For most, life is fast-paced and stressful. Many seemingly need more and more “fun” just to make it bearable. Have you been programmed to constantly seek pleasure?
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There is an old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Seemingly, this has been replaced today by “Work hard, but play harder.” Although the first half of the current saying (working hard) is sound advice, most do not foresee the potential imbalance that this saying implies—that working hard also permits one to “play” harder.
What about time for family, rest and other things? Are these lumped under “play”? Unfortunately, that is unlikely. Most would agree that the pace in Western societies permits little time to “stop and smell the roses.” There are seemingly only enough hours in each day to work, “play” and perhaps sleep.
But is this healthy? Is this wise?
This is all driven by one thing—today’s world is extremely adept at making people feel as if they need more. This is the premise on which man and all his systems currently operate.
These “needs” include: “I just need that bigger television”—so one is conned into a “no-payments-and-no-interest-until-next-year” purchase from the local electronics store; “I just need that latest car model”—so one trades in an otherwise perfectly good vehicle; or, “I just need to see that latest movie, or wear that latest fashion”—so one spends endless dollars and time keeping “up-to-date” and “in-the-loop.” In other words, some people are driven by this mentality, and seem to live solely to satisfy their desire for physical possessions and sense of completion. Even those who have the financial means to do this ultimately find that happiness is still elusive.
This endless cycle—in which the lives of many remain empty and meaningless—creates a desperate need to escape. Typical of human nature, this void or this need to escape is often filled with something “easy,” “pleasant” and “readily available.”
While not necessarily wrong of and by themselves, just consider some of the almost endless pleasures at our beck and call: Satellite dishes and the Internet bringing images from around the world into our homes; restaurants serving up every kind of food; bars and liquor stores packed with alcohol of every flavor; shopping malls and stores as far as the eye can see—and easy money with which to buy it all. These are among what is considered “tame”—not to mention drugs, gambling, pornography and prostitution, satisfying every illicit and perverted sexual desire.
This addictive pleasure-seeking is driven by three things: The modern “play harder” mentality, the vacuum created by a meaningless life, and the creation of a desperate need to escape. These are all the result of greed—living the way of GET.
Most in the U.S., Britain, Canada, and most of the western European countries, are oblivious to the fact that the riches we enjoy today are a result of the blessings God promised to the descendants of the patriarch Abraham. In fact, they are even unaware that they are his descendants. (This is detailed in our free book America and Britain in Prophecy.) These blessings were unconditional; yet, generations of having lived the opposite of God’s Way—the way of GIVE—have led to a society in which most people cannot manage these riches properly.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (part of the U.S. Department of Commerce) shows how disposable income (defined as: Personal income less personal tax and non-tax payments) per capita has dramatically increased since World War II (see chart). Note particularly the per capita amounts; note also the drastic drop in personal savings as a percentage of disposable personal income from 1981 to 2001.
It is a commonly held economic theory that as disposable income rises, so does spending on eating out, entertainment and recreation. The same source shows how this disposable income is spent and indicates that as a percentage of the total, recreation has increased from 2.5% in 1981 to 3.9% in 2001.
Also, little thought is given to the economic consequences of living the way of GET. Consider for a moment that most corporate companies are encouraged by their boards and stockholders to “make more money.” One method is to procure goods of lower cost and quality, and then seductively promote these goods, creating an artificial need in consumers’ minds. One effective television advertisement for an electronics superstore screams a theme song of “I want more!” This fuels sales of more big-screen televisions, VCRs, DVD players, stereo systems and home theater systems—all to feed the need to play harder, escape and fill that empty feeling.
The reliance of the U.S. economy (and most other western nations) on a citizenry addicted to seeking pleasure became so obvious during the weeks and months that followed the September 11 tragedy.
What was the government’s rally-cry to the U.S. consumer?: “Continue to spend. Go out with the family to dinner and a movie. Plan a vacation to see the country.” Spend, spend, spend. Escape, escape, escape.
The economic keywords since that fateful date have been “consumer confidence.” The U.S. economy, and the nation, will not survive without the consumption of goods and services—without the addiction to the seeking of pleasures.
Unfortunately, the adage that “the only lesson learned from history is that no one learns from history” is also true in this case. Prior great civilizations fell not long after their citizens turned from building great nations to seeking pleasures. Whether it is the luxuries of the English Victorian age or the materialism of Rome during the third century, both immediately preceded the fall of those great empires. It would appear that the United States is headed in the same direction.
Tired parents quickly depend on “quick and easy” forms of keeping their children occupied, thus beginning this addiction at an early age. This includes an excess of television viewing, eventually leading to countless hours of movies and video games. Seemingly gone are the days of family walks, picnics, pursuing hobbies, daily chores and developing skills. (For more information on childrearing in this troubled age, read our free booklet Train Your Children God’s Way.)
now. No time to cook? Stop by any number of fast-food drive-thrus and eat, now. Need to surf the Internet? Start up your high-speed connection and see whatever you want to, now.
Once people become bored with whatever was pleasing them, they may seek something more intense or extreme. As if to accommodate this, each new movie or television season becomes increasingly more explicit. If there is not “a little more skin,” or “a little more sex,” then it is nothing more than “last season.” Just scanning television channels during prime time demonstrates this point.
In addition to increased television and movie viewing, notice another growing trend. A 1994-95 study by the Food Surveys Research Group (a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) found:
• The number of Americans who eat at least one food or beverage obtained away from home in the course of a day is 33% higher than in 1977-78.
• Fast food establishments have surpassed restaurants as the most frequent source of outside food.
• American households have spent nearly 40% of their food dollar on food away from home since the mid-1980s, compared with only 20% in the early 1970s.
