A Balanced View of Pleasure
Is it wrong to seek pleasure? Can the pursuit of pleasure bring true satisfaction?
THERE is a worldwide interest in fun and pleasure. Americans reportedly spend close to $150,000,000,000 annually in the pursuit of pleasure. However, it has been confidently forecasted that by 1975 this figure will reach $250,000,000,000, outrunning all the rest of the economy.
On liquor alone, Americans spent $14,500,000,000 in a recent year. Also, some 3,500,000 skiers spent $1,100,000,000 in connection with the sport of skiing. Millions of other persons seeking pleasure purchased $1,000,000,000 worth of movie tickets. And a vast number of Americans spent some $3,000,000,000 to enjoy the pleasures of boating. Other countries, too, are experiencing an explosion in pleasure-seeking.
Do you enjoy certain forms of recreation? Do you, for example, like to go skiing or boating? Do you enjoy swimming, playing tennis or participating in other sports? Or do you perhaps find pleasure in watching a wholesome movie? Are such pleasures wrong?
Some religious persons would say that they are. It has been taught that refraining from pleasure is meritorious, and some religious leaders have frowned upon and even condemned pleasure.
Does the Bible Condemn Pleasure?
The impression given by some religious persons has been that the Bible disapproves of pleasure. But such persons have misrepresented the Bible and its author Jehovah God. This is obvious from the fact that the Creator made pleasurable the very functions necessary for the continuance of life, including eating and drinking. No doubt you enjoy a fine meal, and perhaps you find pleasure in having a beverage along with it. That God meant his creatures to derive pleasure from such things is clearly shown in the Bible.
For example, the Bible urges: “Go, eat your food with rejoicing and drink your wine with a good heart.” (Eccl. 9:7) Also, Jehovah directed his ancient people of Israel on the use of money that had been set aside for a certain purpose: “You must also give the money for whatever your soul may crave in the way of cattle and sheep and goats and wine and intoxicating liquor and anything that your soul may ask of you; and you must eat there before Jehovah your God and rejoice.” (Deut. 14:26) How obvious that God meant that you should derive pleasure from eating and drinking!
And that keen pleasure and satisfaction should be realized in connection with the marital arrangement the Bible clearly indicates, saying: “Rejoice with the wife of your youth . . . With her love may you be in an ecstasy constantly.”—Prov. 5:18, 19.
Really, Jehovah God has made so many provisions to delight the senses of man. No doubt you have taken pleasure in watching a gorgeous sunset or a colorful rainbow. Perhaps you have marveled at the beauty of a star-filled sky on a dark night. Or you may have stood in awe at the grandeur of magnificent mountain peaks. Even the fragrance of flowers and the freshness of a new morning can be exhilarating. It is only proper that you should find pleasure in these many good things that God has provided. Clearly there is nothing wrong with wholesome pleasure.
When Satisfaction Is Lost
To help mankind derive genuine satisfaction from those things that bring pleasure, Jehovah God has lovingly provided guidance and direction. For example, as you well know, a tasty meal can be a keen delight. But if you eat too much, what happens? Why, you lose your genuine satisfaction, is that not so? Frequently indigestion and discomfort are the immediate results, and if overeating becomes a habit, you may become obese, unhealthy and die an early death. How appropriate therefore is God’s counsel: “Do not come to be among . . . those who are gluttonous eaters of flesh.”—Prov. 23:20.
What, then, if you are finishing a delicious meal, and the hostess insists that you have another portion? What will you do? You have enjoyed the food. But you realize that it will lessen your satisfaction if you eat more. So why not compliment the hostess on her fine meal, and then explain that you will have greater pleasure if you do not eat any more?
Or it may be that you have been enjoying some wine or other intoxicating beverage. This can gladden the heart, and God meant it to bring this pleasure to man. (Ps. 104:15) But what if you ignore God’s counsel and drink too much and become drunk? Then you may become sick, and you may say and do things that are disgraceful. Genuine satisfaction therefore is lost. But worst of all, pursuing such conduct will bring upon you God’s disapproval. Really, how important it is that God’s wise directives be followed!—Prov. 23:29-32; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10.
