Is God a Killjoy?
Joshua reflects on the ways we are all tempted to pursue joy apart from God, why that is futile, and how true joy is only found in Christ alone.
Do you ever think that God is a killjoy who is all about rules?
I've heard people say that God is indeed a killjoy. When we think of God, we can often associate Him with rules that we have to follow. No alcohol. No swearing. No sex before marriage. No relationships with non-Christians. I’m sure you can think of more rules beyond this list.
Perhaps God is a killjoy because He seems to be constantly watching for when we mess up so He can punish us. He is like a harsh policeman who is always waiting for us to break the rules so that He can punish us. Just like with Pharaoh and the Egyptians in Exodus, God is about punishing those who oppose Him. Especially if we do not agree with God or His rules, the idea of being punished for not following them makes God one who is out to ruin our joy.
Well if you have ever thought like this, I hope that I can show you from the Bible that God is not a killjoy, but rather He desires your joy and can give you ultimate joy.
God’s Intended Joy
So let us first look at what God intended joy to look like in Genesis.
Genesis 1 and 2 tells us that God created everything, and He created it good.
And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Genesis 2 shows us a beautiful picture of what life was like at creation. God created mankind, Adam and Eve, and placed them in an amazing garden with everything they needed. Everything was created for Adam and Eve to thrive and be full of joy.
Imagine the best fruit you have ever tasted. You peel a banana and it is just the right firmness, not brown or rotten but perfect to eat. Or big juicy grapes that are firm and bursting with flavour the moment you bite into them. Or succulent oranges that ooze out juice. Or the sweetest most tender mangoes you have ever tasted. Or perhaps if you like durian, imagine eating durian that is rich and creamy, without the smell or aftertaste (or perhaps you like those things!)
God created these fruits and allowed Adam and Eve to enjoy any one of them! What more, He created everything that he needed and can enjoy with his five senses. From what we see here, God does not seem like a killjoy at all. God’s plan for mankind is paradise.
In paradise, God desires Adam and Eve's joy, so He gives Adam and Eve one rule for their protection: of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.
Death would be a killjoy and God does not want that for His creation.
From the very beginning, God desires joy! He created only good things and wants mankind to enjoy His creation. He wants us to experience the pleasures of life.
However the world we see today is a far cry from what I have described here…
Sin’s promise of joy
It did not take long for Adam and Eve to disobey God’s one rule. In the very next chapter in Genesis 3:6-7 we read this:
"So when the woman 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, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths."
Sin is when we decide that we know better than God, and in this passage we see that Adam and Eve thought they knew better than God. They believed that their own way would give them more joy than what God was already offering them.
What was the result of their sin? Shame, guilt and hiding from the good creator of everything. These are not joyful emotions.
Adam and Eve in deciding they knew better killed their own joy, and ironically it was because they thought God was a killjoy who withholds joy from them.
God does not enforce rules on us because He wants to take away our joy. He lovingly gives us rules to guard our joy.
You might think Adam and Eve are silly, but are you and I any better than them? As we go about our day to day lives and try to attain joy by our own ways, are we more joyful because of our decisions?
The Straits Times reported that in 2022, 1 in 3 young people in Singapore below the age of 18 have internalised mental health symptoms. On top of that, 2 in 5 people have personally experienced mental health struggles, and this statistic increases to 1 in 2 in young people aged 15 to 35. These are significant numbers particularly for our youth!
The rising rate of mental health problems, of depression, anxiety, loneliness and suicide that we see today show that life is not joyful. Even if we personally do not experience these struggles, we have interacted with someone who does.
Just the mere existence of these shows that there is a lack of joy in life. We do not have to look far to see that the world is not joyful, and this is because of sin, both our sin and the sin of others.
When we disobey and sin against God, we are deciding to look for joy apart from God. However sin falsely promises joy that is better than any joy God can give. It promises much but delivers little because the happiness that comes from our sins never lasts and often leaves us worse off. God is not the killjoy. Sin is.
Perhaps we need to re-evaluate what really brings joy, our way or God’s way.
When we turn away from the Giver of true joy, we cannot find lasting joy but rather end up in hell, a place where there is no joy. God's overwhelming desire of joy for His creation means that sin must be judged. Our sins that take away joy will need to be dealt with. Our sinful choices in life will have its consequences and will be judged.
Is there any hope for us?
Christ’s everlasting Joy
Jesus knew that our sinful life results in joylessness and death. But He loves and cares for us so much that He laid down his life and took the punishment we deserve because of our sin. He did this so that we could have joy.
This is why Jesus says in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."
Jesus promises that if we accept that we cannot find joy our own way and choose to accept His payment for our sins, we can once again have a joy filled life that God intended for us!
We will be back in the right relationship with the God of creation, the one who provides everlasting joy. Ultimate joy.
So there is hope for the joylessness in life. I am not saying that when you decide to trust in Jesus, all your problems go away immediately and you become instantly happy and joyful all the time. Rather what I am saying is that Jesus promises ultimate everlasting joy in heaven. For those who trust in Jesus, joylessness in life is temporary and you can cling to the hope of an ultimate joy which is waiting for you.
Additionally, the Christain life is full of joy. When we live the way that God (the ultimate joy giver) intended and designed life to be, we can begin to experience a life full of joy.
We enjoy a glass of wine or beer under the boundaries that God has given to us instead of being addicted to alcohol and dependent on it. Our words can be used to edify and useful for building up instead of cursing people. Sex is amazing and fulfilling in the confines of marriage and marriages are beautiful when husbands and wives are portraying Christ and the church.
There is a lot of joy when we live a Christian life under God’s rules. It is so much better than living life our own way.
Alternatively, you may be thinking that you’re already living a pretty joyful life now with your own decision, but you might want to consider that your joy on this earth is only temporary.
That amazing Michelin Star food lasts only one meal, then after a few hours you're hungry again. The amazing holiday in Japan lasts only as long as your annual leave. You enjoy your new clothes the first few times then they get old. The joys we experience in life are temporary. How much longer will your joy last? What joy will await you when all is said and done?
God desires ultimate and everlasting joy for you. Jesus offers us that joy when we turn from our sins and trust in Him. You have a choice between temporary joy and ultimate joy that lasts forever. Which will you choose?
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