…lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God….
— 2 Timothy 3:4
It can seem a little heavy when we’re reading Paul’s list of characteristics of society in the last days, especially when the Greek words he used in that text are expounded on and looked at more deeply, as we are doing in these series of Sparkling Gems. But one thing is sure: The Holy Spirit did not inform us of these details so we would be worried or afraid and hide from the world. He forewarned us of these things in advance so we could spiritually reinforce ourselves to live victoriously and free until Jesus returns!
The Holy Spirit considers it important for us to know these things in advance, or He wouldn’t have dedicated so much time and space to this subject. That’s why we must give heed to His words and study them out fully so we can grasp their meanings to the greatest extent possible.
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As Paul continued to bring illumination regarding events that will occur in society in the last days, he next wrote that people will become “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” Let’s delve deeply into these words and phrases today to see what gems of truth we can extract from the Greek that will broaden our understanding.
The words “lovers of pleasure” are a translation of the Greek word philodonos, which is a compound of two words, phileo and hedonos. The first word, phileo, is a well-known word that conveys the ideas of affection and love. It can denote an affection so deep that it even embraces the idea of romance and is from the same root word that means to kiss.
Frequently in the Greek language, the word phileo is compounded with other words to form new meanings, as it is with the word philodonos. The following are examples:
- Philadelphos: You may recognize this word because it is where we get the name of the great city of Philadelphia on the east coast of the United States. It is actually a New Testament word that is a compound of the words phileo and adelphos. The word phileo means to deeply, profoundly, and affectionately love, while the word adelphos is the Greek word for a brother. When compounded, they form the word philadelphos, which means brotherly love.
- Philosophia: The word philosophia is a compound of the words phileo and sophos. As noted, the word phileo means to love or to have a deep, profound affection. The word sophos is the word for wisdom. When these two words are compounded, they form the word philosophia. This is where we get the word philosophy, which describes a deep and profound love of wisdom.
- Philoxenos: The word philoxenos is a compound of the words phileo and xenos. The second part of this word is xenos, which is the ancient Greek word for a stranger or foreigner. When the words phileo and xenos are compounded, they form the word philoxenia, a word that expresses the idea of a person who has a special love for strangers or love for foreigners.
- Philostorgos: The second part of this word is storgos — the Greek word for a commitment or devotion to one’s family. When the words phileo and storgos are compounded, the new word depicts a person who has a deep affection and sense of commitment for his family.
- Philanthropia: In this word, the word phileo is compounded with the word anthropos, the word for mankind or humankind. The word anthropos is where we get the word anthropology or an anthropologist. But when the Greek word phileo is compounded with the word anthropos, it depicts a love for humanity. From this, we get the word philanthropist, which describes a wealthy person who generously gives his resources or money for the betterment of humanity.
- Philarguria: Here we see the word phileo compounded with the word arguria. The word arguria is the old word for silver or money. When arguria is compounded with phileo, the new word philarguria depicts a love of silver or an affection and love of money.
In Second Timothy 3:4, Paul compounded the word hedonos with the word phileo to tell us people in the last days will become “lovers of pleasure.” Because the word phileo means to have a deep, profound love and can convey the notion of a romantic preoccupation, this emphatically forecasts that people in the last days will be preoccupied with and in love with the pleasure and the pursuit of happiness. But let’s look deeper at the word hedonos to get the full picture!
The word hedonos is only used five times in the New Testament, and each time, it conjures up the picture of people completely preoccupied with pleasure and who live for the gratification of their flesh and their own personal happiness. The English Dictionary says “hedonism” is the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good; addiction to and obsession for pleasure as a way of life. Paul used the Greek word philodonos to say that society in the last days will become “lovers of pleasure” or that they will become preoccupied and obsessed with the pursuit of their own comfort, pleasure, and happiness.
The truth is, there has never been a generation in history with more material goods or comfort than this present generation. Yet despite this glut of goods and pursuit of pleasure, the worldwide happiness index is the lowest on record, especially in the industrialized world where material goods abound.
It is very clear that self-centered living does not produce happiness. In fact, the highest rating on the happiness index is in developing Third World nations where goods are scarcer, but where commitment to “one’s personal faith” is higher.
There is no doubt about it! Because Paul used the word philodonos — which means “lovers of pleasure” — he was emphatically declaring that people in the last days will be obsessed with pleasure.
It is unfortunate that even Christians are often obsessed with comfort and pleasure to such an extent that they don’t want to be asked to do anything that would inconvenience them. But this should not be the case.
Here’s the bottom line: God is more concerned about your obedience than He is about your happiness. Happiness is fleeting, but obedience to God and His Word produces a long- term joy that is unaffected and unwavering.
