The Futility of Our Pursuit of Pleasure
I said to myself, “Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure and enjoy what is good.” But it turned out to be futile. I said about laughter, “It is madness,” and about pleasure, “What does this accomplish?” I explored with my mind how to let my body enjoy life with wine and how to grasp folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—until I could see what is good for people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. Eccl 2:1-3 (HCSB)
The focal point for most of us is our leisure time – that special time to do what we want for mere pleasure. Yet, what pleasure do we actually get from our leisure time? We certainly crave our leisure time! We even work extra hard to save up for it. But, how much pleasure do we achieve really? Solomon with his great wisdom decided that he would engage in all forms of pleasure and determine what good and practical purpose there was in pursuing pleasure. He first defined pleasure as the reward from doing whatever is good and brings you joy above all other things. Then he identified pleasure as a futile pursuit in this temporal lifetime. He declared it as “madness,” questioning what good does it really accomplish in mankind’s short life span?
I believe God allows us the joy of laughter and the re-energizing benefit when we retreat from the fast pace of life, but Solomon focused on the foolhardy pursuit of insatiable “pleasure seeking activities.” Even 3000 years after the days of Solomon, wine and other alcoholic libations freely flow to dull our senses, but for what purpose? What pleasure thrives when we are not in control of our own faculties? Is pleasure being found the fool in the midst of his folly while under the influence of alcohol or some other numbing potion? What lasting pleasure can be garnished through such artificial, mindless adventures? After the euphoric effects wear off, reality returns and a headache and stomachache linger from the pleasure. Would genuine pleasure provide such awful after-affects to detract from the joy it was intended to provide? That paradox is why Solomon called the pursuit of pleasure: madness!
There is a purpose that God promotes that serves to provide rest and relaxation for our bodies and minds; recreation, or (re)creation. Recreation provides rest our bodies and minds desire to revive and re-energize us for another day. Retreating from the harsh pace and realities of the world, engaging in recreational leisure offers far more lasting benefits than hoisting a bottle of wine or mug of beer or popping pills. And, the aftereffects are far less harmful to your mind and body.
The only time God promotes the use of alcohol is when no hope remains and wickedness has entrapped someone into a life of endless misery and pain, and death is knocking on the door. Then indulging in wine or alcohol to dull the senses is deemed an act of mercy.
Think carefully about why you do what you do in the pursuit of pleasure. Is your pursuit of pleasure aimed at meaningless folly and madness, as Solomon points out? Think about the difference of re-creation versus the folly of pleasure seeking through artificial means. Which best serves and seeks after God’s will, ways, and wisdom?
What is true pleasure are actions and attitudes that bring not only a smile on your face during and after the experience but on the faces of your loved ones and friends in this world. When you consider their needs and desires, you witness the joy of pleasing of others that God intended for you. Learn the wisdom of rightly seeking His purposes, not selfishly your desires. Is the pursuit of pleasure in this lifetime of greater value than the genuine happiness God intends for you?
Words of Wisdom # 219-3