The Biblical view of human life is that we are all made up of three components—mind, body, and soul.
Another way to think of this is to consider our lives in terms of an intellectual dimension, a physical dimension, and a spiritual dimension.
Prior to the twentieth century, most of Western society saw the importance of making certain that all three of these components were properly nurtured and developed. The prevailing belief was that the spiritual life was of primary importance, followed by the intellect, and then the physical body. This is not to suggest that the care of the body was not important, but reason recognized and acknowledged that the body slows down and deteriorates over time, while the mind and the soul have the potential to grow and flourish as time goes by.
Furthermore, the pre-modern world largely accepted the philosophical position that people’s lives are generally governed by the health and condition of their souls, which in turn impacts the well-being and quality of their lives.
The more modern perspective on these priorities has changed dramatically. The body and its desires—the sensual side of life—has become of primary importance in modern culture. We have elevated sensuality to the point that it has become the center of our lives, for so many it now provides the basic reason for living. Whether it is eating, drinking, pampering our bodies, or sexual activity, the sensual side of life seems to have trumped the intellectual and spiritual dimensions. In the process, emphasis on wisdom, character development, virtue, and a life of depth and substance has been swept away. Hedonism prevails.
Of course, the sensual side of life is not in and of itself bad; in fact, I would contend it is a vital part of the life God intended for His people. Our taste buds, our sexuality, a restful sleep are all wonderful gifts. The sensual pleasures of life when enjoyed within boundaries designed by God can provide great delight. Our sensual experiences are actually an essential part of our humanity.
Apostle Paul shared the important insight that “…we do not lose heart; though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (II Corinthians 4:16) Paul was declaring what we all know: our bodies are wasting away each day. However, the good news is that with each new day we have the opportunity to grow spiritually and to have our souls strengthened and renewed.
It strikes me, however, that so many people believe we are just one-dimensional beings. But clearly we are more than just a body with physical desires and needs. We have spiritual desires and needs as well. All of us yearn for love, joy, and peace. These are spiritual yearnings that can only be satisfied by God Himself.
But do you see what has happened? Humans are attempting to satisfy the spiritual yearnings of the soul with the physical pleasures of life. And it won’t work. It can’t work. The physical pleasures of life can never satisfy the spiritual longings of the soul.
In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis put it this way:
Over the centuries men have tried to invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside of God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history – greed, poverty, selfish ambition, war, prostitution, classes, brutal empires, slavery – the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
The reason why it can never succeed in this? God made us; invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. God designed humans to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way, without bothering to have a relationship with Himself. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.