Why Duty-Driven Religion is Miserable
My fiftieth anniversary is this December 21. I am going to show up at the front door, by surprise, coming home early, and I’m going to have behind my back, if I can manage it, fifty red roses. Pricey. And I’m going to ring my own doorbell, which I never do. It’s bitter cold by the way. It was five degrees when I left this morning. It will be December 21, and it will be cold. So this is crazy.
Ding-dong. She opens the door. All the kids are gone by the way. They live all over the place. It’s just Noël and me in this big house. Ding-dong. She opens the door and looks surprised. And I pull this mammoth bouquet out, and I say, “Happy anniversary, Noël!”
And she laughs out loud and says, “O Johnny, they’re beautiful. Why did you go to so much trouble?”
Now, suppose at that moment, I got a noble look on my face, and lifted my hands, and said, “It’s my duty. I read the manual. This is what good husbands do on their anniversary.” That’s the wrong answer, but you need to think very deeply why you laugh at duty. Duty is not an evil thing, and you’re laughing at it. And you should be. Why?
Let’s rerun the video, and I’ll try to give the right answer this time. Ding-dong. “Happy anniversary, Noël.”
“O Johnny, they’re beautiful. Why did you go to so much trouble?”
“Well, I can’t help myself because nothing makes me happier than buying roses for you. And by the way, why don’t you go get something really nice on, because I’ve got a plan for tonight, because there’s nothing I’d rather do than spend the evening with you.”
Do you think that Noël at that moment would say, “Nothing makes you happier? Nothing makes you happier than to spend the evening with me? Why don’t you think about me sometime and my happiness?”
Why would she not say that? I mean, she’s right. That’s what I said: “Nothing makes me happier than to buy roses for you. Nothing makes me happier than to spend the evening with you.” I’m totally into my happiness tonight.
Why would she not hear an arrogant, self-centered, self-exalting, selfish, me-centered John Piper and his Christian Hedonism junk? You all know why. You know exactly why: She is glorified in me when I am satisfied in her. She is honored when she has become my treasure and satisfies me. She’s honored, she’s glorified, she’s magnified, she’s made much of to the degree that she is my exceeding joy, and there’s nothing I’d rather do than spend the evening with her.
You know this. This is not some strange, weird thing John Piper concocted. All I do with Christian Hedonism is say that this is the principal at the core of the universe. God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.
And if you try to turn this universe into a duty religion, you will be miserable, and God will be dishonored. The world is in a very sad, sad condition because of that kind of effort.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, and most recently Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship.
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