This blog of Jon Bloom’s from a couple of months ago is right on target. Years ago I taught a seminary course called “A Theology of Desire,” and Pascal’s quote was one of the many I cited.
by Jon Bloom
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 joy. 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).
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 his presence is fullness of joy, and at his 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 [what you love] will be also” (Matthew 6:21). You will never be a true stoic because you can’t help experiencing pleasure in what you treasure. God wired you that way.
Pleasure is the whistleblower of your heart. More than anything else it exposes what you really love. 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).
So be a full, unashamed, bold Christian Hedonist! Pursue your pleasure in God, the greatest Treasure, with all your heart (Matthew 22:37). “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21)