I was one of the first players off the bench on my junior high basketball team. I reported to the scorer’s table and said, “Selcher in for Brown,” usually when Brown was in foul trouble. Henry Brown made third team all-state in Pennsylvania as a senior. For more than 50 years he has held my high school’s single season scoring record. He was also a football star, selected in the tenth round of the 1970 NFL draft as a wide receiver and punter. Selcher was never an adequate substitute for Brown!
Almost 3000 years ago, King Solomon concluded pleasure isn’t an adequate substitute for purpose. Pleasure isn’t bad in itself as long as it’s moored to the right dock. Adrift, pursued for its own sake, it promises more than it can deliver and eventually disappoints, leaving us empty and unfulfilled. Like a soap bubble, pleasure bursts when grasped, betraying our trust in it to make us happy.
The really strange thing is how slowly we learn our lesson. We are naturally “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4). That misplaced love chokes spiritual fruitfulness (Luke 8:14) and leaves nothing substantial in return. Like a drug addict, we pursue pleasure all over again today even though it disappointed us yesterday and the day before. Maybe we need reminded of pleasure’s place.
King Solomon describes it. In Ecclesiastes, written near the end of his life, he concludes that work, knowledge, relationships and pleasure find their proper place only when they are moored to the dock of God. “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, NIV). Pleasure, in its proper place, is the by-product of God-centered living. “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11, NIV).
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