#DailyDevotion Wednesday June 7, 2017
“I tried cheering myself with wine, embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives”
Peter (not real name), my teenage friend lived his life fulfilling the saying in my mother tongue (Ma’diti) “ta nyale bua iyo” which literally means “there is no food and drinks in the grave.” This saying implies that life is only lived here and now, enjoy as much of the life’s pleasures as you can because once you are dead you never will have another opportunity to live. This philosophy isn’t typical of the Ma’di people, it is an ancient one held by the residents of Jerusalem at prophet Isaiah’s time. The Jews then sought pleasures without any regard to the statutes of the LORD, they ate meat and drank wine saying; “Let us eat and drink… for tomorrow we die” (Isaiah 22:13).
Writing to the Corinthians, apostle Paul cautioned them against such a philosophy which views life as only here and now. Paul calls the Corinthians to desist from saying that life is only here and now, “Let us eat and drink, tomorrow we die” (I Corinthians 15:32), saying that there is much to life after death. Influenced by this philosophy, my friend Peter took to all the pleasures of this world within his reach. Wine, women, and inordinate wealth were his daily menu. As a result, Peter didn’t live to celebrate his 25th birthday, he died of liver cirrhosis due to excessive drinking of alcohol. Besides, prior to his death, he had multiple infections since his immunity was weakened by Human Immune Virus (HIV).
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King Solomon, who testified having “became greater than anyone in Jerusalem before” him (Ecclesiastes 2:9) was specially gifted in wisdom by the Almighty God. With his wisdom, Solomon nearly gained everything to satisfy his pleasures. He writes;
I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I brought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of man’s heart (Ecclesiastes 2:4-8).
Solomon sought for pleasures in all these things, let alone his seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines which he has not mentioned here. Solomon indeed sought after everything his heart longed for, he said; “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure…” With all these enormous gains, Solomon cheered himself with wine, and with folly. Despite all these pleasures, he didn’t get any satisfaction. He concluded; “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).
With his vast experiences, Solomon asks; “What does pleasure accomplish?” (Ecclesiastes 2:2). Pleasures accomplish vanity, you can never have enough of it. There is much more to life than pleasures of this world. As we seek for pleasure, we must do it consciously. In his March 20, 1925 sermon at Westminster Abbey, Frederick L. Donaldson mentions pleasures without conscience among his listed seven social evils. Donaldson said;
“The Seven Social Sins are: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle.”
Whereas it is a good thing to work hard to ensure we don’t live in misery, ultimate satisfaction in life doesn’t come from pleasures even if it is a conscious pleasure, neither does it come from within us. I agree with John Piper in his saying that;
“The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and contemplating your own greatness is pathological. At such moments we are made for a magnificent joy that comes from outside ourselves.”
We can but only find real meaning, pleasure and joy in God. The Holy Spirit bears in us the fruit of joy (Galatians 5:22), this helps us to live meaningfully even if we lack some material things which are supposedly known to give pleasure. The Holy Spirit also guides us in seeking for pleasure with conscience. We should therefore throw away the philosophy of “eat and drink, tomorrow we die” because “we live under the sun, but our destiny is beyond its rising and setting” (David Jeremiah), our destiny is beyond the grave. In Christ, through Christ and by Christ, we are destined to the glorious kingdom of our God. So, let us not let the pleasures of this world block us from that everlasting pleasure we are destined for.
My prayer is that;
The Lord Jesus “equip you with everything good for doing his will, and he may work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen!” Rev. J
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Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are taken from the New International Version (NIV). Rev. Julius Izza Tabi is a pastor in the Anglican Church of Uganda, Ma’di & West Nile Diocese. Julius served as an assistant Chaplain and lecturer at the Arua Campus of the Uganda Christin University. He is currently a candidate of Master of Philosophy in Religion, Society and Global Issues at Det Teologiske Menighetsfakultet alias the Norwegian School of Theology, in Oslo, Norway. He is an author of the Popular Triumphing Over Odds . For pastoral assistance you can contact him here and you can also help to support this site and his ministry by donating here.