While it is not wrong to go to dinner with family or friends, many go out for a meal or to have a few drinks as an excuse to get “dressed up” and appeal to their sense of vanity, seeking the attention of others. Going out almost becomes secondary, as sexual promiscuity becomes the pleasure of the day. King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote, “Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (Prov. 9:17), and “He that loves pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loves wine and oil shall not be rich” (Prov. 21:17).
Even just a few generations ago, people did not pursue pleasure as they do today. The focus was on family and building strong relationships. Not only did families share meals together—life revolved around the family unit.
Following World War II, Western nations understood how pleasurable the family could be. Even working together around the house was considered a joy, not the burden that many view it as today. The tragedy of war made many realize how important their family was, even if that meant merely having meals together or even doing housework.
That was then and this is now. Many have become complacent in times of prosperity and peace. Growing bored of the simple pleasures of life, they have begun to look for anything to give them greater pleasure and tantalize the senses.
But with the serious problems plaguing the world, you would think people would return to those core values—and to the truly important things in life.
The world has moved into the Information Age. Everything operates at lightning speed. People have no time to stop and consider. They have become so consumed with their own lives, that even war, terrorism and the threats of weapons of mass destruction are not enough to change their focus. There is just “not enough time” to spend together as a family and even to rest.
The human body was designed so that it needs to rest, to recharge one’s internal “batteries.” Studies show that the human body quickly deteriorates when it does not receive enough sleep—something commonly overlooked in this fast-paced society.
This rest is so important to our happiness and well-being that, from the time of creation, God instituted a weekly day of rest: “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor Him, not doing you own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words: Then shall you delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it” (Isa. 58:13-14).
Notice the rewards of keeping the Sabbath day. These could easily be described as pleasures. Yet man does not rest or consider as he should, and cities are full of people attempting to “recharge” in other ways. They live their lives their way—not the way God intended. God inspired Solomon to write, “There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12).
The fruits of those ways are evident: Breakdown of the family, adultery, partying, gluttony, etc. These conditions were foretold millennia ago: “For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage [Adam Clarke’s Commentary: “That is, they spent their time in rapine, luxury, and riot”]…so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:38-39).
Two ancient cities parallel our modern age and actually show where society is headed.
For extreme examples of carnal pleasures, look no farther than the average North American city. Strip clubs and porn shops are essentially a “dime a dozen.” Cities like New York and San Francisco are no less than a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah, where “pleasure” is seemingly the main impetus for each day. People “work for their weekends,” which are often filled with parties, drinking and sexual exploits.
The spirit of tolerance is a main theme, and many are taking it to an extreme. All forms of “pleasure” are not only tolerated, but actually encouraged. With all this pleasure-seeking, one would think that there would be joy and happiness. Yet people’s lives are filled with problems of every shape and form.
Hoping that pleasure will bring happiness, people live “in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton” (Jms. 5:5). They have lost sight of what would truly make them happy.
However, there is a solution for the thousands groping for fulfillment and true pleasure. Like happiness, there is a cause for the problems so many experience. Changing the CAUSE will create a different and fulfilling EFFECT. Many are “…foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving diverse lusts and pleasures…” (Titus 3:3).
There is a connection between being “deceived” and “serving diverse lusts and pleasures.” But the question arises: Who is doing the deceiving?
Notice: “And the great dragon was cast out…called the Devil…which deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). Could it be that simple? Could it really be that the devil is the source of these lustful pleasures and that man pursues them because he is deceived?
That is what your Bible says!
People have turned from the Source of true happiness—God—and followed another god (II Cor. 4:4). And the “god of this world” has programmed people to look out for themselves: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves…lovers of pleasures [Clarke: “i.e. pleasure, sensual gratification, is their god; and this they love and serve”] more than lovers of God” (II Tim. 3:1-2, 4).
Even humanly speaking, there is a better way to create self-fulfillment. When you look on your own matters, focusing only on yourself, only one person is looking out for you—YOU!
Conversely, if everyone would look out for others—God’s GIVE way—then hundreds or even thousands of people would be looking out for you. In blindness, mankind has chosen a way that, even humanly speaking, is illogical!
As the Creator of the universe and mankind, God knows what would make people happy. He understands the proper route to pleasure. But choosing its own way, mankind has sought pleasure and, in the end, become “wanton.”
It was not meant to be this way. All people should experience a happy and eventful life. God wants man to experience the finer things in life: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
But because they do not live God’s Way, people feel empty.
They were designed to be fulfilled. Lacking that fulfillment, their lives feel void of meaning. They use physical things to attempt to fill that void. As you look around you, it should be obvious that this is not working. How sad that in choosing its own way to happiness, mankind has found war, famine, broken families, addiction, etc., instead of truly happy and fulfilling lives.
If man would simply look to God, all the physical needs and pleasures in life would be given to him. He would not have to grope and grab for new things. There would be no need to fight his way up the corporate ladder to experience the finer things. God wants to give these to people—all that He requires is that we seek “first the kingdom of God…and all these things shall be added” (Matt. 6:33)—all of them!
The answer is so simple, yet this world remains blind to it. It will take the Return of Christ to teach the entire world what true, real pleasure entails. At that time, emptiness will cease, and happiness and fulfillment will literally “break out” around the world!
People will no longer be addicted to self-gratifying “fun” and empty “pleasures.” They will finally understand and be “addicted” to true HAPPINESS.
As we have seen, there is a void in people’s lives. Since they are unaware of their potential, this ever present vacuum leaves them constantly feeling in need. They attempt to fill this need with “pleasures”—but that only works for a short time.
The vacuum and the reality of the failing world returns, and people again turn to “fun” as a solution to their problems. Man wants—almost needs—to escape from this reality.
That escape and its consequences will be covered in Part 2.