A doctrine has permeated the Church in recent years that says God wants them to be happy above all else. Such teaching ignores the fact that the Gospel frequently calls for us to die to ourselves, to deny ourselves, and to even pick up our cross and carry it (see Luke 9:23). Obeying this call of God to pick up our cross and carry it means that we will often be required to take the road of sacrifice — to humble ourselves and even lay down our “rights” for the sake of others.
This errant doctrine that we are entitled to be “happy” erroneously leads people to avoid any decision or take any action that inconveniences their schedule, plans, or comfort. This is ultimately a doctrine of selfishness that justifies self-focus and non-service. Yet if we obey the demands put forth by the Gospel, these demands will make our flesh suffer — for in order for us to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, it will necessitate that we mortify the deeds and demands of the flesh.
But according to Paul’s words in Second Timothy 3:4, the pursuit of “happiness” will become the chief goal of people at the end of this age. Of course, God wants us to be satisfied in life, but that which Paul wrote about in this verse is far beyond that. It was a prophetic declaration that people in the last days will become completely consumed with themselves and that their own happiness will drive them to unequaled selfishness.
Second Timothy 3:4 says this love of pleasure will even supersede love for God. No one would ever claim to love pleasure more than God, but as my mother told me when I was growing up, a person’s actions speak louder than his words. A person’s actions always reveal the truth about what he or she loves most. This verse tells us that love of pleasure will become so widespread that people will be more devoted to their own pleasure and pursuit of happiness than they are in love with God.
Paul wrote that people will be lovers of pleasure “more than” lovers of God. The words “more than” are a translation of the Greek word mallon, which draws a drastic comparison between two points, denoting something that is extremely different in comparison to something else.
In context, this means people will be excessive lovers of pleasure — much, much more than they are lovers of God. In fact, their desire for their own pleasure will be so great that it will far surpass their devotion, respect, and service to God. In the last days, people’s thinking will not be ruled by what is morally right or morally wrong or what is pleasing or displeasing to God, but by the question: How will this decision or action affect my own personal comfort, pleasure, or happiness?
God is not against our being blessed or enjoying nice possessions, as long as we hold them in our hands and don’t allow them into our hearts. But when the acquisition of possessions becomes an obsession and takes first place in our lives, thereby affecting our obedience to God and His Word, it is wrong. In fact, it has become a form of idolatry. We have crossed a line that is a serious violation in the eyes of God.
The words “lovers of God” in Greek is the word philotheoi. The first part of this word is phileo, and as noted earlier, it means to love or to be deeply affectionate. The second part of the word is word theos, the Greek word for God. But when these two words are compounded, as Paul does in this verse, the new word pictures people who are deeply and profoundly in love with God.
Jesus said that at the end of the age, people would be preoccupied with buying, selling, etc. This will be the condition of the unbelievers in the last days, but it does not have to be our condition. Especially as we draw near to the coming of Jesus, we must do everything we can to guard our hearts and keep them free from selfishness and greed. We must focus on Jesus and keep our priorities aligned with His Word.
Soon everything in this world will pass away, and only those things that were done for Jesus will remain. In light of this awesome truth, it is imperative that we examine our hearts to determine our real spiritual condition. If we find areas that need improvement, the Holy Spirit will help us correct those areas that are out of sync with Him!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, it is very clear that self-centered living does not produce happiness. As believers in Jesus Christ, we have been commanded to live according to the law of love — and love does not seek its own. Father, I repent right now for each time I have been more focused on doing what resulted in convenience for me rather than doing what produced obedience to You. Today I make a fresh commitment to deny myself, to pick up my cross, and to follow Jesus Christ as my Lord and example in all things. Holy Spirit, I ask You to open the eyes of my understanding and teach me how to truly seek first Your Kingdom and not my comfort, to pursue Your holy ways instead of temporal pleasures.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I declare that nothing may surpass my devotion, respect, and service to God. I purpose in my heart that my thoughts and actions will reflect a sanctified heart that desires to please God rather than to gratify self-indulgent preferences for personal comfort or gain. I choose to be conformed to Jesus Christ and not to the culture of the world around me. I put first things first and establish my priorities based on what will honor God, build His Kingdom, strengthen His Church, and ransom lost souls for whom Christ died.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- The Bible says people will become lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. It is possible, then, that they love God, but they love pleasure and self-gratification more than they love Him. Have you considered what dominates your own thoughts, desires, and pursuits? In light of your answer to that question, which do you love more — God or pleasure?
- Can you think of ways that entertainment has found its way into the local church so that people come to church more for entertainment than for God? What would happen if this entertainment factor was suddenly eliminated? What do you think would happen to church attendance?
- It is easy to point a finger at others, but what is the Holy Spirit saying to you about this Sparkling Gem today?