascetics will argue that his means “We should keep ourselves from experiencing early pleasures otherwise will be pulled away from God”. Young and Restless would reject this principle of asceticism. One of the things I love about God’s Word is that in many cases it actually defines what it means by certain words. These are the lusts of the flesh according to the Bible:
“19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Galatians 5:19-21 (KJV)
Now do you see the human craving for apple pie or just the general desire for sex (not illicit sex) in this list the Apostle Paul just gave? Nope and I don’t either. It really is hard today to find a good balanced church.
On the far left side we have those preachers who never say anything against any sin and they will have members in their church openly living together in fornication and they are ok with this. Or they may even invite practicing homosexuals to join their church or head their church.
On the far right side we have those who try and teach us that all human desire for earthly pleasure or earthly things is sinful. These are the extremes we must fight against as Bible believing Christians.
The truth is that in the Scriptures most often the term “the flesh” is being used to speak of the sin nature or corruption of the God given human nature he gave Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In no way does the Scripture teach that all human desires for earthly things or earthly pleasures are wrong. Only when our desire is for things that violate God’s law or when we allow our desire for things that are not sin to replace our love and devotion to God then are our desire becomes sin.
Ascetic Argument #2 – We are not to think on earthly things or love things in this world
Now this is the part of asceticism that Young and Restless fully supports. She gives this well-known passage from Colossians in support of her belief:
“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Colossians 3:2 (KJV)
Another passage she did not give but I have seen others her camp use to try and support their false ascetic teachings is this one:
“15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
1 John 2:15-16 (KJV)
The word “affection” in Colossians 2 is not talking about love. The modern translation of the Greek word “Phroneo” behind that word is “mind” which is more accurate. It is saying we are to set our minds, our thoughts on things above and not on things on the earth. But in 1 John 2:15-16 the Greek word is “Agapao” for love.
First let’s look at Colossians 3:2. If we take this passage by itself and are not looking at its context or how it is used throughout the Bible this would mean that we cannot think about our marriage, our children, our jobs, our car, our dog, our cat, our mom, our dad…you get the point. Now even the ascetic would not like that explanation. They would instead say that “things that are on the earth” or “earthly things” refers to “seeking earthly pleasures or seeking to build up earthly treasures in any form”. The problem is the text does not give us such a definition. Again as with “fleshly lusts” from I Peter 2:11 we need to let the Bible define itself. In this same chapter of Colossians we see how the Bible defines “things that are on the earth”:
5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. 8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;”
Colossians 3:5-9 (KJV)
So what are the “things on the earth” or “upon the earth” or earthly things we should not set our minds on? It is sinful earthly things – not all earthly things. Again just like “flesh” can be a Biblical euphemism for the sin nature so to can “things on earth” or “earthly”. Do you see anywhere in this list of that we should not set our minds on marriage, having children or eating apple pie because they are earthly things? The answer is a resounding “No you do not”.
Now what about 1 John 2:15-16? That passage clearly tells us we are to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world”. Again the word “world” can speak to the literal earth and all there is in it or to the evil sinful world system similar to how “flesh” and “earth” are used in different ways. In the Gospel of John we are told:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16 (KJV)
The Greek words for “love” and “world” are identical here to 1 John 2:15-16. So when we use discernment we know that God is commanding us not to love the sinful things of this world – not literally everything in their world including our spouses, children and apples.
But shouldn’t we only seek pleasure in God?
“As Christians we should never desire earthly things in and of themselves but instead only desire earthly things as a means to do the will of God. We should only desire to delight in God, not in earthly things in and of themselves”
This is a minor rephrasing of Young and Restless’s statement but it still captures the heart of what she said. And she is not alone. You will find ascetic Christian teachers on the far right teaching exactly what she has said. In fact I grew up hearing some preachers like this in Churches I attended.
Is sounds nice doesn’t? It sounds so lofty and so righteous doesn’t it? After all God is the only thing that lasts. All the things of this world will eventually fade away so why should we have any desire for such temporal things in and of themselves?
It may sound nice but it nothing more than “the commandments and teachings of men” as opposed to the commandments of God. Paul alludes to this in his attack on asceticism that was creeping into the church while the Apostles still lived:
“20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”
Colossians 2:20-23 (NASB)
But how does seeking pleasure glorify God?
