To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. (Titus 1:15)
In his work as a pastor and leader on the island of Crete, Titus had to deal with a lot of difficult people. Some of those people were legalistic; they saw life with God mainly as a list of rules to keep more than a relationship of trust and love.
The people with such an emphasis on rules could find something impure in just about everything. To them, anyone who enjoyed their food was a glutton. Anyone who enjoyed sex in marriage was filled with lust. Anyone who rested for a day was lazy. Anyone who did good business was greedy. For them, the religious life was all about what you didn’t do, couldn’t do, and shouldn’t do.
That’s why Paul reminded us, “To the pure, all things are pure.” Those legalists had polluted minds (defiled) and walked by fear more than by faith (unbelieving). They denied that Christians could enjoy the basic, good, and godly pleasures of this world that are not sin.
As a pastor, Timothy had to deal with the same kind of people. Paul warned Timothy about those forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth (1 Timothy 4:3). Paul knew that if a Christian walked in the purity of Jesus, these things were pure to him. But to those of a legalistic mind (those who are defiled and unbelieving), they seemed to believe nothing is pure. The problem was with their defiled and unbelieving minds and consciences, not with the things themselves.
It’s important to not take this in a wrong way. Yes, Paul wrote: “all things are pure.” But of course, Paul did not mean that obviously sinful things (pornography, illicit drugs, and the like) are pure. Paul has in mind those things which are permitted by Scripture but forbidden by legalists in a mistaken attempt to earn favor with God.
So, Paul would say: “Enjoy that meal, and thank God for it.” He would say, “Enjoy your rest, and thank God for it.” That same principle applies to all good and legitimate pleasures God gives us.
I can’t confirm the source, but I heard it once said that Jewish rabbis taught that on the day of judgment, we will have to give account for all the legitimate pleasures God gave to us that we never enjoyed. You won’t find that specific statement in the Bible, but there is some truth to that thought.
This is our Father’s world. He has filled it with many legitimate pleasures. We should receive them and enjoy them with gratitude, and if a legalist tries to make us feel guilty we remember, “To the pure, all things are pure.”