Enjoyment=Idolatry???

Today I shall take aim at a quote which appeared on someone’s Twitter feed recently (Whose?  I don’t know.  Doesn’t matter).  This quote, and the sentiment behind it, is very much representative of that segment of evangelicalism which is influenced by Neo-Calvinist teaching and belief.  This quote would be perfectly at home in a John Piper book or sermon.

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is disproportionately intense compared to the worth of what is desired.

There are two key phrases that this line turns upon:  “disproportionately intense”, and “the worth of what is desired”.  The unspoken assumption behind this quote is that God is worth everything and all else pales in comparison, and if you are a Christian then your desires and the enjoyment you feel upon the fulfillment of those desires ought to line up with that.  So if feel intense desire and enjoyment at certain pleasures and that desire and enjoyment is not HUGELY eclipsed by your desire for and enjoyment of God, then you are guilty of idolatry.

So if you’re enjoying a glass of really good wine…

Or excited to be spending time with the girl (or guy) you love…

Or happy to be out with friends at a favorite restaurant…

Or doubled over with laughter when one of said friends tells an ever-so-slightly off-color joke…

Or thrilled when your team scores the go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes of a key conference game…

You’d better watch yourself.  Because if you’re not prepared to go to church on Sunday and get COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY RIP-ROARING CRUNK during the praise/worship time, you are guilty of idolatry.

Come on, people.

This reminds me of an illustration from a Francis Chan message I heard a few years back.  Chan and his wife took her grandmother out to see a play.  Midway through the play, the grandmother complained that she was not enjoying it because she did not think it would be good for Jesus to find her there if he were to return in that moment.  Of course, they got up and left the play.  And Chan held this up as an example of true devotion to Christ, the sort of devotion which all of us who call ourselves Christian ought to strive for.

When I heard that message I thought of my own grandmother.  She was likewise devoted to Christ, yet never in a million years would she have asked to leave a play because she would not have wanted to be found there if Jesus were to return then.

Not too long ago there were signs on the sides of buses in some European cities which read “There is no God.  Just enjoy your life.”  Miserable excuse for a worldview.  But what a breath of fresh air compared to the sort of thinking embodied by the quote at the top of this post.

This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot. Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil—this is the gift of God. For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts.

–Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

The pleasures of life–such as they may be in this world–are a gift of God.  Do we despise such a gift because we presume to think ourselves holier than God Himself?  If we have come to the place where we must choose–either/or, no in-between, no both/and–between God and the pleasures of His world which He has given us, then we are in a very sorry place indeed.

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