One of the most successful lies that have ever been made about God or against godly people is that they are some sort of fabulous cosmic killjoys who delight in other beings being as miserable as they are. When people think of those who are obvious religious, their mind goes to people like the pious hypocrite Tartuffe in Moliere’s play by the same name, or those whose public activity is focused on what they are against and not on what they are in favor of. To be sure, God and godly people are against things, but only because those things are contrary to what they are for, and not because one’s heart is focused on being contrary to other things. The fact that we are for some things means, of necessity, that we will be against other things. Every choice that is made leaves choices not to be made, and every commitment made means that there is not space for other commitments to be made. Whether or not we want to be against something, sometimes there is no choice in the matter.
One of the later Bob Dylan classics asserts that we have to serve someone, a grim piece of wisdom that is sometimes hard to accept. The apostle Paul places the dilemma squarely before us in Romans 6:15-18: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” We, as human beings, want deeply to be free  both to choose as we wish and to be free of the consequences of those choices made by ourselves and others. We want a lisence to follow our heart’s desires without paying the inevitable and often painful price for being enslaved by our longings, free to be ourselves and also free to enjoy the admiration and acceptance of others for what we are. Yet the fact that all of us are free means that all of us are vulnerable to the whims and feelings of other people who do not even know or act how is best for them, much less how would be most desirable for us.
What is it that makes someone a killjoy? Sometimes people seek to deliberately seek out others to disrupt their pleasure. One of the tyrannical desires in the heart of humanity by nature is the desire to make everything and everyone around us in our own image. The reason why tolerance of other people is hard is because it requires us to restrain our natural desire to remake the world around us into our own image. The restraint of anything is a difficult and unpleasant matter, however instructive it may be. When we see people who live differently and who view our way of life with contempt, it is natural that we should wish to destroy their pleasure however we can, and even if we do not wish to hinder the enjoyment of others, simply by our presence and our openness about how we live our lives is often sufficiently disruptive of the pleasure of those who think and feel differently than we ourselves do to accomplish the unwanted task of destroying the pleasure of those around us who have different worldview commitments than we ourselves do. If one wants to look at the Bible, for example, one can look at the example of Haman, that arrogant enemy of the Jews whose pleasure was ruined by the mere sight of the righteous Mordecai and who was driven to despair and distraction by the humiliation of having to give praise and honor to Mordecai after the insomniac Persian king wondered what had been done for someone whose observation and reporting had saved his life.
If we take a step back from the fact that all of us, simply by being ourselves, can be a killjoy for someone else, depending on the state of their own heart, we can provide our observations with a sufficient sense of distance to examine the matter with something approaching objectivity. What is the way to live that best provides our lives with joy? Admittedly, by nature or nurture, or both, I am a melancholy and anxious person, the sort of worrywart of nervous temperament that finds it hard to simply enjoy life. There is always something to muse about, something to brood over and reflect over, something to obsessively ruminate, a mystery to untangle, a dark veil of silence to pierce and expose to the light of day. Yet there are times when it is possible, at least for a few hours at a time, simply to enjoy pleasant company or enjoyable activities as they are, without feeling the need to brood upon them. Hopefully at least my own company may be enjoyed for a few hours at a time in witty conversation over tasty food, even by those who would never particularly desire to be anything like me. The joy springs from living in the moment, and living in such a way that the pleasure that is enjoyed can be enjoyed and shared in the future. We both live in the moment and live in a sustainable way, without the need for our joy to be darkened by fear over future trouble. If our joy were shared to the whole world, it would not make us enjoy it any less, because it is not mere pleasure, but pleasure in goodness, with a lack of malice and treachery, unlike so much that is counted for pleasure in our present world. That which is truly joyful can be enjoyed in a wide variety of company and forever.
What, then, is a real killer of joy? We may be our own worst when it comes to killing our own joy, by confusing pleasure for joy and those who have a higher and broader view of joy with those who simply delight in making us unhappy by restraining us from what would destroy our ultimate happiness. This morning, for example, I read about an artist unappreciated in his own time who died unlamented in a Paris garret, a typical sort of fate for an artist, I suppose, but was he not the real killer of his own joy by his envy of the fame of others, his excessive pursuit of pleasure without restraint, and his lack of concern for his physical or moral well-being? And if the same can be said of great artists, can it not to be said for most of us as well? How do we live so that we may have the most joy, and that our lives may bring joy for others not merely for a brief moment but for all time?
 See, for example: