Does the Bible say it's all right to enjoy pleasures?

Greetings and God bless all who read this thread. :slight_smile:
I seek help in giving reassurance to a friend.

My friend, who used to be an atheist, is now a Christian. He’s had a long-term problem with free-floating anxiety, leading to specific fears and anxieties about the right way to serve God. He’s been dealing with his worries and fears by searching Scripture for evidence to refute them, with considerable success thus far. (He believes in Sola Scriptura.)
Lately he’s begun worrying that he’s not supposed to have anything of his own, nor indulge in pleasures or recreations:; that God expects him - expects all Christians - to live an ascetic lifestyle.

I’m looking for answers to offer him, to relieve his fears. What I need is convincing arguments from Scripture that God does not expect an ascetic life from all His children, and that reasonable recreation and pleasure are acceptable to Him.

What passages from Scripture do you know of, that show God is pleased when His children can enjoy life?

From the bible:
Ecclesiastes 3 verses 1, 4, 9-13

1)"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens…

  1. a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance…

  2. What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.
13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God."

You may wish to remind him that Jesus visited and had meals with friends, like Mary Martha and Lazarus,
that Jesus went to a wedding feast (Cana)

Maybe his fears are well-founded. Granted, all Christians are not called to be cloistered barefoot monks who sleep on beds of nails, but we are all called to deny ourselves and take up our cross–which is irksome to our fallen nature. Still, you can assure him “My yoke is easy and my burden light” (our love for God makes sacrifices seem sweet).

Or perhaps your friend is afraid that God wants us to be *miserable *. Can I recommend a good book? If you can get him to read Why the Cross? by Fr. Edward Leen, it addresses this thoroughly and gives some very good and practical teaching. Some excerpts from Chapter Two:

“To many, religion appears to demand actual misery as a condition of future well-being. This is a totally mistaken view… God does not demand unhappiness as the price of happiness. He plans happiness here as a prelude and foretaste of happiness hereafter. … He created man not only for an existence that should endure always, but for an existence that should be a veritable life throughout its whole duration."

I think something like this might be more helpful than just giving him a list of verses to pit against his. As long as you keep him in a sola scriptura mindset, he will find verses that seem to validate his view (whatever view that happens to be).

Another suggestion-- introduce him to a good and holy religious, say a Franciscan or Dominican friar who is living a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Ask the friar if he’s happy and why.

One readily comes to mind, “Whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life”. The overall takeaway message of the Bible seems to be quite stern, I agree if you read between the lines, infer stuff and see things that are implied, you can find justifications for fun, pleasure, happiness. But I still think the Bible is more about dolorism and self-denial than it is about anything else. The one thing that puzzles me most is how killing in self-defense is not antithetical to the “turn the other cheek” and stoic passivity that seems to be required of us.

Psalm 104:14-15
He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth,
15 And wine that makes glad the heart of man,
Oil to make his face shine,
And bread which strengthens man’s heart.

Yes, it’s okay to enjoy things. It’s part of the reason that they exist, to be enjoyed.

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