Over the last couple of months we have looked at two simple but significant principles that wise and wealthy King Solomon discovered were important in enjoying a satisfying and meaningful life: (1) Enjoy the present, and (2) Enjoy people. The third principle he discovered is equally simple yet profound: Enjoy pleasure.
The word pleasure can have negative connotations, especially if we think of a life devoted to the selfish and reckless pursuit of pleasure as an end in itself. But pleasure can also be viewed from a positive perspective as well. How is pleasure a gift?
First of all, enjoying pleasure satisfies a basic human need. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” goes the proverb. Not only does it make him a dull boy, but it also makes him an unnatural boy. Ultimately it may harm his health. Pleasure relaxes the mind and refreshes the body, enabling us to enjoy a full and balanced life.
Secondly, the enjoyment of true pleasure can enable us to savour the beauty that is part of our daily lives. Pleasure can be experienced and enjoyed in the simple, ordinary and innocent things of everyday life. A delicious meal, a child’s smile, a beautiful sunset – and the list could go on and on – the appreciation of these gifts from God can be a source of real pleasure. After sampling all that the world had to offer materially, Solomon declared, “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad” (Ecclesiastes 8:15).
Thirdly, the experience of pleasure can extend to our work as well, whatever the vocation or setting might be. Solomon reflected, “So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work (Ecclesiastes 3:22), and he shared this observation on a number of occasions. His words remind me of a powerful quotation from a speech by the American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr:
“Not all men are called to specialised or professional jobs; even fewer rise to the heights of genius in the arts and sciences; many are called to be labourers in factories, fields and streets. But no work is insignificant. All labour that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
Receiving pleasure from one’s work is one of the precious gifts of life.
In conclusion, Solomon encourages us to enjoy the gift of life and live it to the full as God intended, and may that be the experience of each one of us.