A Philosophy of Pleasure

I’ve been reading a book recently that has a main character who follows the views of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. Epicurus founded Epicurean thought, which advocates that you should live your life for pleasure and avoid pain as much as possible. When the main character in my book explains this, he says that pleasure is the only way to experience life; there is nothing to be gained from pain. This got me thinking. Who wouldn’t want to live that way? Who would turn down a life solely of pleasure? No one wants pain.

But there is a problem with adopting this philosophy. It is very hard, if not impossible, to live life this way. For sorrow and pain affect everyone.

How should we view pain then? The Christian’s attitude should be very different to that of Epicurus. The Bible doesn’t tell us to seek out pain, or enjoy pain for pain’s sake, but it does tell us that there is a purpose in it.

We are not always able to see why we experience pain but we can know that, if our hope is in Christ, it is not meaningless. One day it will be clear, but for now we have God’s assurance that He is working all things out for our good (Rom. 8:28). We can also take comfort from the evidence that God loved us when Jesus went to the cross to die for us (Rom. 5:8).

As to the idea that there is nothing to be gained from pain, the way that Jesus bought our salvation was painful. And what was gained through that was a big gain. Without it we would still be cut off from God and unable to be in relationship with Him.

There are a lot of Christians who could have avoided pain and even death. But if they had chosen the easier life, they would have lost out on being used by God. Jim Elliot once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot didn’t just speak these words; he lived them. He died taking the gospel to a tribe in Ecuador. He gave his life on this Earth, which he wasn’t able to keep forever, so that he could tell people about how they could have life with Christ forever.

You might not follow Epicurus’ ideas, but sometimes it does seem tempting to choose pleasure or comfort over pain. At such times, let’s remember that living a truly meaningful and rewarding life, one that honors God, may mean choosing to talk to someone about the gospel and risk rejection, rather than protecting our popularity. It may mean choosing to leave our comfort zone to go to a community different to our own that hasn’t heard the gospel yet. Whatever choices we make, our motivation should not be to get an easy life but to make sure we are doing all we can for the glory of God and the good of others.

Written By Ruth Lawrence for YMI

5 replies
  1. mengpoo
    mengpoo says:

    Thanks for putting down these thoughts. It seems that we are looking for convenience, comfort and cushion (preferably the soft types).

  2. Aled Seago
    Aled Seago says:

    Good to remember in a culture that tells us to just get what we want, all of the time. One of the greatest things that helped me understand the gospel was the way God works through the painful things. Helpful article, thanks!

  3. Samuel Mathews
    Samuel Mathews says:

    Our Lord is a sovereign Lord. Every pain in our life as a purpose provided we fully surrender to his will without questioning as the word of God the good Lord does everything for ones good to those who surrender solely to his divine will.


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