The question of this article and really a hugely important question in life for all Christians is “Is it Biblical to seek to earthly pleasure?” Notice the way I framed that question. I could have said “Is it unbiblical to seek earthly pleasure?” But when I ask is it Biblical – I am asking is right, holy and just for us to seek earthly things and earthly pleasures?
Is it righteous, holy and ultimately glorifying to God when I crave a piece of apple pie? The answer is yes! And the reason is because I was designed to image God. God experiences pleasure and he design us to as well. When we live out our design we glorify God. It is God who gave me taste buds and it God who gave me that craving for apple pie. It is God who sends dopamine rushing through my brain as I eat that pie and God who causes my tastes buds to react in pleasure. All of this is by his hand and his design. Therefore when I exercise my desire for the pleasure of apple pie and I do so within the bounds of his law and realizing everything comes from him I do in fact bring glory to my creator.
In other words – we actually bring glory to God by seeking out earthly things and earthly pleasures like marriage, sex in marriage and having children in marriage as well as building beautiful things and seeking out wonderful foods. When we do all this within the bounds of his law it honors and glorifies him.
But should we not find all our contentment in God?
Again it sounds nice, it sounds pious to say we should find all our contentment in God. But the truth is we can find contentment in earthly things and earthly pleasures as long as we realize that God is the only thing at will ultimately satisfy our spiritual thirst. Christ alluded to this:
“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”
John 6:35 (KJV)
Water or tea or even a piece of apple pie might bring us temporary contentment in the moment. It will content our physical desire for a time. But these things will never bring contentment to our spiritual thirst. This is how people abuse Gods gifts when they look to them as their ultimate source of contentment and fulfillment and not God.
But again there are two extremes we must avoid. The one is to look for all our contentment in earthly things like food, wine or sex(even in marriage) and the other is to say that God did not give us any of these things even for temporary contentment as we look to him for our ultimate spiritual contentment.
The False Dichotomy of Asceticism
This is one of the favorite verses of Ascetics and it is actually one Young and Restless’s favorite verses as well:
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
Matthew 6:24 (KJV)
The Ascetic’s (and Young and Restless’s) second favorite verse is:
“19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal”
Matthew 6:19-20 (KJV)
“Mammon” is an old word for “money”, “wealth” or “riches”. So Christ was saying you can’t serve God and Money. Many Ascetics will take it a step further and say it refers to “earthly things”. So you can’t love God and love earthly things. Well we defined “earthly things” from the Scriptures earlier and showed that the Bible condemns sinful earthly things or sinful desires of the flesh – not all human desires and not all earthly things.
In the Ascetic view – we cannot have treasures on earth and treasure in heaven. We cannot serve God and also seek to make money or have possessions in this world. We must choose between a simple and uncomfortable life and having God or having material comforts and not having God.
Was Christ saying it was wrong to for a man to earn money or have nice things for himself or his family? Absolutely not. In fact God says this about riches, money and inheritances:
“A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.”
Proverbs 13:22 (KJV)
“Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.”
So what is Christ saying when he says we cannot serve two masters – money (material things, earthly things, riches) and God?
He is talking about where our faith is. We must trust in God – not in our riches or material possessions. These passages of Scripture tell us this:
“Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.”
Psalm 52:7 (KJV)
“He that trusteth in his riches shall fall; but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.”
Proverbs 11:28 (KJV)
“23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
Mark 10:23-25 (KJV)
“17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; 18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;”
1 Timothy 6:17-18 (KJV)
So what is the common theme in the Bible about those who have riches and material things? The theme is that we are not trust in riches, we are not trust in our material things but our trust is always to be in God. We cannot trust in riches and trust God. We must choose.
Now will there be some times when we have to give up some material comforts and temporal pleasures in the service of God? Absolutely. Missionaries do this all the time. Even for those of us who are not missionaries we may give up our material possessions and comforts to help others and that is to be commended. So while we should be willing to part with our material comforts if God calls us to in a certain situation it does not mean all Christians at all times not matter their situation may never seek after material comforts or temporal pleasures or should never have these things. This is the false dichotomy that asceticism offers us.
You see in a way Satan can use both materialism and asceticism to keep people away from God. We can be drawn away by our possessions and trust in them rather than trusting in God or we can allow asceticism to keep people away from the faith because they thing that salvation requires them to suppress the natural desires God gave to human beings. Both keep people away from God and serve as stumbling blocks to a relationship with God.
