Here is a question for our modern world: Is it possible to enjoy something merely for what it is and not for its outcome or what good it serves? Or asked another way, are there some things that are enjoyable just because they are good and we need not explain why?
More and more, our modern world answers this question “No.” Being happy and enjoying isn’t enough. The modern world not only needs a deeper purpose for value but we need that purpose explained to us. We want life broken down into working parts that make sense and if we can’t find a reasoned, explainable, answer to our happiness, we start to sweat. We need more reasons, more efficiency, more results. “Because its good,” just isn’t going to cut for us. This is modernity in all its microwavable glory. Similarly to microwaves, reasoning, efficiency, and results, are good and valuable but shouldn’t determine the value and goodness of all things we encounter, participate in, people we meet, and places we go.
As Christians, we above all should enjoy things for what they are, and be content and satisfied with enjoying things for what they are because God made them what they are and as they are. It’s not a sign of health, but rather of sickness, to scrutinize and seek to justify the long term benefit and profit of each book we read, for every Bible reading plan we use, for every get together with friends, family, co-workers and others.
Would that we would simply enjoy reading the Bible or any other good book and not see it as fuel to get us ready to encounter the world or to live a better life! Is it a requirement that we have plans and goals for all reading, or can the gift of reading be the goal? Can we get together with people because we like them and not be because we’re on mission? Can we talk with others about interests and causal things of life without fretting over whether we wasted the visit? For me a pastor, every visit and conversation doesn’t have to revolve around making contacts for the church. The same could apply for an entrepreneur or businessman.
We are becoming obsessed with intentionality, which is dangerous. We are forgetting that people are gifts from God that are to be received and not used for selfish gain. We are forgetting the Bible is God’s revealed Word to humanity and reading it is a gift to be received and enjoyed, not merely spiritual food or exercise that makes us healthy. This approach elevates parts of our life and lowers others in ways they aren’t meant to and can become a form of self justification and self pity. There is a time and place for everything under heaven as the Preacher once said in Ecclesiastes. There is a time and place for Bible reading, defense of Christianity, making contacts, growing the church, your business and practice, but not every time, in every situation.
There is a time to consider why, but after a while we know why. And when we know why, we need to say, “That sure was good,” give thanks to the Lord and be done. We don’t have to consider each time we eat why God gave food. If you want to be faithful and appreciative to God for the Bible, for food, for friends or anything else, then enjoy it and say thank you. The things of the earth are more than tools given for efficiency and profitability. They are necessary and needed, but what our modern world and the church in the modern world needs now isn’t more tools and systems.
We need more rest, more joy, more laughter, more feasting. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of goofiness and silliness in the world and unfortunately in the church. It strains the body and the soul and is a stain on the church. Be that as it may, the response isn’t to become serious stoics or to behave like caricatured Puritans. There is a time for lament reflection and somberness, but there is also a time for being appreciative, happy, joyous, laughing, being in awe and wonder. No matter where we are between lament to wonder, we are Christians and are to approach and enjoy this world as such. This is what makes the good life good because it reflects the Triune God. He is happy knowing that some things are good just as they are, so we should enjoy them just as they are.
Imagine going to the zoo and underneath the arm or tied to every animal there is an explanation as to why that animal has that pattern of fur, those colored feathers, that face with that nose, or those fins. Isn’t the mystery and peculiarity the fun of the zoo for children? Why shouldn’t we adults enjoy things like this and consider it a gift of God that each time we say “wow!” He doesn’t stop to explain why He made toucans with such weird looking beaks or why He made pasta so much better than beets or why He’s made countless other things great just the way they are—shaded in mystery. God is known and knowable but only what He allows us to know can be found. There is much of God that is still a mystery to finite creatures. It’s time we believe this and by believing this we can enjoy God’s world the way we are to enjoy Him.