Hedonism (James 5:5)

You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.” (James 5:5, ESV)

One of the wealthiest men I ever personally knew drove a two-year-old Buick sedan. There was nothing special about the car. In fact, it was quite plain. He lived in a nice home in a nice neighborhood, but it was not extravagant. His attire was always neat, but he did not wear a $400 suit. For the casual observer, he appeared to be someone just like you and me. However, he was wealthy. God had blessed this man financially. This man used this wealth for the glory of God. He gave grants to start-up churches to purchase property. He helped a missionary family who came back from the field purchase a home in the states. He gave of his abundance in many ways. Only a few knew of the things he did. He never flaunted his giving. He was a man that was not guilty of self-indulgence. His life’s goals were much higher than most of ours are. They were eternal.

Now, I do not begrudge one who works hard to make money the enjoyment that money affords. If one has been blessed financially, there is nothing wrong with taking a nice vacation in a beautiful place or visiting an extravagant location. There is nothing wrong with living in a nice home or having a nice car if you can afford it. However, to live in extravagance with no perspective on what really matters is a problem. It is the problem of self-indulgence, hedonism. Hedonism is the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the chief aim in life. I worked with a man once whose goal in life was to own a helicopter, a Lamborghini and live in a mansion. He lived by this hedonistic philosophy.

James continues in his rebuke of the rich by speaking of their problem of self-indulgence. The word “self-indulgence,” spatalaw, refers to excessively indulging one’s own wants and appetites. Their huge problem was one of their hearts. They did not have an eternal perspective. Paul wrote of such a problem when contending with those who denied the resurrection, “If the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32, ESV). The hedonists have a significant problem when it comes to faith. They do not see the truth of eternity, the validity of the gospel, and their future. Their eyes are only on this life and not focused on Christ.

Paul in speaking of those who say there is no resurrection also alludes to a serious warning in these words. Without an eternal perspective, they might as well jump fully into hedonism for “tomorrow they will die.” The scary part of this is that after they die, they will face the judgment of God. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, AV). This is the point to which James alludes when he stated, “You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.” The “day of slaughter,” refers to the day of God’s fierce judgment and these who have indulged themselves with no view of eternity will find themselves wanting at that judgment.

We all have been blessed in many ways. Let us never lose our eternal focus. This life is but for a moment and in this life, we have the opportunity to influence people for all eternity. Let us not subject ourselves to a life of misery for the sake of pretense, but also let us not live as the hedonist. Let us live as those destined for the throne. Let us remember where we will spend eternity and store up treasure for ourselves there.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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