Dictionary.com says that a hedonist is a person whose life is devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification. At first glance this doesn’t sound so bad. The United States Declaration of Independence lists the pursuit of happiness as one of our unalienable rights, after all. But hedonists take this concept to a dangerous extreme. If their pursuit of pleasure hurts someone else or requires criminal activity of some kind, well, that’s justifiable in their eyes. I read a Garfield cartoon last week that illustrated this perfectly. (That’s right. Garfield is a hedonist. I suspect all cats are. But they’re cats, not people. We don’t expect better behavior from them.)
In the cartoon, Garfield says, Happiness is what I’m all about. Then he smacks Jon upside the back of the head while Jon is drinking coffee, causing Jon to spit the coffee out all over the place. Garfield smiles and says, My happiness (July 6, 2011).
Recently, Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of Desiring God by John Piper for my honest review. The subtitle reads, Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. That’s what caught my attention. Christian Hedonist is most-definitely an oxymoron. But the book is a classic. My copy is a 25th anniversary revised edition.
To make matters even more interesting, I’m concurrently reading another book that includes several quotes from Piper’s Desiring God. And both books quote Jonathan Edwards and CS Lewis. In fact, they use some of the same quotes! But the other book, True North by Gary Heim and Lisa Heim, gets straight to the point: Christians must learn to look to God first in every circumstance of life, good or bad. Desiring God, on the other hand, required the author to defend and sufficiently explain his use of a controversial term before the reader could grasp and accept the truth he was trying to present: we find pleasure and satisfaction in God alone. God is glorified when we do.
That message is absolutely true. And when we find that pleasure and satisfaction in God alone, we are able to help others do the same. Christian hedonists bless God and others through their pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification. Christian hedonists are addicted to God.
I found Piper’s approach curious, but he really made me think. If you enjoy thinking challenges, I recommend this book!
For more devotional thoughts today, visit the Spiritual Sunday meme.