What to Do With Our Desires

Understanding desire in light of the Christian life.

Barclay Prime sells the most expensive cheesesteak in the U.S. While most cheesesteaks cost eight to 10 bucks, this one sells for 120 dollars. The sandwich features A5 Wagyu beef, served on a sesame roll with truffle butter, and topped with rich blend of Italian cheese. Some reviewers love it, claiming it is the best they have had and worth the price. Others refuse to pay that much for a cheesesteak. Some marketing experts give Barclay Prime props for launching a sandwich that creates buzz (see Jonah Berger’s book Contagious). After all, I am writing about the sandwich now and they are enjoying some “free press.” But as good as the sandwich may be, it does not satisfy fully. Not ultimately. Barclay Prime can promise Wagyu and truffle butter but it cannot promise that, “If you eat this meal, you will never experience hunger again.”

Jesus has promised this though. Jesus claimed that he is the ultimate meal, and if you come to him you will never be hungry again. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again.” When Jesus said we would not be hungry again, he was not speaking about physical hunger. He was speaking about our desires, our hunger for happiness. All of us are on a pleasure and happiness quest, and there are two ways people typically navigate the quest.

One approach is to surrender.

Let’s call this the “green light” way of living. You have a “green light” to surrender to any desire you have. This thinking is not new. In philosophy this is Epicureanism—named after the Greek philosopher Epicurus who believed pleasure was the highest good. Green-lighters say go for the cheesesteak and anything else that brings pleasure to your taste buds.

Another approach is to squelch.

Let’s call this “red light” way of living. You should live a “red light” life of denial for the betterment of yourself and others. In philosophy this is Stoicism and the highest virtue is unselfishness and the most happiness come from denying yourself to give to others or denying yourself for the greater good. Red-lighters say deny your cravings for the cheesesteak, and things like it, for the sake of the common good.

Jesus’ promise is bigger and greater than these two options. If you live a “green light” life there will always be a new pleasure on the horizon, some new experience to chase or possession to acquire. You will never be fully satisfied. If you live a “red light” life, you will fall short of your own ideals. You will never be able to sacrifice enough.

The Christian way is to seek ultimate pleasure.

John Piper famously coined the phrase “Christian Hedonism” and has faithfully preached that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” The way to seek ultimate pleasure is to seek him. Christ has created us to crave, but our cravings will only be satisfied in him. C.S. Lewis wrote this:

“It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Don’t settle by surrendering to your desires or squelching them. Find satisfaction in Christ. Right before Jesus claimed to be the “Bread of Life,” he fed 5,000 men with two fish and five loaves of bread, the content in a kid’s lunchbox. After everyone ate and was full, the disciples collected the leftovers. There were leftovers. There was more food than there was hunger. And there is more Jesus, as the Bread of Life, than there is hunger in us.

Read more from Eric Geiger »

This article originally appeared on EricGeiger.com.