The Truth about Guilt Meditations: 6. False Pleasure Goal
Gen 3:6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.
Misconceptions: Yesterday we considered the misconception that off-loading absolves from blame. Now we move on to the misconception that this temptation before me will create pleasure in me. It is a misconception that falls down on at least three levels: i) it fails to realize that such self-gratification is very transient and ii) it forgets that such a wrong approach also carries with it various negative consequences, and iii) it does nothing to assuage guilt. Let’s look at this, first of all, in the example of Adam and Eve.
The Folly of the Fall: Satan’s approach was to question what God had said: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen 3:1) Let’s not get into his motivation or approach but simply note the clarity of Eve’s response: “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” (v.2,3) She knows intellectually, at least, the truth. Satan then challenges that: “You will not certainly die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (v.4,5) He denies the consequence and makes her forget it by focusing on the apparently ‘good’ outworking so, “When the woman saw (i) that the fruit of the tree was good for food and (ii) pleasing to the eye, and also (iii) desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” (v.6) None of these three things in this verse are of any importance, the big issue is that you will die if you eat of it! The other big issue is that this is disobeying God and your relationship with Him that you have at the moment will never be the same again.
The Illustration: People argue over whether that chapter is literal history or allegorical teaching story. You can argue that before God but the truth is that whichever it is it conveys the same essential truths:
i) God knows best, God knows how He designed you to live, He designed life to be good for you,
ii) Within that design the truth is that you can go beyond it so it becomes harmful, e.g.1. food is good and there is an incredible range of genuinely nice food but eating too much food causes obesity and obesity kills, e.g.2. sex within the marriage context is designed to be beautiful, but outside it, it has a whole range of harmful effects, physical and emotional and relational.
iii) Looking only to short-term immediate gratification, walking the forbidden path appears pleasurable, but in the longer term is harmful, as the two examples above show.
The Dilemmas of the Twenty-First Century: We are living in an age that is prosperous and affluent in a measure never before dreamed of. We have achieved amazing things in science and technology and yet as one modern writer has put it, “On the face of it, we could not be in a better place. Yet there are signs that this is far from the case. In the United States, more than 70,200 Americans died from drug overdose in 2017, a doubling of the figure in a decade…. Alcoholism is killing more people and more younger people. Suicide rates are up 33% in less than twenty years.” And so he documents from all walks of life, falling levels of life-satisfaction, growing depression and many other negative effects that our consumer society is experiencing.
Seeking Pleasure: Eve thought ‘pleasure’ came through accumulating wisdom and being like God. So do modern people seeking after more and more knowledge, training and skills. Modern man, woman and child are taught by ever more persuasive advertising and marketing that pleasure – and more pleasure – is to be sought. Pleasure may be achievement or simply immediate gratification, but all the surveys, all the statistics of life in the West today say that more and more and more people are feeling bad about themselves and bad about life, especially in the younger generations. Is this why in the summer of 2020 we see a surge in campaigning for a cause among the young, a desperate attempt at meaning and achieving something purposeful, in a world that says there is nothing except seeking personal pleasure and achievement.
Two Types of Pleasure: May I suggest two types of pleasure. First, what I will call object pleasure – focuses on things, experiences – needs repeating to be maintained – seen in constantly remodeling the home, more food, more drink, more drugs, greater experience with greater buzz. Then there is what I would call attitude pleasure – knowing who I am and being contented in that.
Us Today: So many younger people (but old also) today lack contentment. The things they have bought, the social media they use, the experiences they have had, have proved bankrupt. They are left, to quote the words of one survey, ‘tired, listless, bored and worn out’. And then there are those who have rejected these ‘ways of the world’ as their motivating energy and have received it instead from their knowledge of God. They are the ones who experience deep-seated peace, a sure sense of fulfillment, a certain confidence and contentment of living in the midst of this frenetic world while not being tainted by it. Sounds like Jesus among the tax-collectors and sinners, I suggest. Let’s copy him.