No Strings Attached

How the Church and Culture Idolize Present Pleasures

We’ve all experienced it before. We all experience it daily. We want the product, but not for the price on the label. We want to earn a lot of money, but we do not want to pay taxes over it. We want to eat salty, fatty, unhealthy foods, but we do not want to stand on the scale and see the added pounds. This familiar desire of wanting the pleasure of something without the price has made its way deeply into the roots of our culture. Some of the biggest problems that our western culture and the Church of Jesus Christ are dealing with today find its root in man’s ancient, insatiable desire for enjoyment. The effects of these cravings for partial things have been devastatingly destructive on our culture. Yet, God does not want us to despise pleasure altogether. Instead, he wants us to relish in the future pleasures that are ours because of Jesus.

Pleasure without Parenting

One of the most obvious examples in our culture of man’s desire to want something without the cost relates to the issue of abortion. Ever since the Supreme Court’s ruling on the case Roe vs. Wade in 1973 in which was established that is “a woman’s qualified right to terminate her pregnancy” [1], millions of women have chosen to lay aside the ‘consequences’ of sexual intercourse and end the life of the life that is developing inside the womb. According to research done by Lifenews.com, there have been over 58 million abortions since 1973 [2]. Sadly, all of these abortions have taken place under the protection of the federal government and the knowledge of the Church. In order to mentally grasp how much 58 million actually is, one must add up the populations of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Imagine that all of these people are gone, vanished. That is how many innocent, unborn lives have been killed in the United States. Unfortunately, the United States is not the only country in the world that allows women to abort the unborn life inside their womb. Many countries around the world have similar freedoms for those who do not want to be pregnant.

This tragic fact that is daily being worsened is for a large part due to the fact that people desire the pleasure of sexual intimacy with the opposite gender, but they do not want to accept the consequences if the woman turns out the be pregnant after the fact. Many have attempted to provide rational explanations for the extremely high number of abortions, but the reality is that only a very slight percentage of women who have had an abortion chose to as a result of rape or medical complications (less than 2%). The vast majority of abortions are done due to “ socio-economic reasons or for birth control” [3].

The reality is that many women choose for having an abortion not because of medical reasons, but because of the inconvenience of accepting the consequences of previous sexual intercourse. The pleasure of sexual intimacy with another man is greater in their eyes than the sin and wickedness of ending the life of an unborn baby, who does not have the ability to speak out for himself or herself.

Consummation without Commitment

Another arena of life that has been tainted by man’s insatiable desire for present pleasures relates the issue of marriage. According to Chapter 4 of Christian Perspectives on Sociology, written by Donald L. Conrad, “Increasing numbers of youth-especially college students-are living together illegally, committing fornication, and taking very lightly the offense against both human and divine standards” [4]. When the act of getting married before God and others is not held in high regards, it is very logical to understand why more and more young people choose to avoid the hassle and monetary expenses of getting married, so simply decide to live together. Especially for those to whom religion has little to no importance, it makes sense that they choose to live together instead of getting married. This way, they can enjoy the pleasures of living together without the costs or sacrifices of getting married. Cohabitation is a very popular solution to the doubts that many people feel concerning the certainty of their love for their significant other. Studies show that more and more people are choosing to cohabit. According to a study conducted by US News, nearly half of women (48 %) live together with another man before getting married [5].

This example of cohabitation, which is becoming more and more popular, testifies to the fact that in our culture people often choose for pleasure without wanting the consequences. In this case, couples who choose to cohabit, choose to have sexual intercourse with each other outside of marriage and outside of the vows of commitment that are given to each other on the wedding day.

Gifts without the Giver

In the Christian world we probably see the increasing desire for present pleasures without consequences most clearly in the prosperity gospel movement that is gaining more followers daily. The prosperity gospel movement is centered around the belief that it is God’s desire that His people be physically healthy, materially and financially wealthy, and finally, generally prosperous. Robert Tilton, a televangelist and one of the most famous preachers who believe and proclaim the prosperity gospel, once said, “ I believe that it is the will of God for all to prosper because I see it in the Word, not because it has worked mightily for someone else. I do not put my eyes on men, but on God who gives me the power to get wealth” [6]. There are enormous churches in the United States that preach this message to their 20,000 seat auditoriums packed with people. There are also many prosperity gospel preachers that get on their private jets and fly to African countries, preaching the same message to an audience that mostly consists out of people who live under the poverty line.

The problem with this ‘gospel’ is that it elevates the gifts above the Giver. Just like the aforementioned issues of abortion and cohabitation, the prosperity gospel sees God as a means to accumulate wealth. Those who believe in the prosperity gospel do not want to be bothered with the verses in God’s Word that talk about how God’s purposes for his people outlive this life and this earth. God wants those who belong to Him to become more and more transformed into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ. The ultimate goal is not temporal, fleeting pleasures that the prosperity preachers talk about, but rather the eternal pleasures of God. John Piper states, “ What will make the world taste (the salt) and see (the light) of Christ in us is not that we love wealth the same way they [non-believes] do. Rather, it will be the willingness and the ability of Christians to love others through suffering…to attract people with promises of prosperity is simply natural. It is not the message of Jesus. It is not what he died to achieve” [7]

The prosperity gospel is merely materialism with a Christian flavor. It craves for health and wealth, but not for the Healer and Giver of all things. It wants Christianity with no strings attached.

Future Grace

There are many present pleasures in this life. Unfortunately, many of those pleasures are fleeting and they are often times one’s individual pursuit of pleasure leading to unhappiness in someone else. However, there is one pleasure that lasts forever. It does not put the gifts above the Giver, nor does it lead to a diminishing in pure pleasure in someone else’s life. This pleasure is available to all. It is called future grace. In the words of John Piper, “God made us alive and secured us in Christ so that he could make us the beneficiaries of everlasting kindness from infinite riches of grace. This is not because we are worthy. Quite the contrary, it is to show the infinite measure of his worth” [8].

The attempts in this lifetime to obtain pleasure through sexual intercourse, cohabitation, and the prosperity gospel all fail because there is an end to their amount of pleasure. There are countless more examples of how we pursue fleeting pleasures in our culture, yet living by faith in light of God’s past, present, and future grace is the only way that our pleasures will be truly and thoroughly satisfied.