Not all lawful pleasures are necessarily helpful, as seen in a cartoon.

St. Paul wrote, All things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient (1 Cor 6:12). “Expedient” here means useful, profitable, or helpful.

Of course St Paul does not refer in this verse to things which violate the moral law of God, but rather to things which, while lawful, may not be helpful. For it sometimes follows that was is fine for others causes harm to me. A glass of wine is good, but not for an alcoholic. A few potato chips are tasty and good, but some struggle to eat them in moderation and should stay away. Others struggle with salt or or sugar, both gifts of God but not helpful for those with hypertension or diabetes. I love peanut butter, but I cannot eat it in moderation so I don’t eat it at all. Making extensive travels may be fun and enriching, but not perhaps for someone who has duties to stay close to home and care for children.

Learning that all things are not helpful or expedient is a wisdom that saves us a lot of trouble.

Let us be clear again, this this does not refer to transgressions of the moral law. St Paul is not saying unchastity, or wrathful anger, or greed etc are “lawful” and thus above criticism. These sorts of things ought be critiqued and corrected along with a call to repent.

But even for lawful pleasures, a certain care is necessary. And thus Paul speaks of accepting that not all available pleasures are for us, or to be indulged just because we want them. Other factors such as health, safety, charity toward others, cost, the relationship of some pleasure to other duties, etc are all factors that may make a lawful pleasure inexpedient.

I thought of all this when I saw this video. It features a youngster with a strange horn protruding from his head. Perhaps it is a devilish horn of some sin or addiction. At any rate he sees others eating ice cream and seeks some for himself. But the ice cream man warns him that this pleasure is not for him for some unknown reason related to the horn. This pleasure is lawful, but for him it is not expedient.

But the youngster has a melt down, a temper tantrum and the ice cream man relents. As you will see in the video, the youngster suffers the effects. For, as St. Paul says, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient.”

6 Replies to “Not all lawful pleasures are necessarily helpful, as seen in a cartoon.”

  1. So this is what the Lord showed me… I wanted to share it with you. I hope you don’t think it is irrelevant, I think you do understand and when we seem abandoned, He reaches out to us and we become His miracle, always… “that’s the heart of it”. Please Google:

    Land of 10,000 Stories: Dying man finds miracle in abandoned church

  2. It’s a pity that the total abstinence movement ruined the word ‘temperance’, which describes exactly what you are advocating. GK Chesterton (whose standards were probably a bit generous!) spellled out beautifully what temperance really means in the matter of drink: ‘We give thanks to God for the gifts of beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them.’

    1. It wasn’t a total abstinence movement, it was truly a temperance movement. Unfortunately, they didn’t include maximum alcohol content in the amendment but left it up to the US House and Senate, which was made up of those in favor of abstinence. In Scandinavia they passed true temperance about the same time as the US passed its Constitutional Amendment. In the 1980s when I studied this they still had their laws on the books limiting the alcoholic content of drinks to less than 5%.

  3. The evolution of the human intellect is an interesting progression when coupled with our salvation history. God did inscribe in our hearts the Natural Law so that without any divine revelation, we could infer the existence of God through our own human reason. Isn’t that what Aristotle concluded with the ‘prime mover?’ In the fullness of time, covenants, prophets, his Son, we have the completion of his revelation.

    Likewise in our human design God gave us base instincts, the lower appetite, for our basic survival. The need for food, the need for reproduction. However an untamed, uncontrolled, lower appetite can destroy the body and soul. I am hungry so do I choose the poached salmon and steamed broccoli or the bacon double cheese burger with fries and strawberry shake? Again in the fullness of time we can see how his revelation orders our lives so we can make the right choice. A well formed conscience, strength in the virtues, helps us to make the right choice and avoid the near occasion of sin.

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