Question: "Is God opposed to pleasure?"
Answer: Some people imagine God as a cruel task master opposed to all fun or pleasure. To them, He is the God of all-seriousness or the God of rules. But this is not an accurate, biblical picture of God.
God created us with the ability to experience pleasure. Several Scriptures speak of our delight and pleasure (for example, Psalm 16; Proverbs 17:22; and Proverbs 15:13). The beauty of creation and the diversity of humanity show us God’s creative palette. Many people find pleasure in spending time out of doors or in relating with those of different personalities. This is good and proper. God wants His creation to be enjoyed.
In the Bible, we see God Himself take pleasure in things. Zephaniah 3:17, for example, says that God delights in us and sings over us. God also instituted multiple celebrations and festivals in the Old Testament. To be sure, these feasts had a didactic element, but they were also celebrations in their own right. Scripture speaks of having joy – Philippians and the Psalms are two places where we see plenty of it. Jesus declares, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Life “to the full” sounds like a pleasurable experience.
God’s design of the human body reveals that pleasure is part of His plan. Taste buds and other sensory organs are proof that God is not opposed to pleasure. Why does a hamburger taste so good? Why is the scent of roses pleasing? Why is a back massage enjoyable? Because God wanted it that way. Pleasure was God’s idea.
Sometimes we think that when Christians talk about pleasure or joy, they mean being joyful in reading their Bibles, meditating, or serving. We certainly do take pleasure in those things but not to the exclusion of other activities. God also created us for fellowship with others and for recreation. We were made to delight in being His children, in using the talents He bestows and in participating in the pleasures He offers.
It is also wise to distinguish between the different types of “pleasure” in this world. We live in a fallen world where God’s best for us is often perverted. Just because society deems an activity pleasurable does not mean it is pleasing to God (see Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-10; and 1 Corinthians 6:12-17). When we consider these “pleasures” of the world, we find that they are not in fact healthy for us or conducive to long-term pleasure. The prodigal son reveled in sin until the money ran out; then he found that the pleasures of sin are fleeting (Luke 15:11-17). They are false friends that leave us empty and longing.
It is also important to realize that the purpose of our lives is not pleasure. Hedonism is a false philosophy. We were created to delight in God (Psalm 37:4) and accept with gratitude the good things He provides. More importantly, we were created to have a relationship with God.
No, God is not opposed to pleasure. He is opposed to pleasure usurping His place in our lives. Sometimes we are called to forgo the pleasure of the moment in order to invest in the greater pleasure of God’s kingdom. We won’t be disappointed. For those who seek Him and His righteousness, God has “eternal pleasures” in store (Psalm 16:11).