An article on hedonism in our continuing series of major world views.
The word “hedonism” is taken directly into English from the Greek word “hedone,” meaning pleasure. Hedonism is one of major philosophies by which men live today. It is epitomized by the language of the world quoted by Paul in I Corinthians 15:32, to illustrate the thinking that he says might as well be his if there is no resurrection. The words, “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die!” are the epitome of hedonism. The rich man of Luke 12:16-21 was hedonistic in his philosophy for he said, “Take thine ease; eat, drink and be merry.” To him, pleasure was the highest good. God was not in all his thoughts for to the hedonist, pleasure becomes a god. The widow of 1 Timothy 5:6, who “lives in pleasure and who therefore is dead while she lives,” is a tragic example of a believer who has grown so cold and so far from God that the philosophy of the world, and not the principles of the Word, dictate the manner of life.
Why do we as believers need to look at the philosophy of hedonism? Is it merely so that we will be educated as to the way the world thinks? No. The world is characterized by a mass communications system. This system is fed by, and is in turn feeding, the materialism and sensuality of that world. It will doubtless in some way affect the thinking, values, and then the behavior of the believer. This was what Paul meant when he wrote, “Evil communications corrupt good manners” (I Cor 15:33). The company we keep and the philosophies to which we are exposed in any form of media we employ, will, if our minds are not guarded, have an effect upon us. The craze for hedonistic, sensual gratification has caused society to throw away its standards of conduct. The resulting immoral condition has plunged humanity deeper and deeper into depravity because, without a God to Whom men and women are accountable, there are no absolutes for behavior. By contrast, the believer has a set of absolutes! The standard for moral behavior is the Word. This is in sharp contradistinction to the rising generation in the world that says that the greatest solicitation to immoral behavior is the set of images that they receive by way of the media. God has called His people unto holiness and not to be “fashioned according to the former lusts in our ignorance” (iPet 1:14-15). This emphasis on materialism and lust for pleasure of the present world system, which the Devil has designed to keep the world happy on the way to hell, can often penetrate the unguarded soul of the believer. This makes it possible for the devil to fulfill his objective of making the Christian unhappy on the way to Heaven. The world can never satisfy the inner cravings of the soul that has known the experience of “with joy drawing water out of the wells of salvation” (Isa 12:2-3). The believer’s preservative is in his getting back into the presence of God and communing with Him. The Psalmist knew that if he did not know experientially and consistently what it was to hear God’s voice speaking to his soul, he would “become like them that go down into the pit” (Ps 28:1). What an exhortation to us to ensure that our thinking is being molded in His presence and that we are not being molded by the philosophy of those that are indeed going down to the pit! The Master never occupied Himself in self-indulgence! As the humble Servant, He came “not to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Today some of the greatest hindrances to the growth and fruitfulness of the believer are leisure and pleasure. These time consuming gratifications of the flesh were not the goals in life of the Apostle, who expressed his value system in the words, “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). Neither were they the objectives of Timothy for he, in contrast to his peers, did not “seek his own things but the things of Jesus Christ” (Phil 2:21). Consider the thorns in the Parable of the Sower, the Seed, and the Soils. What are the major hindrances to fruitfulness? The choking of growth is the insidious consequence of the “cares and riches and pleasures of this life,” and so no fruit is brought to perfection. The call is, “Be not conformed to this world.” The way to avoid letting the world pour us into its mold is “to be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom 12:1-2).