"What about 'the Problem of Pleasure'?"

Pastor James
January 26, 2023

Pleasure and pain are the most basic motivators of all that we do. Avoiding pain and seeking pleasure is instinctive for us like the sunflower being drawn to the sun and the moth to the fire.

Is it a surprise, then, that there are many, who try to use this fact to their advantage? Consider how much of our economy is devoted to the business of providing pleasure or reducing pain (if not helping us forget or be distracted from unpleasant realities of life). How about politics? The Roman emperors sponsored expensive festivals to get the citizens’ minds off the pressing problems of the day. Can we say that only the Roman emperors used such practices and tactics?

History shows again and again that nations and civilizations collapse, not when they have the pain of danger and crisis but the pleasure of power and prosperity in abundance! Free of care, people get bored and seek more entertainment to keep themselves constantly amused and distracted. When entertainers are more respected than others in a society, is that a healthy sign? We try to build a society in which everyone lives long and healthy and has no shortage of entertainment. Will such a society bring fulfillment and satisfaction to us?

Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death points out striking contrasts between George Orwell's vision of the future in 1984 and Aldous Huxley's in Brave New World:

“…Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, pre-occupied with [all kinds of cheap pleasures].... In 1984..., people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”

Shouldn’t we heed to Huxley’s warning as much as Orwell’s, if not more? If we don’t curb our appetite for pleasure, who can guarantee that we won't be like a lab rat, which did nothing but hit the stimulus button for its brain's pleasure center—18,000 times in a day?

King Solomon, who knew a thing or two about all kinds of pleasure, said, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). That day will come for everyone. What then?

The Bible is not against pleasure: “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore...; you give them drink from the river of your delights” (Ps. 16:11, 36:8). But these pleasures are not just chemically induced sensations of euphoria, which are here for a moment and gone. They come from having a deep communion with the God of infinite joy, in which our will and desire are united with His while God remains God and man is fully and truly man! God is no Big Brother that He should take pleasure in controlling a robot- or animal-like man--if that were the case, He would not have given man a free will! “The glory of God is man fully alive and the life of man is the vision of God.”

How can we be united with the God of infinite joy? “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The fiery sword of God's judgment (Genesis 3:24) blocks our way back to God and no one can pass through it safely. The good news is that the Son of God came into the world to bear the sword of God's judgment in our place. To all who believe in Jesus Christ, the access to the God of infinite joy is wide open. Come to Him by trusting in Jesus Christ!