The Coronavirus and the Lovers of Pleasure (II), By Femi Aribisala
Pleasure does not do anybody any good.
Benzak Uzuegbu was behind an okada motorcycle rider when they came across a ghastly car accident. He wondered what could have caused it as people were lying lifeless on the road.
But the okada man had a ready response. “What killed these people,” he said, “is what kills most people.” “What can that be?” Benzak asked. “They were killed by enjoyment,” the man replied. “Most people are killed by enjoyment.”
Solomon says: “Wisdom is better than strength. Nevertheless, the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 9:16-17).
That is the case of Benzak’s okada rider. Lovers of pleasure are killed in their pursuit of “enjoyment,” rather than their search for God.
The current pandemic bedeviling the world is particularly deadly in the so-called market-economy countries because they are the pleasure capitals of the world. The most prominent among them is the United States of America. The country has only 4 per cent of the world’s population, but it now accounts for a whopping 25 per cent of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
Americans are the quintessential lovers of pleasure. The American Constitution promises to facilitate “the pursuit of happiness.” The unending push for economic growth prescribes the promotion of the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. As John is careful to point out, these are not of God but of the world. (1 John 2:16). Indeed, they are the mainsprings of sin in the world.
In the United States, people are encouraged to buy even what they don’t need on credit, with monies they might not even have. So doing, jobs are created to mass-produce for consumers what is highly-esteemed among men but is an abomination to God. (Luke 16:15).
American pleasure-seekers cannot endure lockdowns. They don’t comply with social distancing regulations. They refuse to play safe by wearing masks in public. Despite the danger of COVID-19, they are flocking to the beaches, to the bars and pubs, and to parties and clubs. As a result, they are being infected in the millions.
Official estimates now indicate that as many as 60 million Americans may have been infected.
Pleasure seekers do everything to avoid affliction. But the scriptures say affliction is good for us. The psalmist says to God: “Before I was afflicted, I went astray.” (Psalm 119:67). “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” (Psalm 119:71). Therefore: “Take heed, do not turn to iniquity, for you have chosen this rather than affliction.” (Job 36:21).
Jesus learnt obedience by the things he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8). On His resurrection, He told His disciples that if He had not suffered, He would not have entered into glory. (Luke 24:26). The same imperative applies to believers. Christians who love pleasure and are not prepared to suffer cannot expect to enter into the glory of heaven.
A baby is born through a woman undergoing birth pangs. Similarly, God has determined that: “We must through many tribulations to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22). Accordingly, Paul says: “Our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.” (2 Corinthians 1:7).
Pleasure, on the other hand, does not do anybody any good. Solomon, who established a laboratory of excessive living, discovered that pleasure is useless: “I thought in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.’ But that also proved to be meaningless. ‘Laughter,’ I said, ‘is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?’” (Ecclesiastes 2:1-2).
He, therefore, reached a wise conclusion: “Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies – so the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4).
Jesus was a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3). What is there to be happy about in this world of sins and sickness where souls are perishing every day. Thus, Jesus says: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4). “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” (Luke 6:25).
Amos is equally scathing: “Woe to you who are at ease in Zion. Woe to you who lie on beds of ivory, stretch out on your couches, eat lambs from the flock, who drink wine from bowls, but are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.” (Amos 6:1-6).
Distraction of Pleasures
As in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, today it is the best of times; and the worst of times. As the world gets technologically better, even so it gets more spiritually perverse.
The world today is full of so many time-consuming and enjoyable things. It is full of distractions. There are so many eateries, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, stadiums, race tracks, casinos, arcades, museums, pubs, bars, clubs, nightclubs, and arenas for entertainment. We now have motorcars, motorbikes, buses, planes, trains, and yachts for business and leisure. We have cell phones, iPhones, iPads, and laptops.
Therefore, instead of reading the bible, many prefer to watch films on TV, YouTube, or Netflix. Others prefer to play video games or to surf the internet. We prefer to listen to talk radio or secular music than to listen to sermons or gospel songs and hymns.
We prefer to watch Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester United playing football than to spend quality time with God. We prefer to go to parties, weddings, and baby showers than to go to church. We prefer to spend time on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp than to prevail in prayer.
But to draw nearer to God, we must fast our pleasures. (Isaiah 58:13-14). To know Christ, we have to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, as our spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1). To know Christ, we have to lose so many things that we have acquired in the world.
Therefore, Paul says: “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8).
Lovers of pleasure live to please themselves. It is written in the indictment of the church in the wilderness: “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” (1 Corinthians 10:7). That was the total summation of their godless lives, and it ensured that none entered the Promised Land.
But now: “The love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: That if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”(2 Corinthians 5:14-15).