Young Restless actually framed my belief in this area very accurately when she stated “you seem to think that desire for earthly things is legitimate, as long as it is used rightly”. And this is the truth of the Scriptures as I have demonstrated throughout this article. This like marriage, having children, eating good food and other earthly things and earthly pleasures like these are God’s gift to us and they are meant to be received with thanksgiving. God does not tell us we may not seek out these gifts and in fact if we don’t in some cases we would be violating God’s law.
For instance, unless God has convicted our hearts that he has called us to celibacy in service to him we are to pursue marriage in keeping with God’s first command to mankind to be fruitful and multiply. God also commands men to “drink” (Proverbs 5:15) from sexual well that is their wife whenever they are thirsty and he tells men to satisfy themselves (or literally drink one’s fill) of their wife’s body and be intoxicated by her sexual love.
He tells us that earthly temporal things such as a woman’s breasts and her womb are blessings (Genesis 49:25) to men in this first world. The Scriptures tell us that God gives us “wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart” (Psalm 104:15).
The problem with asceticism is that it does not distinguish from the world God loves and the world God hates.
God hates the sinful system of this world that came into being after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. But he still loves his creation including the birds of the air, animals, reptiles, the mountains, the rivers and chief among his creations mankind. He still loves the things he created as gifts for man like marriage, sex, children, food and other beautiful things in this world. When he calls on us to hate the world and the things in the world – he is calling on us to hate the sinful system in this world and not the beautiful things he created.
Can we love temporal earthly pleasures and earthly things and still love God? Can we seek the pleasure of having a spouse and children and a home together and still love God? Can a man “rejoice in his labour” (Ecclesiastes 5:19) or do something that brings him happiness and satisfaction and still love God?
Can a man store up an earthly treasure as an inheritance for his children and still love and serve God? Can we love and savor the taste of apple pie and seek after it and still love God? The summary of all these questions would be the very question of this article:
Is it Biblical to seek to earthly pleasure?
The answer to all these questions is a resounding “YES!” Absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt we can love all these things and still love God because these earthly things and pleasures are his gift to us.
To say that we cannot is to present a false dichotomy the Scriptures never present. To say otherwise is to teach asceticism which is not the commandment of God but rather the commandments and teachings of men.
We may absolutely love the things of this world that the Bible calls “the gift of God” to us as long as we are not “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4) and we do not “trust in uncertain riches” instead of “the living God” (1 Timothy 6:17).
Not only is it allowable and not sin for us to seek out “earthly pleasures, whether it be marriage, family, food or wine” as Young and Restless states but it actually glorifies God when we do because this is part of his design in us.
11 thoughts on “Is it Biblical to seek to earthly pleasure?”
This awesome thread BGR is why I rate you the best blogger in WordPress.com that I’ve ever seen
Please keep these vital and informative threads going, you are a blessing to my life
I appreciate your support and prayers as they are also a blessing to me.
Also just for you and everybody else – I apologize for not getting as many posts out in the last few months. Lots of stuff going on with my day job and with my family life. Nothing bad – just been pulled in many different directions. But my passion for this ministry has not waned in the least and I will continue to write what the Lord lays on my heart from the Bible and from conversations I have with others about these issues that affect our daily our lives as believers.
I think Y&R is making the same mistake that the Pharisees made. They do it under the guise of we can be extra safe and start building fences far around God’s rules, but there are a couple of problems with that. They want to tell themselves they are going the extra mile (being extra Holy), but as they are not God, they are incapable of setting any rules in the first place. In a sense, when someone adds to the word of God, they are not only doing what the bible tells them not to (Deut 4:2), but they are also trying to assume the role of God as if they are in a position to make the rules or law.
I agree totally with the interpretation that phrases in the Word about the flesh are not simply referring to the flesh (which God created and declared good), but they are referring to the sinful nature of the flesh specifically.
It is really all about idols. If you love that apple pie more than God, you are making an idol out of it and for you that would be sin. If Y&R does not have faith that she could enjoy an apple pie, then for her it would be sin. For it to be sin for everyone, it must be weighed against scripture. Romans 14 describes such a faith.
I have faith in a good and loving God (God is love, but He expects obedience and respect). He wants me to take pleasure and enjoy the body He blessed with me with within the rules He has given me to follow. He never wants me to forget that it is all about what His hands have done to bless me – I am not to worship the pie, but the one who made the pie possible. I am not to worship money, but I can worship the one who has blessed me with skills to work hard for money. Nothing can come before Him. This one concept is so core.
