“It is not pain that has driven the West into emptiness; it has been the drowning of meaning in the oceans of our pleasures.”
Ravi Zacharias, “Jesus Among Other Gods”
When people wonder what the greatest issue in the western world is, it wouldn’t take much research to come to the conclusion that it is pleasure and the obsessed pursuit of it. Not a single day goes by when we don’t hear about how we need to seek pleasure through the things we are ought to buy, the things we are ought to do, or how we are ought to think. So many things are focused on bringing satisfaction and are about experiencing pleasure for us as individuals. The reality is that exponential accumulation of things that satisfy us or merely the pursuit of personal pleasure will cause no ultimate good and can destroy violently.
When seeing anything that I consider wrong with society, I like to first look at the person and nature of Jesus. This is a simple exercise that helps me when examining the things around me and myself. It’s a bit like the classic concept of ‘What would Jesus do?’, because in the end it is He who we should imitate. Jesus, though fully God and mighty beyond our wildest imagination, decided to dwell among us not to find worldly pleasure or appear like a glamorous and untouchable king, but to be a servant to others (Mark 10:45). Not only this, he also endured humiliation, abuse, torture and death. All of this according to His will.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
Jesus felt pain and temptation like any other human being. It would be an extreme misunderstanding that he simply endured everything with a sort of godly pain tolerance and just got it over with. No, we have a high priest in Jesus, who is able to sympathise with us because of this (Heb. 4:15).
Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness to pursue personal riches or recognition (Matt. 4). Yet, he did not fall for these schemes and went on to do what he came to do for others. Jesus came to fulfil the bigger picture, not for temporary enjoyment or pursuit of pleasure. This is where many in the Western world have it so drastically wrong.
Pleasure as it is presented to us in western society today is about excessive, narrow minded, and meaningless consumption. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the things that God created as long as it does not lead to sin or distracts us from the bigger picture of honouring God. It is a beautiful thing to enjoy a wonderful meal with friends or listen to an amazing piece of music. God created these things for us to enjoy. I suggest seeking pleasure by thanking God for even the smallest things you come across. Thank him for your cup of coffee in the morning, thank him for a sunny day, thank him for being healthy, thank him for your nicely decorated living room. Why? Because he made it possible.
This is a positive experience of pleasure. God gave us authority to rule over his creation (Gen. 1:28-30). Not in a reckless way but with authority that comes from God. We are not meant to indulge in sex, chase after material riches, or do whatever pleases us. We are not meant to work for personal gain. Instead, work as unto the Lord (Col. 3:23) and die to the world around us. Only through this we may find fulfilment and true pleasure.