Behind the wisdom writer’s call to joy is a deep-seated belief in a theology of celebration. The God of Israel called his people to joy. God’s people were to eat and drink and rejoice in his presence (when they brought tithes to the LORD). Even told to buy “fermented” or “strong drink.” What?! Nehemiah told the people not to weep and mourn, but to eat and drink, “for the joy of the LORD is our strength”. Jesus told stories of a joyful, party-throwing shepherd who found his lost sheep, and a celebrating woman who found her lost coin, and a village chief who as a father calls for a city-wide feast when his lost son came home. And there was “music and dancing” (Luke 15)!
We sorely need a theology of joy and celebration . . . For many, there is a religious knee-jerk response of guilt to every experience of joy. “There will be no joy without guilt in this house…in this church!” Years ago I got a call from a local Bible school telling me that their students could no longer attend our church because we held a square dance during the Fall season. Drabness and dullness are next to holiness. I don’t know where these ideas crept into the faith, but they certainly did not come from the Bible or from Jesus.
I think Christian kill-joys perpetuate the ancient heresy of gnosticism. Gnosticism promoted the idea that the flesh is bad and the spirit is good. So anything that is bodily or “fleshly” enjoyable—eating good fun and drinking good wine and celebrating good sex—has to be frowned upon. Only prayer and Bible reading and being quiet are holy, and certainly abstaining from sex is very holy. Yet, it was heretics who forbade those things according to the Apostle Paul . . .
(HT: Transforming Sermons)