Ecclesiastes 2:1 – I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity.
The preacher in Ecclesiastes was on a desperate search for meaning and satisfaction in this life. He had earlier hoped to find victory over the vanity of life through his worldly wisdom and knowledge (1:12-18), but such had failed him. Now he turned his search to pleasure. Surely delighting himself in all the pleasures of this world would bring him the satisfaction that he longed for, but it didn’t.
He dropped every bucket he could into the well of the worldly hedonism and each time the satisfaction was shorter than the last. He thought maybe the meaning of life is in a good laugh (2:2), but that was short lived. He then turned to a good drink (2:3) hoping that the buzz would bring him the satisfaction he longed for, but once again he was left empty. So the preacher turned to something that was much more productive and so he started building things and erecting beautiful gardens (2:4-6), only to realize that a these too were vanity and empty, for they did nothing to address the existential anguish of his soul.
So the preacher then sets to live out the “good life” that every man so often covets. He had servants to bow to his every request, he riches beyond riches, he had his own personal choir, and he even had the largest harem of women to provide whatever sensual pleasure he asked (2:7-8), and once again though his pleasures were aroused for moments , it all eventually faded away again. So the preacher tries one last hoorah. He simply decided that his life was going to be built upon the principle of “have the best time possible.” He decided that anything he ever wanted or desired he would indulge in, irregardless of any consequences (2:9-10).
The preacher had set out to find meaning through pleasure. Everything hedonism promises to those who follow its path. Yet, every bucket that he dropped into its well: a good laugh, a good drink, a good project, a good life, and a good time; ultimately ended up as broken cisterns, never able to remain full of substance. Therefore, after coming to the end of the rope of worldly pleasure the preacher reflects upon what it had done for him and states, “all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun” (2:11).
So what is the answer, is there any place where the pursuit of pleasure does actually lead to meaning and lasting satisfaction, and the answer is yes! John Piper, has coined the term “Christian Hedonism.” Now though that may sound like an oxymoron, it isn’t. We are ruled by our pleasures, and the will of man will always chase after that which it believes will bring it the most delight and satisfaction. Blaise Pascal was right when he said “All men seek happiness without exception. They all aim at this goal however different the means they use to attain it. . . . They will never make the smallest move but with this as its goal. This is the motive of all the actions of all men, even those who contemplate suicide”
Piper’s premise in Christian Hedonism is “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” This is a radical notion, and for many it seems that what is being said there is that God’s glory is contingent on our delighting in him. However, that’s not what is being argued, rather, it is that God’s glory is supremely revealed in our lives when we supremely delight in all that He is .
Let me give you an illustration. If I were to show up and take my wife on a surprise date, and she asked why, and my response was “well I read in a magazine that good husbands do this and I want to be a good husband, so here I am,” I can assure you she is not glorified in that since of duty. However, if she were to ask why, and my response was “Because I love every moment I have with you, and I delight in your presence,” then she is glorified in my delight.
Our greatest duty as a Christian is to delight in God, the One who makes known the paths of life, in whose presence is fullness of joy, and in whose right hand there are pleasures forever more (Ps. 16:11). Everyone longs for happiness, but the problem with worldly hedonism is not that we long to be satisfied, it’s that we let ourselves be satisfied far too easily. We look at porn because we are satisfied far too easily, we drown our sorrows with a buzz because we are satisfied far too easily, and we can’t wait until marriage because we are satisfied far too easily.
Christian, stop seeing our faith as bland and boring. The Christian faith is one of delight and joy and pleasures forevermore. And only in our Savior can one ever know true happiness. I pray today that you would run from the broken cisterns of worldly pleasure which are fleeting and often leave you feeling broken and shameful in the process, and turn to Jesus Christ where there are pleasures ever more. Glorify God in making Him your Supreme Delight!