I sit this morning with a cup of fresh coffee in my mug beside me. The cool air outside always makes me more deeply appreciate a good cup of brew – somehow the flavor becomes more vivid and takes on a whole new life as they gloss over my taste buds. In the aftermath of the things that have happened in the last two days (see my previous entry) I’ve been reflecting on pleasures. (for a good, more in-depth reading on pleasure, I recommend Gary Thomas’ book Pure Pleasure, I have a copy if such things interest the reader.)
What is it about the things I enjoy that makes me enjoy them? How is it that a simple thing like a cup of good coffee (even if it’s a mediocre roast like Folgers!,) an ice cold beer after an evening of work, and speaking of work – a good, hard day’s work in which you can see the fruits of your labor – what is it about those things that can make my soul sing? What makes me rise up to worship after that? It’s not the object itself – I don’t worship coffee, beer, or work – but somehow they make me want to worship God more. Why?
While I don’t know exactly, I have a pretty good idea.
In Colossians (one of my favorite letters) chapter 1, Paul is expressing his thankfulness to the saints of Colossae, telling them that he prays for them that they may be strengthened with might and increase in the knowledge of God, thanking the Father who qualified them to share in the saints’ inheritance, etc…and then in typical Paul fashion, he rants and rants about who Jesus is and what He’s done. What he says sticks out to me every time, though. He says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, and that all things in heaven and on earth, the things I can see and the things I can’t see, rulers, kings, etc. were made by Him and for Him.
The beans that make this amazing cup of coffee were made by Jesus and for Jesus.
The hops, barley, etc (I’m not a beer expert) that go into that incredible Sam Adams Octoberfest – Jesus made them, and they’re for Him.
The flour that makes a tortilla, the corn and tomatoes in the salsa, the rice and the beans, the chicken, the sour cream and the cheese in my unspeakably delicious burrito from Chipotle – Jesus made them, they’re for Jesus.
The lawn and the mower which provide such a good days work for me – for Jesus and by Jesus.
But does that mean I can’t have any of that? Why do I get to partake in them?
The New Testament talks of disciples of Jesus being children of God, and in being children, also being heirs with Christ. (See James 2:5, Romans 8:17, Titus 3:7, Ephesians 3:6.)
Granted, those are referring mostly to a spiritual inheritance in which, by the grace and mercy of God, believers in Jesus are no longer doomed to hell. But in the meantime, what’s to be done with our physical world? Are we not to still rule and subdue it, as was the original command in the garden?
I believe that the answer to that question is yes. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul talks about some people who will try to require others to abstain from certain kinds of food that God intended us to receive with thanksgiving, because everything He made is good. It’s another thing Paul addressed in Colossians, as well – that as believers under grace, we aren’t subject to judgment concerning what we eat or drink or touch. (contextually speaking, Paul also adds that abstaining from these things has an appearance of wisdom, but they’re of no value in stopping the ‘indulgence of the flesh’ – in other words, the issue is less in the partaking and more in the reason for partaking. IE. Gluttony is unhealthy, but enjoying a bar of chocolate to savor it and enjoy it is a good thing; drunkenness is wrong, but enjoying a good beer is harmless, etc.)
All that to say – enjoy the things you enjoy. Realize that it is by grace that God has given us the very things that were made by Jesus and belong to Jesus, and receive your food, drink, whatever other pleasures you enjoy with thanksgiving.