1 Timothy 5:6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.
Paul is talking about widows here, but this statement could apply to anyone, and a lot of people would fit into this category. God created us to be able to enjoy a lot of things, and thus there are many kinds of pleasure. The Japanese expression used in this verse is specifically talking about physical, sensual pleasure. It is quite possible for such pleasure to be pure, but only in the right context, and the devil does all he can to tempt us with it out of context. That said, we can’t blame the devil for our sins. As James says, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15) That’s what Paul is talking about here: people who nurture and delight in their physical desires to the point of sin, producing spiritual death even while the person is still walking around. This is in stark contrast to what Jesus said to Martha after her brother Lazarus’ death: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) We have the choice: death even while our bodies are alive, or life even when our bodies die. All of this is in no way to forbid pleasure. As I said, God created us to be able to enjoy a lot of things, but when we place those pleasures ahead of knowing and delighting in Him, we are in dangerous territory. I have a book entitled Intended for Pleasure, by a Christian doctor and his wife, Ed and Gaye Wheat, that is about sex in the Biblical context of marriage. Some people feel guilty about desiring and enjoying physical pleasure even in that context, but that too is a distortion encouraged by the devil. We are to receive what God has provided with gratitude and delight, but it is a matter of priorities and submission to God. What is deadly, as Paul says, is placing the pleasure first, displacing God from His rightful position in our heart.
After over 52 years of very pleasurable marriage, I’ve got a lot of background in this area! That said, I am not immune to misplaced priorities myself. I too need to keep my focus on my Lord, making the use He intends of everything He provides. I do a good bit of marriage counseling, mostly of couples before I perform their wedding, and I touch on this issue. However, most of those couples aren’t believers, so the full context is missing. Even so, I seek to speak the truth in love so that they may be insulated against some of the common tricks of the devil. As I caution them, society today is saturated with sex, and they need strong commitment to each other to stand firm in the storm. It’s much easier when you’re standing on the Rock, Christ Jesus!
Father, thank You indeed for Your gracious design. May I not only follow it myself, but help others in doing so as well, so that we may walk in life and not death, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!