Sunday, April 25, 2010

Why Pleasure Matters: We Don't Want to See You Naked

My friend Ben Young took pity on me.
“Those jeans are way too baggy,” he said. “And that shirt doesn’t fit you at all.”
My clothing choices had long been a frustration for my wife, and here my friend was backing her up.
“See, that’s what I’m always telling him,” Lisa chimed in.
As far as I was concerned, since the jeans cost $24.99, they fit.
Ben introduced me to a couple lines of clothing that “make clothes to fit guys built like you.” He explained that “modern fit” means “chubby,” and look way too “billowy” on me, and then introduced me to “slim fit” shirts, much to my wife’s delight.
I actually found the experience liberating rather than humiliating, for this reason. I hate to shop. The only thing I hate more than trying on clothes would be eating cottage cheese. (I hate cottage cheese so much I can’t stand even watching someone else eat cottage cheese.) When my wife hands me five items of clothes and says, “Here, try these on,” she might as well be saying, “Here, have a carton of cottage cheese.”
But Ben’s advice meant I could skip checking out 90% of the clothes out there—I knew they wouldn’t fit, and I didn’t have to shop in those stores or on those racks. Some may say my world “shrank,” but from my perspective, I gained a lot of time and avoided a lot of pain.
It’s like that with pleasure. God knows what pleasures “fit” our souls. There are certain pleasures that might seem to come cheap, but they don’t fit who he made us to be—and so he wisely says, “Avoid them.” Other pleasures would cause problems—not just rubbing us the wrong way, but they could actually be destructive or soul-killing. Instead of suffering the consequences, we can listen to God—as I listened to Ben—and stop shopping in those stores.
Letting God tell us what pleasures fit our life is liberating, not confining.
The problem is, some of you don’t want to wear any pleasure at all. Out of arrogance, you think you can subsist on religious duty, self-discipline, and a pride-based piety. Rather than clothe yourself with pure pleasure, you walk around naked.
Can I be honest with you? We don’t want to see you naked. “Naked” Christians—those who deny themselves beyond what God calls them to deny—often become judgmental legalists. They live without joy, without satisfaction, and they are unable to truly love, for they simply cannot take pleasure in any one else’s pleasure.
Not only does this set them up for an eventual fall, it robs them of a worshipful heart, and it destroys their witness.
Such Christians rightly understand that we must avoid, at all costs, those pleasures that would destroy us, the pleasures God warns us away from. But they make a grave mistake when they conclude that all pleasure is to be avoided.
My theological mentor, Dr. J.I. Packer, writes, “Contempt for pleasure, so far from arguing superior spirituality, is actually…the sin of pride. Pleasure is divinely designed to raise our sense of God’s goodness, deepen our gratitude to him, and strengthen our hope of richer pleasures to come in the next world.”
God’s bride is to be beautifully dressed—not naked. Let’s clothe ourselves with good and holy pleasures, embracing what God, in his word, tells us fits, and rejecting those clothes that are not made for us.
I’ve been so encouraged by the emails and conversations testifying to the ministry that has come out of Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad About Feeling Good? If you’re one of those Christians who are suspicious of pleasure at best, take the liberating step of learning about how God uses pleasure for his good purpose. And if you know someone who’s trying to walk around “naked,” do them a favor—give them a copy of the book and let them know their attitude doesn’t honor God or help us reach the world.


  1. Eating cottage cheese for breakfast--something I do every day. And now will cause me to think of you every day. :) It's really not so bad if you add blueberries, strawberries, and coconut on top!

  2. Sounds like a fantastic breakfast, Joanne--if you remove the cottage cheese...

  3. Great reminder! Thanks for sharing. btw, i hate cottage cheese, too!