Friday, May 1, 2015

Lovers of Pleasure Rather Than Lovers of God

We've explored the question here before of what it means to really love God, yet when I ran across this phrase in 2 Timothy 3:4, "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God," I was stunned.

It would be easy to dismiss this verse without carefully considering it.  Obviously it does not mean that we are supposed to give up all earthly pleasures and joys.  A good steak, a snuggle with a sleepy toddler, a porch swing, a concert, a sunset, these simple pleasures are surely not what God had in mind here. 

Yet having just spoken over the weekend about the need to read the Bible with imagination, I felt it would entirely hypocritical not to stretch mine.  How would it look if I were a lover of pleasure rather than a lover of God?
STRETCH.  REACH.  Got nothing.

That was too hard.  Let's think like Jesus who often used earthly examples to help us understand spiritual truths. How would it look if I were a lover of pleasure rather than a lover of my children?

What pleasures might be more difficult or impossible to enjoy because I have a child?

  • Silence
  • My husband 
  • Sleeping in
  • An uninterrupted phone call with a friend
  • Uninterrupted worship 
  • A meal where I didn't need to cut anyone's meat, etc.
Second, how could I love these pleasures rather than my child?

  • Grumbling about day to day activities.   A parent might relish the pleasure of a trip to the movies or a mani/pedi on the weekend as "quality time" with a child, yet deeply resent the daily grind necessary to care for him or her.
  • Leaving the kids at home and going to worship without them.
  • Insisting on "me" time when a kid clearly needs a listening ear, help with homework, or some one-on-one attention.
See, it is not hard to imagine how little love that a kid feels/sees in those situations and how clearly we love our pleasures small and large.  I know I have been guilty of whining about the daily grind, and I've gone to bed guilty of neglecting the little attentions and the listening ear that would have made a kid's day better.   And while I've never left my kids to go to worship, I've certainly resented missing ANOTHER lesson to take out a noisy toddler.

If that's the earthly example, how about the spiritual?  What pleasures might be more difficult or impossible to enjoy because I am a servant of God? 

  • Entertainment (some show we loved we now feel guilty about)
  • Sleeping in (as opposed to getting up and going to church, or a work-day)
  • A hobby 
  • Sin-drinking to excess, gluttony, partying with friends, sex outside of marriage, porn, gossip, a good catfight-pick your poison.
Second, how could I love my pleasures rather than loving God?

  • Sitting on the couch doing nothing wrong, ignoring the nagging reminder that I haven't read my Bible today.  
  • Sleeping in or heading out to play golf when the saints are meeting to worship the Lord.
  • Ignoring the clear direction of scripture and refusing to give up a sin.
  • Refusing to sacrifice even the smallest comfort (for example, sacrificing money to my local church, my physical comfort to a mission effort, my time to volunteer, my comfort zone to share the gospel).
Now before you get all worked up, loving one thing rather than the other shows up not in a single decision but in a pattern of choices.  I don't love my pleasures rather than my children when I leave them behind to go to a Ladies retreat, and I haven't neglected them when on a sunny day I insist that they go out to play.  But a pattern of putting my little luxuries ahead of my child makes it clear where my heart is. 

It is the same with God.  Loving him doesn't mean we become like the ancient monks who took vows of silence and celibacy, denying the pleasures of the flesh.  Yet if day after day our pleasures take precedence over God, if we grumble and gripe about the "demands" he puts on our life, if we have no time and if every sacrifice seems far too difficult we know we have become what Paul condemned, "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God."


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