Articles

Desires and Rewards

In Perspective, Soul Food on September 1, 2011 by The Spillover

The following is a piece of a sermon from C. S. Lewis titled, “The Weight of Glory”. Many of us have heard the quote which comes directly after this piece ends; these preceding thoughts, however, are the meat of the message. I must say, when I came across this, it blew me away. Cerebral somersaults ensued.

If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.

I am guilty of suppressing my desires because of the mere fact that they are…mine. I can tell you for sure that desires for worldly things are something I have to bludgeon to death on a daily basis; they’re always coming back like zombies. The idea of unleashing my desires for God and unabashedly chasing the rewards that He has promised – in effect, using my own desires for my own eternal pleasure as a main motivator for living for Christ – is either new to me or is simply something I haven’t thought of in such a way.

In any event, it’s titillating, no?

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