The spiritual equivalent of eating spinach

And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

(Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 ESV)

The end result of pursuing every kind of pleasure to the greatest possible lengths is that the writer of ecclesiastes did experience pleasure ('my heart found pleasure')! But the pleasure was fleeting it was there and gone, like chasing after the wind he had nothing to show for it.

The conclusion is that nothing was gained from pursuing pleasure 'under the sun' (v11). That is because real, lasting, eternal joy is found beyond the sun, in God.

The preconception is that Christianity is anti-pleasure, the antithesis of joy. You turn up to church and expect to hear that you should enjoy yourself less and do the spiritual equivalent of eating spinach - it’s supposedly good for you but you’re not going to enjoy it!

Begrudging obedience is not biblical Christianity, The Westminster shorter catechism says that The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. John Piper points out that we glorify God by enjoying Him forever. God is glorified by our enjoyment of him. How would he be glorified by our begrudging obedience?!

The desire for pleasure is not wrong, we should aim for as much joy as possible and that is found in Jesus.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” CS Lewis