UPDATED Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on September 4, 2014; it has been updated. Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.).
Devotional Thoughts for This Morning
“The Cure for Entitled Hedonism”
Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 (ESV)
I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” 3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. 4 I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. 5 I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. 8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. 9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
After winning his third Super Bowl in 2005, Tom Brady was interviewed on “60 minutes”; and this man, who seemingly has everything in life – fame, money, women, good looks, etc. – gave this perplexing answer about his own life: “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what is.’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think, ‘…It’s got to be more than this’” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdcJSsRfL8s). Now that Brady has won three more Super Bowl rings since that time, you wonder whether he feels any differently?
The perplexity that Brady felt actually sheds light on what life in America has truly become: “entitled hedonism” in which we believe that a life of increasing pleasure is simply the reward for all of our hard work. However, the paradox is that we are not any happier than people of past generations. Philip Ryken rightfully points out that the average American has a better selection of food, wine, entertainment, music, and means of sexual satisfaction than Solomon could have dreamed of. We overload our senses with every imaginable pleasure and justify it because of our strenuous work schedule.
Yet how many of us are truly happy and fulfilled? An increasing number of us struggle with anxiety, depression, and other stress related issues, but we are afraid to ask, “What is this all for?” because deep in our hearts, we know that it’s madness to continue down this path. And the prolonged social distancing prompted by COVID-19 has only exacerbated this problem.
For all of Solomon’s worldly wisdom, he couldn’t figure out the solution to this vexing paradox that eluded him until it was nearly too late. In fact, the most obvious answer, which is to abstain from pleasure, still falls short of being a viable solution. The reason can be found in the heart of God who isn’t the eternal killjoy, but the Creator of everything that was meant to give us pleasure. And it is here where we can begin to find a way out of this paradox. Pleasure was never meant to be enjoyed merely for one’s self-indulgence but to be shared with others, to serve them, and to bring glory to God. Pleasure for pleasure sake eventually becomes nothing but grief because it increases our selfishness. But when we realize that all the pleasures of life are a gift from God and not simply a reward for our hard work, we can finally shed our “entitled hedonism” and come to enjoy life as God intended.
Prayer: (In writing this devotion, I found that reflecting on the fact that God, my Father, created this world for my eternal enjoyment was meaningful. I encourage you to spend some time in worship this morning, perhaps even listen and watch the following song on www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEBmj7JO_Os.)
Father, it is amazing to think that everything You created, You did so to share with us, Your children. Forgive us for being so selfish with the gifts that You have given so freely and lavishly. Teach us how to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and to live with heaven in our eyes. In the name of your precious Son, we pray. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 2 Chronicles 12
Lunch Break Study
Read 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (ESV): But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
Questions to Consider
- What does Paul cite as the reason for the times of difficulty in the last days?
- What does it mean to have an appearance of godliness but deny its power?
- How can we avoid falling into this trap?
- Paul is specifically citing corruption in the church as the main source of our difficulties in the last days. We would expect non-believers to be selfish and lovers of pleasure, but when those same problems enter into the church, we lose our credibility and witness in the world. When the center of our lives shifts to ourselves, we allow a host of sins to enter in.
- The danger of heterodoxy is that it can continue to have a religious exterior, but at its core there is no power. On the surface, many things look like Christianity, but when you take a closer look, the power of the cross is no longer the foundation. An example of this is the Prosperity Gospel that teaches that every Christian should be wealthy and focuses on the material blessings of God.
- For the believer, the best way to avoid this trap is a conviction of the truth. In the armor of God, we see that the first piece of our defense is the belt of truth.
Take time to reflect on the following anonymous words of devotion from Kent Hughes’ book, Set Apart: Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Life.
“I do not know when I have had happier times in my soul than when I have been sitting at work, with nothing before me but a candle and a white cloth, and hearing no sound but that of my own breath, with God in my soul and heaven in my eye. I rejoice in being exactly what I am — a creature capable of loving God, and who, as long as God lives, must be happy. I get up and look a while out the window. I gaze at the moon and stars, the work of an Almighty Hand. I think of the grandeur of the universe and then sit down and think myself one of the happiest beings in it.”
Did you take time to enjoy God today? Are you content in who God has made you to be? Write down your own words of thanksgiving.