Epicurus was a philosopher who died around 270 BC. To try to describe all aspects of his beliefs would be beyond my skill and most readers interest. However a few points bear mentioning. His philosophy held that the soul dissolved at death, showing no concern therefore in eternity. While there were gods, they were at best, uninterested with this world. This was a very common belief of the time and continues even to this day. Because this life was all that there was and the belief that the gods did not care there was the mind set that emphasized pleasure as the goal in life. The old saying, “Eat and drink for tomorrow we die” comes from this philosophy.
This belief is found in various forms today in the church. The causes are many but the effects are seen in various ways. One would be the emphasis upon the here and now in the messages and those who seek out those messages. “How-to” sermons abound today and most focus upon feel-good ideas that have no thought toward eternity or the fact that we are aliens and strangers in this world.
One common aspect is in the decision-making process that too many use in their day to day lives. You hold to an Epicurean view of life if the primary basis for your decision is whether it brings you pleasure. Why does that young man and woman end up so often in the back seat of the car? Well it certainly isn’t for a prayer meeting nor is it to ascertain the comfort of potential passengers in the future. It is to, as James calls it in chapter 4, ‘spend it on their pleasures.’ Why is it so easy for some to mouse-click on that site that you know contains the very immorality that God forbids to even be named among us? Pleasure for the here and now. Can you see the Epicurean thinking in the observations of Solomon in “the words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body” (Proverbs 26:22)? You find that hearing about the latest failings of Sally or Fred brings pleasure, pleasure is what you desire, therefore, you eat those dainty morsels and then lick your fingers like any good glutton. How many divorces have occurred simply because of one’s desire for happiness?
This penchant for pleasure, with little or no care for the future, is not only in the obvious things as described above. There are those nasty little pleasures that don’t look so pleasurable. It might be diet and exercise simply for the pleasure of looking better than all others. Or the incessant trimming and cutting of the various living objects in the yard for the pleasure of being the best house on the block (at least visually).
Sin brings much pleasure. But for many, the situation is like the naive young man of Proverbs 7, because he lacks sense listens and then submits himself to the wiles of a harlot. When we last see this man he is described as being as an ox led to the slaughter. What is the issue here? I would submit that this young man bought into the very argument that Epicurus would teach a thousand years or so later. Pleasure is more important than sense.
Epicureanism is alive and well. What is the May we kill it in our own hearts by going to the Cross and denying ourselves and following our Lord in cross-bearing. May we grow in our knowledge of wisdom and truth. I leave you with the prayer of Paul that we all should begin to pray for ourselves and our churches: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11)