Coffee, Joy, and the Goodness of God

God commands joy, delight, and thanksgiving in the things of earth he has graciously given us, even in something as simple as a cup of coffee.

In his book, Living Life Backwards: How Ecclesiastes Teaches us to Live in Light of the End, David Gibson draws our attention to a divine command given in Scripture that changes how you consider something as simple as a cup of coffee. It’s a command that can be easily overlooked:

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment (Eccl. 11:9).

Did you catch that? God commands joy, happiness, and delight! We have been divinely instructed to rejoice. Gibson notes that the last part of the verse could be a reminder to be careful how we pursue pleasures and not to get carried away by them. But he concludes (rightly, in my opinion) “It is much more likely that the Preacher is actually including our enjoyment of God’s world, or lack of it, as one of the things that God will call to account in his final reckoning” (135).

Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts

We know that our joy must be in God and God alone, our eyes must be on Jesus, and we must not love the world or the things in the world. And yet, Scripture commands us to enjoy our lives, the gifts God has given us, and receive them with thanksgiving (Eccl. 2:24; 3:12-13; 1 Tim. 4:4-5). Even in Deuteronomy there is a remarkable passage where Moses tells the people that the covenant curses will come upon them “Because [they] did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things” (Deut 28.47). In other words, there is a way to treasure God by enjoying his gifts.1 Gibson concludes:

Christian living collapses when it is not delighted with the bounty God gives…Not to live gladly, joyfully, and not to drink deeply from the wells of abundant goodness that God has lavished on us, is sin, and it is a sin because it is a denial of who he is. It is a denial of God’s covenant blessing. It is a repetition of the first sin, the primal sin of pride. (Living Life Backwards, 137-138)

Coffee: Just the Thin End of the Wedge

An absolutely delightful example of this enjoyment of God through his gifts comes from a story Gibson includes in his book about the renowned pastor John Stott and the afternoon cup of coffee his assistant would bring him:

Every afternoon at 4.30 pm I bring Uncle John a cup of coffee. As soon as I set the cup on his desk, he almost always says, somewhat playfully, “I’m not worthy,” usually without moving his bowed head from his papers. One afternoon last week I felt that it was particularly silly for him to equate worthiness with a cup of coffee. When he said, “I’m not worthy,” I responded, “Sure you are.” After a few moments he said, “You haven’t got your theology of grace right.” I said back, “It’s only a cup of coffee, Uncle John.” As I went into his kitchen and began putting things away, I heard him mutter, still with his head bowed to his papers, “It’s just the thin end of the wedge.”2

What an amazing outlook to have on life! For the Christian, even something as simple and delicious as a cup of coffee led Stott to marvel at the magnitude of God’s mercy and grace. He considered the things of earth not as ends in themselves but as a foretaste of the joy and glory awaiting us in the age to come. Can you imagine the impact the church would have if Christians were characterized by this kind of joy and thanksgiving for even the smallest of pleasures?

Enjoying the Things of Earth

God commands joy, happiness, delight, and thanksgiving in the things of earth he has graciously given us. Yes, God made the world to display his glory in Christ, but then he chose to fill it with pleasures like fruit, honey, food, coffee, music, and color for our enjoyment and delight! Of course, these things are not to be an end in themselves, replacing our love for God, but they must also not be rejected, despised, or kept at arm’s length.

Let’s glorify and treasure God by rejoicing in our lives, living to the full, and enjoying God’s good gifts. Let’s eat, drink, sing, and play with thanksgiving in our hearts, knowing that the things of earth are only the thin end of the greatest and most glorious wedge of cake you could ever imagine.

  1. For more on this topic, I highly recommend Joe Rigney’s book, The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts
  2. Timothy Dudley-Smith, John Stott: A Global Ministry (London: Inter-Varsity Press, 2001), 454, quoted in Living Life Backwards: How Ecclesiastes Teaches us to Live in Light of the End (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 138.