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"HOUSE OF PLEASURE"
by Philip Owen

            The title grabs our attention, doesn’t it?  They are words quoted from a wise man, Solomon, who had visited every kind of house of pleasure known to man.  Although modern society has been characterized well as a pleasure-seeking culture, only the most zealous of devotees to pleasure could begin to hold a candle to Solomon, who had the wherewithal to indulge his every whim and did so with careless abandon for a long period of time.   Solomon’s fame had spread so far that the Queen of Sheba was provoked to visit his palace to discover for herself if the tales she had heard bore any semblance of truth.  The opulent magnificence of Solomon’s lifestyle left the Queen breathless (i.e., “there was no more spirit in her” [I Ki. 10:5]) and provoked her to exclaim, “behold, the half was not told me” (v. 7).  Put succinctly, no one is more qualified to talk about pleasure than is King Solomon. 

            Who is found at the house of pleasure?  Solomon’s statement is unequivocal, stripped of any nuance or qualification:  “The mind of the fool is in the house of pleasure” (Eccl. 7:4b).  Many people today live for one thing:  pleasure.  They see doing what pleases them as the summum bonum of their existence.  Many will state that fact in so many words; many more will live that way whether or not they verbalize the thought.  In truth, the governing principle in the life of the unregenerate is one of self-blessing.  Sadly, far too many of us who name the name of Christ have fallen prey to this way of thinking and living.  The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life exert far more influence on us than we are willing to admit.  We tend to be governed by our own desires rather than by the will of God as expressed in the Word of God.  We tend to compartmentalize our existence, effectively believing that reading the Bible, praying, attending church services, and witnessing when it is convenient constitute a faithful Christian life—that if we do those things then we are free to pursue our own desires the rest of the time.  But to live like that is to dwell in the house of pleasure.

Who is found at the house of pleasure?  Fools—as Solomon puts it:  “the mind of fools.”  Seeking our own desires, pursuing our own selfish ends, living for self is the very definition of foolishness.  The person who deceives himself into believing that satisfying his own desires will bring him happiness is a fool.  As Solomon wrote elsewhere (doubtless from bitter personal experience), “nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied” (Pro. 27:20b).  Pursuit of pleasure and pursuit of selfish desires result only in an ever-tightening downward spiral because when one pleasure ceases to satisfy, the flesh is prompted to seek another and another and another.  More and more is required to satisfy the need for pleasure until the dregs are drunk, the worst of sins explored.  And still the flesh remains unsatisfied by pleasure.

Believers may not go off the deep end and plumb the depths of sin (though that is possible), but how many of us constantly flirt with pursuing our own desires rather than fully and wholeheartedly obeying God’s Word?  Living for self to any degree is a fool’s errand:  it promises happiness but produces sadness; it promises sweetness but provides bitterness; it promises joy and satisfaction but produces sorrow and emptiness.  And every minute that we spend in the house of pleasure is a wasted minute that might have been used to serve the Lord and to produce eternal blessing.  How foolish is that?  We have Solomon’s experience to both guide and warn us.  And because his words are God-breathed, we have the testimony of the all-true God as well.  Whether in blessing or in suffering and trials, the wise recognize that the house of pleasure is a deceptive mirage and choose God’s house.

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