No one puts it as bluntly as Blaise Pascal in his Pensées:
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.
There you are. Warrior, pacifist, suicide, sluggard, workaholic; if you’re a human, you’re a hedonist. You can try to deny it, but you can’t change it.
If you want to try your hand at stoicism, forget the Bible. It has little for you. Scripture does not support the idea that our motives are more pure the less we are pursuing our own interested happiness. Nope. In fact, according to the Bible, unless we are pursuing our happiness we cannot even come to God: “for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
What Pleasure Measures
God blatantly entices us to seek happiness, joy, pleasure — whatever you want to call it — in him with verses like this: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4), and “in your presence is fullness of joy, and at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). We’re supposed to want pleasure.
Why does God want us to want pleasure? Because it is a crucial indicator. Pleasure is the meter in your heart that measures how valuable, how precious someone or something is to you. Pleasure is the measure of your treasure.
Your treasure is what you love. Your greatest treasure is what you love the most. “For where your treasure is, there your heart [your love] will be also” (Matthew 6:21). You glorify your treasure by the fact that it’s the object of your pleasure.
“Your treasure is what you love.”
And that’s why God is not indifferent about your joy. It’s a big deal to him. Your pleasure in God is the measure of how much of a treasure he is to you.
The Whistle-Blower of Your Heart
This also makes pleasure the whistle-blower of your heart. If something sinful gives you pleasure, it’s not a pleasure problem. It’s a treasure problem. Your pleasure mechanism is likely functioning just fine. It’s what you love that’s out of whack. And pleasure is outing you. It’s revealing that, despite what your mouth says and the image you try to project to others, something evil is precious to you.
That’s what sin is at the root: treasuring evil. Which makes the fight of faith in the Christian life a fight for delight. It’s a fight to believe God’s promises of happiness over the false promises of happiness we hear from the world, our fallen flesh, and the devil. And yes, it often involves denying ourselves pleasure, but only denying ourselves a lesser, viler pleasure in order to have a much higher pleasure (Luke 9:23–25).
Wonderful and Devastating
This biblical truth that we call Christian Hedonism is both wonderful and devastating. It is wonderful to realize that God’s pursuit of glory and our pursuit of joy is not supposed to be different pursuits, but the same! Because, as John Piper says, “God is most glorified in you, when you are most satisfied in him.” That means that God’s glory in us depends on our being as happy as we possibly can be for all of eternity! If you’ve never read the book, Desiring God, dive into it this Fall and revel in what makes the Gospel so good (take advantage of our free PDF version to read or browse).
“There is greater joy in God than you’ve yet known.”
But the devastating thing is that as soon as we realize that God receives the most glory from our satisfaction in him, we also realize how far short we fall in so many areas of finding our satisfaction in him. And if you’re in a slough of discouragement over this, then put When I Don’t Desire God on your Fall’s must-reads list (we have a free PDF for this one too!). It will encourage your heart and equip you with weapons in the fight for the right joy.
Pursue Your Highest Pleasure!
Fight for the right joy! There is greater joy in God than you’ve yet known. Don’t give up. Don’t settle for the lesser joys. Make it your aim to be a full, unashamed, bold Christian Hedonist! Pursue your pleasure in God, the greatest Treasure that exists, with all your heart (Matthew 22:37). “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).