Man and His Contradictory Desires

“You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”

As I think about last Sunday’s sermon, I come back to this well-known phrase. The idea in the saying is simple enough: you cannot enjoy the prospect of having cake around to eat whenever you want at the same time as you enjoy actually eating the cake. Even though we might wish both could be true at the same time, one choice necessarily contradicts the other.

There are many desires common to man that are like the cake phrase above: man wants to fit in with his group but also stand out, man wants to experience what is new but also what is familiar, man wants good never to end but also wants good to reach its conclusion (just think about any compelling book you read or movie you watched).

Because so many of man’s desires are contradictory, we can see why man has such a hard time finding lasting satisfaction in this world, just as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes. The Fall—with its consequent death, pain, and sin—has made man unable to satisfy all his desires. Because of the Fall, man himself has become a contradiction: a dignified under-ruler made to enjoy and represent God before the universe and a humiliated rebel now enslaved to his own desires and sins. When man himself is so contradicted, how could his desires not be?

Yet the world so often insists (especially in commercial advertising) that man’s desires can all be fulfilled. “You can have your cake and eat it, too!” we’re told. But this ignores the world’s state, man’s state, and basic logic. To suppose that you can satisfy all your contradictory desires in a lasting way in this world is to live in a fantasy. The dream may be pleasant for a while, but you will have to wake up from it eventually. Better an uncomfortable waking now than a regretful and doomed one later.

Ecclesiastes 3:10-11, I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.

Questions to Consider:
1. What are some contradictory desires you have?
2. How can you still wisely and gratefully enjoy life while recognizing your own contradictory desires?
3. How will dwelling with God in his coming kingdom result in the fulfillment of man’s presently good but contradictory desires?