Pleasure and Purpose

August 15, 2023

The social media age has made people-watching almost universal. You learn what people do with their time, and what seems to be their focus. As I have observed people through the lens of Facebook and Instagram, it seems that the majority of posts are about experiences of pleasure and fun. It’s great to see fun activities with family and friends, travels to new places, participating in concerts, trying new restaurants, and the like. We show our appreciation by “liking” them and perhaps commenting.

But in my experience, not many of the posts demonstrate much purpose and meaning.

Now don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with enjoying life. 1 Timothy 6:17 assures us, “God has given us all things richly to enjoy.” But enjoyment and pleasure were never intended to be our ultimate goal.

I’ve been thinking about that. Social scientists and commentators tell us we are a “pleasure people.” We have more paths to pleasure at our fingertips than ever before in history. However, we also have a culture that struggles more than ever with depression, anxiety, and little energy or motivation to work.

I think there’s a connection here. When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning and purpose in life, they distract themselves with pleasure. In Luke 8 Jesus told a story about seeds that fell on three types of ground: rocky, thorny, and good soil. Jesus explained that the thorny soil represents people who hear the Word of God (the seed in the parable) but allow it to be choked out by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures.

Jesus never said that the hearts represented by the thorny soil rejected the Word of God. The word was choked out. In order to be choked out, it must have been growing to some degree. He was teaching that pleasures have the potential to choke God’s Word out of our lives and we become unfruitful – not producing anything.

This is a real problem. Proverbs 29:18 tells us that without a revelation (a word from God), people have no direction or purpose. One translation says, “Without prophetic vision, people run wild.” Yet another says, “Where there is no vision, the people are out of control.”

Could it be that we are people who suffer from depression, anxiety, and stress because we have lost the meaning of life and have no lasting and fulfilling purpose?

Could it be that we have lost the meaning of life and purpose because we have opted for only the pursuit of pleasure that ultimately cannot satisfy?

Could it be that we are in a downward cycle because our obsession with pleasure chokes out the Word of God? Perhaps we can connect the dots in our own lives and work with God for purpose and meaning that lasts.