As the reality of God has dimmed in the life-flow of modern culture, an exchange of truth for an illusion has occurred. The illusion is that humans have a right to self-pleasure, and especially sex. After all, we are entitled to the pursuit of happiness. In this exchange, God and the Bible are portrayed as opponents to the quest for pleasure.
We have been told that the pursuit of pleasure with our bodies is the route to happiness. In his book, “The Hacking of the American Mind,” Professor Robert Lustig, disagrees:
Thus, the more pleasure you seek, the more unhappy you get and the more likelihood you will slide into addiction or depression. Our ability to perceive happiness has been sabotaged by our modern incessant quest for pleasure, which our consumer culture has made all too easy to satisfy. Those who abdicate happiness for pleasure will end up with neither.
Perhaps, unwittingly, the Professor echos the words of Solomon: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?
The warning is meant to be graphic! The visual image of a man’s lap erupting into flames is intentional. This is not a happy scene! Ignoring God’s design and direction for sexual activity comes at a high price. Sexual activity is not a safe pursuit outside of marriage. Sexual sin comes wrapped in the illusion of self-pleasure. Sexual sin looks desirable and fun, but just as the Proverbs warn, the aftermath is devastating.
For example, God’s truth is that sex is designed to be the expression of a relational commitment within the boundaries of marriage. The cultural lie is that sex is an act which exists to bring self-pleasure. It is something I am entitled to. Therefore, it is up to me to determine how I want to be pleasured. This is delusional. It is the exchange of truth for a lie which leaves lives in ruin.
Often, damage done by sexual sin is not immediately obvious. It is true, sexual expression is powerful and pleasurable. So, immediate pleasure makes a seeming lie out of the biblical warnings about self-centered, extra-marital sex. But just as with slow-acting poison, the immediate reaction is not always a reliable indication of how destructive the power of sex outside of marriage is.
You don’t need to be a sociologist to be aware of the drama, anger, and discord that revolves around the tension that flows from relationships where sexual activity is involved. The history books are full of this drama. But so are our schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods. Broken relationships litter the landscape of our modern life. Much of this brokenness comes from the pursuit of pleasure via sexual sin.
Short-term pleasure blinds people to the damaging long-term impact of ignoring God’s design of placing sex in the loving boundaries of marriage. Outside of marriage, sexual expression morphs into self-consuming desire for self-pleasure. That story never ends well. Don’t be consumed by the lie. Don’t scoop fire into your lap. Trust God’s truth and not the delusions of short-term pleasure.
Jay Younts is the author of Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, and he is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is a ruling elder at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.