Whoever loves pleasure will become poor;
whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.
This would seem to be a proverb supporting the ascetic, stoic life. Its emphasis, however, is not contrasting pleasure with stoicism, but warning about a life devoted to physical pleasure. In such a pursuit the individual loses common sense. He thinks only of today and does not prepare for tomorrow, thus ending up in poverty. He slacks off from work and stops working altogether. The person who lives for the weekend or the happy hour is not giving due attention to his labors which he devalues.
Indeed, the irony of the lover of pleasure is that he misses out on what is truly pleasurable. True pleasure is found in doing what is meaningful and in taking delight in what is of greater value. And the real poverty that awaits the lover of physical pleasure is that he becomes impoverished spiritually. Nothing is more tragic than to look back over one’s life and realize it was a wasted life.
Love pleasure, but love the pleasure of pleasing your Lord by doing his will. Love the pleasure that comes from knowing the love of the Lord, from knowing his majesty, from exploring his character and his work. Such a pursuit only enriches you whatever may happen physically. Better yet, such a pursuit leads you into eternal pleasure.
I said, “I will watch my ways
and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth
while in the presence of the wicked.”
2 So I remained utterly silent,
not even saying anything good.
But my anguish increased;
3 my heart grew hot within me.
While I meditated, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:
4 “Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure.[b]
6 “Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be.
7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.
8 Save me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the scorn of fools.
9 I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
for you are the one who has done this.
10 Remove your scourge from me;
I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
11 When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin,
you consume their wealth like a moth—
surely everyone is but a breath.
12 “Hear my prayer, Lord,
listen to my cry for help;
do not be deaf to my weeping.
I dwell with you as a foreigner,
a stranger, as all my ancestors were.
13 Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again
before I depart and am no more.”