“We are far too easily pleased”
June 15, 2020 | Joshua Wilson
In 1941, C.S. Lewis preached a sermon called “The Weight of Glory,” which is also published as one of his more well-known works. And in the famous introduction to this sermon, Lewis gives a picture that has stuck with me ever since I read it and has radically changed my thinking.
“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
We are far too easily pleased? Our desires aren’t too strong but too weak? This seems directly contradictory to what we naturally think of when we think of the Christian walk.
When we think about our struggle with sin, when we think about the Christian life, we think that it’s all about forsaking pleasure. If we’re given to drunkenness, we think it’s because our desire for drink is just so great. If we’re given to sexual immorality, we think it’s because our desire for sex is just so great. But Lewis argues that we don’t actually get this idea from the Bible but from Kant and the Stoics; the staggering claim that he makes is that our biggest problem is not that our desires are too strong but that our desires are too weak. Our biggest problem is not that we have too much pleasure, but that we settle for far too little.
And with this well-known and memorable line, he drives it home: “We are far too easily pleased.” We all are pleasure-seekers. That’s why sin holds such an appeal to us. We sin because we are sinners, yes, and we have all bought into the lie that sin will give us something we want. In Genesis 3, Eve “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise” (3:6), which is what led to her eating the fruit. We willingly and eagerly indulge in sin because we buy the lie that it will satisfy us, please us, give us what we want, and make us happy. But Lewis is pointing out that we’re even bad at seeking our own pleasure because if we were really serious about it, we wouldn’t settle for making mud pies in a slum when a holiday at the sea is offered to us! We’re so caught up in the faux-pleasure of our sin that we don’t pay any attention to the invitation to come to Christ.
So the Spirit’s work in us is to open our eyes to see Christ as supremely beautiful and precious. The Spirit enables us to take pleasure in Christ and treasure Him. God is the most supremely enjoyable Being in the universe, and through Christ, we can come to Him and delight in Him forever.
When we sin, it is a declaration that, in this moment, we think this sin will bring us more pleasure than Christ. And understanding this can radically alter our mindset of battling sin. As John Piper has said,
“… we fight fire with fire. We throw against the promises of sin the promises of God. We take hold of some great promise God made about our future and say to a particular sin, ‘Match that!’”
Friends, our biggest problem is not that our desire for sin is too big but that our desire for Christ is too little. Our biggest problem is not that we take too much pleasure from sin but that we take too little pleasure in Christ.
We are far too easily pleased.