I agree with what you have said. I would add to it that Y&R fails to the see the principle that God both loves and hates the world. It is not a contradiction. He loves the world he created, he hates the sinful world system that corrupts the world he created. He gave us all types of ways to experience pleasure as a gift to us. But the sin cursed world takes his gifts and turns them into idols and they forget the one who gave them these gifts.
Since this first world he created has been corrupted by sin eventually he will make a new heaven and new earth. But right now we live in this first world and we do not yet live in that world to come. That means we live in a world that still has much of the beauty of what he created in Eden but also has much corruption from sin. God has called us while we live in this world to discern the good from the bad and to exercise and experience his gifts within the bounds of his law while never turning them into idols – to always continue to be trust in him, fear him and have an attitude of gratitude toward him all things.
The Greek word for world is “cosmos”. It refers to an arrangement or order not to physical existence or the universe. So when we are commanded in scripture to not be worldly we are told to arrange and order life according to the word and not according to pagan culture or our sinful desires. This distinction is the incarnation. Jesus is God in the flesh, spirit and cells, transcendent and imminent.
The anti-christs wanted to deny that Jesus came in the flesh because they wanted spirit ONLY. This is the root of dualism that teaches do not eat, do not touch etc. it is pious and powerless. Ascetics and Gnostics are examples of this dualism. Jesus came in the flesh and ate, drank, laughed and cried. It is not eating or drinking that is sin, it is arranging our eating and drinking according to the priorities of the fallen world and not according to the Word of life. This error has ensnared Christendom for millennia.
Thank you BGR for being a voice of biblical reason in an age where the church that vacillates between material heathenism and dualistic piety.
Christians have to learn how to enjoy times of blessing without letting riches take our hearts away.
We also have to learn how to endure trials and deprivation without resenting God.
Paul said, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
Job said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
We certainly should enjoy the good things that God has given us. But let us not set our hearts on these things.
“They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
When I read this, I get the impression that the person has a genuine desire to please God and not sin. However, this usually ends in religion or trying to please God by a series of rules or regulations as Paul notes in Galatians.
Jesus said the whole law is summed up in loving God and your neighbor. Paul says producing the fruit of the Spirit is important in living our faith. How can we love a God we don’t see when we don’t love our neighbor we can see?
We are free to love others and love ourselves. Neither is sin. Our salvation in Christ gives us freedom to love others. We don’t have to focus on trying to please God to win his approval anymore. That’s was Paul’s message to the Galatians.
With this in mind, we don’t have to worry if God blesses us and we enjoy his blessings. We should enjoy them and bless others with it and gives thanks to God for them. By doing so, you will remember to put God first in your life with His help of course. You never have to worry about enjoying life to much if you continue to do this and especially give back to others who are in need.
Yes, if you take it too far you could get materialistic, etc. If you take it too far to the right, you will become religious by seeking to please God through ways he never intends. God desires mercy and justice. He does not desire sacrifices. That’s why Paul said we are no longer under the law. We now must live under the law of love of loving others as ourselves as Jesus said.
1 John 2:7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard.
Don’t be so quick to toss that law and those commandments.
I was wondering if this applies to certain songs and movies as well, because there are so many ( especially in the apostolic and pentecostal community) wouldnt even allow believers have TVS because they believe watching it, or listening to any non-worship song is a sin. (Asking for a reply)
Yes, this principle that it is not sin to seek earthly pleasure as long as seeking pleasure does not become the central focus your life (and thus it becomes the sin of sensuality) very much applies to listening to secular music and watching secular films. Philippians 4:8 provides us with a good guideline for what we take in:
“8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Many Pastors will zoom in on the phrase “whatsoever things are pure” to basically say we as Christians cannot watch shows (except those made by Christian companies that present everything from a Christian world view) and we cannot listen to songs unless they are Christian because it may contain something we disagree with as Christians. But they gloss over the last phrase of this same verse which states “if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”.
Is everything in the average secular TV show, movie or song perfectly in alignment with a Christian worldview? No. But are there ANY virtuous or praiseworthy things in some the stories presented in secular TV shows and movies or even secular songs? The answer is yes. Therefore, Christians can read secular books, watch secular shows and listen to secular movies if they some virtuous and praiseworthy qualities to them.