A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.
The key to this proverb is knowing what should be our desire. John Piper’s book, Desiring God, has seemed misguided, even heretical, to some because of his strong emphasis on fulfilling desire. His argument rests, however, on having right desires, namely the enjoyment of God. We are often left feeling unfulfilled, not because others have prevented us from obtaining our desires, but because we are, as C. S. Lewis notes, content with too little. We think temporal objects will fulfill us – a vacation, good food, sex, entertainment. But they cannot replace love, holy fear, peace with God, redemption. They cannot replace the invisible eternal, and they are only as satisfying as they give a taste of the eternal rest, eternal banquet, eternal joy that will someday be ours.
Fools are fools precisely because they take pleasure in what is evil. They think it is fun to act in shameful ways. Getting drunk is something to laugh about and even boast about. Illicit sex is exciting. Taking advantage of others fulfills inner desires to feel superior.
The folly of the world is that it upholds the first line of this proverb and deletes the second line. To live with passion is the fulfilled life according to the foolish world. A life worth living is a life lived with passion. That is the basic plot line of many movies in which a debauched character teaches a clean-cut character to “really” live, which always includes illicit sex and getting drunk.
Piper is right. The choice is not between living a life of desire or passion and that of living a dull life of good behavior. It is living a life of right desire.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By D. Marion Clark. © 2023 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org