Following Jehovah’s loving counsel also will help married couples to derive real satisfaction from matrimony. Husbands need to follow God’s instruction to love their wives, and wives need to obey the Bible directive to have deep respect for their husbands. (Eph. 5:25, 33) When each mate does this, and unselfishly considers the welfare of the other, genuine satisfaction is realized in the marriage, including the intimate aspect of sharing the marital due.—1 Cor. 7:3-5.
If a married person, it is vital, too, that you heed the Scriptural injunction to limit sex interests to your own marriage mate. (Prov. 5:15-23) Failure to do this will likewise diminish marital satisfaction. In fact, the result to you may be a broken marriage, venereal disease, an illegitimate child, a plagued conscience, and other bad consequences.
Thus the truth is forcefully impressed: There is no real or lasting happiness when pleasure is sought in activities that are condemned by God. True, the Bible says that certain ones “have gone in for sensual pleasure.” (Jas. 5:5; 2 Pet. 2:13, 14) But pursuing such illicit pleasures simply is not satisfying. It is frustrating, unrewarding, and is wisely avoided. One simply cannot ignore God’s instructions and realize genuine satisfaction.
However, even pleasurable activities that are in keeping with righteous principles may fail to bring genuine satisfaction if they are indulged in excessively. Pleasures that gratify the senses are like seasoning in food. In small amounts they are delightful, but in large doses they can become sickening. Thus, if you want the greatest satisfaction from some form of entertainment, it would be wise to limit the frequency of indulging in such entertainment.
Today, though, it is customary for persons unwisely to become engrossed in pursuing pleasures. The Bible, in fact, pointed to our day and foretold: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, . . . lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5) But those persons who are such “lovers of pleasures” can never derive genuine happiness from such “pleasures.” Something is missing from their lives. What is it?
The Importance of Spirituality
Spirituality is missing. They are not lovers of God. They do not study his Word the Bible or endeavor to serve him. And without the satisfaction of being in harmony with their Creator, they simply cannot derive full satisfaction from the other pleasures that God has made it possible for them to enjoy.
How vital it is, therefore, that you not neglect your spirituality! Jesus Christ pointed to the danger of permitting the “pleasures of this life” to assume too important a role in your life. He spoke of persons “being carried away by anxieties and riches and pleasures of this life.” Such persons, he said, like plants on thorny soil, “are completely choked and bring nothing to perfection.” The pursuit of “pleasures,” too, can choke out of your life spirituality, and can rob you of satisfaction in living.—Luke 8:14.
But it can rob you of even more—life itself. Jesus Christ himself pointed to this danger. He compared the situation existing now to that in Noah’s day before the global deluge. At that time, he said, people were absorbed in the pleasures of eating, drinking and matrimony. To such an extent was this true that “they took no note” of God’s judgment of destruction upon that wicked system. Jesus explained that a similar judgment faces this system of things. (Matt. 24:37-39) How vital it is, therefore, that you do not become so involved in the “pleasures of this life” that you neglect spiritual matters!
Thus, when you set time aside for study of the Bible, do not permit the desire to watch a television program to interfere with your plans. If you do, it will only be easier next time for other things to encroach upon spiritual interests, and slowly but surely spirituality will be choked out. Family heads especially should help their families to stick to a regular program of Bible study and participation in service to God.
Such spiritual activity is not burdensome or uninteresting. Rather, learning of God’s purposes can be a delightful experience. To gain insight into matters regarding God and his purposes is indeed pleasurable. It is a pleasure that brings true satisfaction. What contentment there is when you bring your life into harmony with the will of your loving Creator! Doing this will lead to your enjoying satisfaction in all that you do, including the enjoyment of the many good things that God has provided for his creatures.