Good Shepherd Community of Faith
An American Baptist and United Church of Christ
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Pleasure Without Conscience
7 Deadly Social Sins: Pleasure Without Conscience
Psalm 32; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Let us continue with Mahatma Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Social Sins. I suspect that some of you have found the first three to be rather boring. You may have wondered what Politics without Principle, Wealth without Work, and Commerce without Morality have to do with us. I can understand that. I tried to point out what they have to do with us, but sometimes when you have your own lives to worry about, it is difficult to care about those people out there. It’s hard to think about those politicians or those corporate giants, even when what they do so directly affects us.
Sometimes we tire of hearing about the troubles of the world, and we want to hear about sweet Jesus and how he will save us from our personal sins. But, first we need to confess our sins. We have to confess that sometimes we indulge in Pleasure without Conscience. As Stephen Covey says in his book Principle Centered Leadership, “The chief query of the immature, greedy, selfish, and sensuous has always been, ‘What’s in it for me? Will this please me? Will it ease me?’ Lately,” says Covey, “many people seem to want these pleasures without conscience or sense of responsibility, even abandoning or utterly neglecting spouses and children in the name of doing their thing.”
Thus, we must be like the Psalmist and acknowledge our sin, not hide our iniquity, but confess our transgressions to the Lord so that we can be forgiven. Now when talking about Pleasure without Conscience, keep in mind that I am no prude.
Lord knows I am just as guilty as anyone else. I have had my moments of seeking Pleasure without Conscience. I don’t do it so much anymore, but, oh, when I was young! Well, enough about that. No, on second thought, not “enough about that.” If I am going to impress upon you the sinfulness of seeking pleasure without having a sense of responsibility, I have to own up to my own mistakes.
When I was twenty years old, I boarded a bus to take me from my hometown in Ohio to Oakland, California. Now I didn’t have an inheritance to ask for like the prodigal son, so I had to get a job and earn my way, but, like the prodigal son, I spent the next four years of my life in “dissolute living,” to use the words from the New Revised Standard Version. Dissolute, according to the dictionary, is overindulging in physical pleasures in a way or to an extent that is considered immoral or harmful. Yes, dissolute living is what I was all about, and I did not take into consideration the harm I could be doing to myself or to others.
I drank way too much, partied way too long, and dated way too many guys. And, worst of all, I got behind the wheel after drinking way too much and partying way too long. All I can say is that God must have had bigger and better plans for me, because I am still alive to tell about it and so are my passengers as well as others who were on the road. I could have killed someone, and I thank God every day that I did not. And, I am thankful every day that God, like the father in the passage from Luke, is a forgiving God.
Today, I would never even consider doing the things I did then. But, are there ways in which I still indulge in Pleasure without Conscience? What about you? I no longer drink and drive, but I drive too fast and sometimes recklessly. I no longer smoke and expose those around me to second-hand smoke, but I prepare rich and high-caloric foods for my husband and our guests. I do not gamble and deprive my family of their needs, but I spend way too much on clothes and other unnecessaries. I don’t wear perfume because so many around me have allergies, but I thoughtlessly expose people to other allergens. Indeed, there are many ways in which I seek my own pleasure with little regard for the wants and needs of others.
So, what about you? Gary Cox in his sermon on the Seven Deadly Social Sins says “there are many examples of the way we are taught to pursue pleasure without the benefit of conscience.” He, however, wanted to focus on only one. He says, “If you watch television, from the daytime soaps to the daytime talk shows, to what passes as prime time entertainment, you will get one message loud and clear: recreational sex is America’s pastime.” And, as Cox points out, “it’s not just television. You can’t stand in a line at the grocery store without reading the cover blurbs on various magazines about how to attract the opposite sex, and once you’ve attracted them, how to provide them with such pleasure they won’t be able to help but call you back in search of yet more pleasure.”
Cox says, “As a culture, we’ve become obsessed with physical appearance and physical pleasure.” And, oh, how right he is. Have any of you seen “Two and a Half Men” on Monday nights? Now, as I said earlier, I am no prude, but this show has crossed the line. It is no longer just innuendo! The script is out and out blatant with its sexuality. The show makes it seem like making every woman a conquest is the whole purpose of life. If one believes the tabloids, Charlie Sheen even lives his real life in this way, and so do many, many others. You’re probably sick of hearing about Britney Spears, but talk about Pleasure without Conscience! Who suffers the most? Her two little children.
We may not be Charlie Sheen or Britney Spears or the prodigal son, who seek pleasure without considering the harm they do to themselves and others. But, we can certainly learn to be more aware of the consequences of our own actions. We can strive to do better, to be better people, and, most importantly, to teach our children and grandchildren that the Charlie Sheens and Britney Spearses of this world are not good examples. Pleasure is good. We certainly need more of it in our lives. But Pleasure without Conscience is a deadly social sin. Amen.