Proverbs 21:17

Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man;
he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.

This would seem to be a proverb supporting the ascetic, stoic life. Its emphasis, however, is not contrasting pleasure with stoicism, but warning about a life devoted to physical pleasure. In such a pursuit the individual loses common sense. He thinks only of today and does not prepare for tomorrow, thus ending up in poverty. He slacks off from work and stops working altogether. The person who lives for the weekend or the happy hour is not giving due attention to his labors which he devalues.

Indeed, the irony of the lover of pleasure is that he misses out on what is truly pleasurable. True pleasure is found in doing what is meaningful and in taking delight in what is of greater value. And the real poverty that awaits the lover of physical pleasure is that he becomes impoverished spiritually. Nothing is more tragic than to look back over one's life and realize it was a wasted life.

Love pleasure, but love the pleasure of pleasing your Lord by doing his will. Love the pleasure that comes from knowing the love of the Lord, from knowing his majesty, from exploring his character and his work. Such a pursuit only enriches you whatever may happen physically. Better yet, such a pursuit leads you into eternal pleasure.

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