We are a culture of pleasure seekers. One need only drive through our towns and walk through our homes to verify it. Our homes have entire rooms dedicated to obscenely large screens equipped with equally impressive speakers flanked by burgeoning shelves of DVDs and game cartridges. Our furniture has been arranged before it as if the almighty screen was our family shrine. Our cities are arranged around ginormous entertainment multiplexes equipped with even bigger screens and more shrine-like seating. Sporting coliseums accent our cities, attracting hundreds of thousands of people yearly and claiming hundreds of millions of our dollars. Gambling galleries sparkle and shine with promises of unending entertainment. Amusement parks exist solely for entertainment purposes. And on and on the list could go.
We are indeed a culture of pleasure seekers. And we are willing to pay an extraordinary price for our pleasures, even to go into debt to have our preferred pleasures. And while on one level we can put a price tag on our pleasures, calculating the precise dollar amount of each, on another level the cost is hard to calculate.
As a culture, and even as Christians who are called to be discerning in all things, we often struggle to see the price attached to our pleasures. Beyond the dollars and cents cost of our favorite sugary foods, we pay the price with our health in type two diabetes, clogged arteries, expanded waistlines, inhibited learning ability, and more. Beyond the obscene expense of cigarettes, we pay the price in damaged lungs, rapidly aged skin, increased risk of cancer and stroke, and more. Beyond the budget-busting cost of cable and gaming, we pay the price in the mind’s diminished ability to experience deeper joy and real pleasures, along with the lost ability to process reality through the framework of true and false.
Putting a price tag on pleasure isn’t always easy. Further, not all pleasures are good pleasures. That’s a hard statement for our culture to accept. We tend to see pleasure, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, as inherently good. The truth, however, is that some pleasures are inherently harmful and all pleasures have a price attached to them.
Consider carefully these words from Christian author and apologist Ravi Zacharias:
All pleasure must be bought at a price. The difference between illegitimate and legitimate pleasure is this: For legitimate pleasure, the price is paid before it is enjoyed. For illegitimate pleasure, the price is paid after it is enjoyed. Turning aside from instant gratification is one of the most difficult things to do. But this is where the battle is often won or lost. The strength of our will – and this is crucial – surrendered either to God or ourselves – reveals the character we possess, and the strength of our will determines when the price is paid. It is the submission of our will to God that protects us from illicit pleasure, so that we may fully enjoy those which are legitimate. When that distinction is made and honored, life becomes a delight.
There’s a lot to consider in his words. In fact, if you read his words carefully, you ought to be doing a pleasure audit in your mind right now. Beyond the dollars and cents expense of your pleasures, do you understand their price? If you’re indulging in illegitimate pleasures or simply lesser pleasures (those that merely stimulate the flesh without enhancing your mind or bolstering joy), the price is far steeper than you realize.
The good news is that God offers greater pleasures, but the price to enjoy those pleasures needs to be paid on the front end in faith and self-control. Space prevents more detail. For now, start your pleasure audit and come visit with me to continue the conversation! – Pastor Conner