In my short lifetime, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen pleasure elevated to degree that it is today. We see it in every area of our culture.
Brides who turn into “bridezilla” in an effort to have the wedding they’ve always dreamed of.
Couples who buy into the idea of a dream home, filled with top-end furniture and appliances previous generations never dared to dream about.
Social Media influencers going from one luxury destination to another.
The not-so-subtle messages of follow your heart, do what’s right for you, and hygge only feed the hedonism of our culture as we seek our own pleasure, ambitions, and desires.
What concerns me greatly is when I see God’s children fall into the trap of hedonism.
To be sure, God isn’t against our enjoyment. He wants us to have enjoyment in this life, but He wants to be the center – the source – of that enjoyment.
This message runs completely counter to our thinking.
In fact, when we are faced with that concept of God being the center of our enjoyment – not a nice home, a nice car, a nice vacation, good food, and a great career providing us with a great salary – we feel a sense of discomfort.
We are torn between what culture tells us, “Don’t settle. Strive for the best. You only live once, so live life to the fullest. The man with the most toys wins”…
and what God tells us, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
How to Live Wisely In a Hedonistic Culture
The irony we see in this hedonistic culture we live in today is the more our culture soaks itself in pleasure and indulgence, the more unhappy and dissatisfied they are.
Illegal drug and opioid addictions and alcoholism are no longer the vice of the ghetto. They are at epidemic proportions in suburbs and gated communities as well.
Suicide is out of control.
As our standard of living has risen, so has our inability to fill the gaping void in our life.
Moses, a man whose life was marked by astonishing extremes, gives us perspective in a way that surely he shares from his own personal experience.
He was born at a time in history when having children was extremely risky; because every male Hebrew child was executed at birth.
God miraculously spared his life, and he was returned to his biological mother until he was weaned.
His most formative years were marked by slavery, poverty, and the anguish of his Hebrew heritage.
Afterward, he was sent to live with his adoptive family, Pharaoh’s daughter, where he had every amenity provided for him, from material possessions to his education. He lacked nothing.
However, following a violent outburst during which he killed a Egyptian official attacking a Hebrew slave, he fled into the desert where he became a shepherd.
He once again lived a life of simplicity, leaving behind the indulgence of his Egyptian upbringing.
And it is from this life experience we read his prayer:
“The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:10-12
The New Living Translation reads this way, “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away. Who can comprehend the power of your anger? Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve. Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”
How do we maintain a heart of wisdom while living in a culture that worships hedonism, indulgence, and pleasure?
We remember that this life is only a prequel to real life.
“You only live once” is a lie. We live in this physical world once, but after we die we real life begins; eternal life either in heaven or hell. A life of either unending joy or terror.
And how we choose to live our life in this physical world is determined by how well we comprehend the brevity of this life compared to the unending life we face once this life is over.
Some run headlong through this life in a hurricane of activities, luxurious indulgence, and utter recklessness until they crash through the wall of eternity and find themselves face-to-face with Almighty God.
Others walk walk through this life with measured, calculated steps, measuring each decision against it’s potential to bring success and advancement in their life. They work long, hard hours accumulating for themselves prestige, money, importance, and position only to discover that all of this hard work was a complete waste because it means nothing at all when they find themselves face-to-face with Almighty God.
As wise children of God, we should live our lives with two things in mind:
1. Brevity of life
This life is as fleeting as the moment we can see our breath on a cold December morning. You blink and it’s gone. For some it’s gone quicker than others.
And when we step back and look at the timeline of the world from God’s perspective and see that 70-80 years is a barely-visible dot on the screen, we have to ask ourselves is all of the success and indulgence really worth it?
What does it all mean after we’re gone.
What will we have to answer for when we are face-to-face with Almighty God?
2. What does it matter for eternity?
When we surrender our life to God, we surrender the right to live in a way that brings us pleasure.
From the moment we become children of God, our sole purpose in life is to live in a way that brings pleasure and glory to God.
The blessing that comes from that is that God allows us to experience result of His pleasure and glory — we experience joy and pleasure when He is glorified though us!
The wisest question we can ask ourselves daily is “Does this matter for eternity?”
If it doesn’t matter for eternity, then it is of little importance.
“But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” 1 Corinthians 3:13-15
What matters for eternity is what builds and advances God’s kingdom. Everything else will perish in the fire that tests our works.
We will live wisely in this hedonistic culture when we live with an eternal perspective.
So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
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