NOTE: Following is an update on a previous post.
Double-mindedness says Kierkegaard is to will the good
for the sake of reward
out of fear of punishment. Purity of Heart
He reminds us that the reward may be present or may be absent when we seek the good. We are to walk with only the good before our eyes (as opposed to the reward drawing us along).
Reminds me of Hebrews 11:6, Those who approach God “must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
The God of the Bible is good. He loves to bless and give good gifts to his children. God is not my harsh earthly father who reluctantly rewarded. Who in the middle of a reward made you feel that your good was not good enough. Providing a drink but leaving you more thirsty than ever.
When we believe that we serve a God who rewards those who seek him we have the possibility of freedom and joy in life.
We do not serve in order to win God’s approval or love! May it never be!!
God’s fundamental character is that he loves to bless and reward those who seek him. Remember our own seeking of God is only possible because He took the initiative (1 Jn 4).
And yet . . . if I am serving (or seeking the good to use Kierkegaard’s words), for the sake of the reward, then something may be wrong.
Is God enough without any of his gifts?
What about the sheer joy of enjoying God while I run the race? Remember, “when I run, I experience his pleasure.”
Hebrews talks about the men and women of faith who kept living by faith and in obedience even though they did not receive any reward in this life–they were looking ahead to what would come (Heb 11:13-16, 35, 39, 40). Their heavenly rewards certainly exceeded any of the pleasures that sin or compromise might have brought to them.
I wonder if what kept them going was not the thought of the reward in and of itself but thoughts of the goodness, beauty and generosity of the rewarder.
Rewards do come for those who have been faithful. But, Lord, let me not become double-minded by willing good for the sake of the reward. You are enough!
According to Soren Kierkegaard, purity of heart is to will one thing–God. He closes his book, Purity of Heart, with a prayer. Here is part of that prayer:
Father in Heaven! What is a man without Thee!
What is all that he knows, vast accumulation though it be,
but a chipped fragment if he does not know Thee!
What is all his striving, could it even encompass the world,
but a half-finished work if he does not know Thee:
Thee the One, who art one thing and who art all!
So may Thou give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing;
to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding;
to the will, purity that wills only one thing.
In prosperity may Thou grant perseverance to will one thing;
amid distractions, collectedness to will one thing;
in suffering, patience to will one thing .
Oh, Thou that giveth both the beginning and the completion,
may Thou early, at the dawn of the day,
give to the young man the resolution to will one thing.
As the day wanes, may
Thou give give to the old man a renewed remembrance of his first resolution,
that the first may be like the last,
the last like the first in possession of a life that has willed only one thing.
What exactly is the relationship between our spiritual health and our psychological health? Between despair and depression? I think most people would say that they are inter-related—what affects one affects the other. But, even though they are inter-related, are the fundamental or core problems different? And thus, are the solutions not different?
Gordon Marino suggests in an article in the NY Times, Kierkegaard on the Couch, that today we have become “deaf to the ancient distinction between psychological and spiritual disorders, between depression and despair.” Are not many happy and yet full of despair. Quoting Kierkegaard, Marino says, “Happiness is the greatest hiding place for despair.”
If despair is a spiritual problem, then perhaps the solution is also physical? Marino said that despair equaled intensified doubt for K? Quoting, from From K’s Sickness unto death, “A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity.” For K, despair seems to occurs when there is an imbalance in this synthesis. Despair according to Kierkegaard is a lack of awareness of being a self or spirit, says Marino. Perhaps the dark feelings of depression and despair may look similar but come to be due to different causes.
So, if despair is related to a loss of hope or could we say a desperate longing for the transcendent, then a visit to a mental health professional alone will not bring the answer that is needed. A spiritual consultation may be what is needed, along with a visit to a mental health professional and to a medical doctor. How do we provide care for depression and yet allow people to sense their despair at being disconnected from the Transcendent one?
Gordon Marino at NY Times on Oct 28, 2009
Kierkegaard gives another barrier to willing one thing–fear of punishment. Willing the good out of fear of punishment produces double-mindedness in a way similar to willing the good for the sake of the reward. We should fear doing wrong, says K but not fear punishment since punishment (the discipline of Hebrews 12?) can bring about healing just as medicine heals the sick. K writes:
If what a man fears is not the mistake itself, but the reproach at being caught in the mistake, then that fear so far from helping him out of the error may even lead him into that which is still more ruinous, even if apart from this he had made no mistake. 80
And indeed, fear of punishment has made the sinner into a hypocrite, who in hypocrisy’s loathesome doubleness of mind pretended to love God (for the fear was to take the punishment in the wrong way), but it has never made him pure of heart. 82
Only one thing can help a man to will the Good in truth: the Good itself. Fear is a deceitful aid. It can embitter one’s pleasure, make life laborious and miserable, make one old and decrepit; but it cannot help one to the Good since fear itself has a false conception of the good . . . 84
For it is fear itself that weighs him down so that he cannot move from the spot. It desires to lead him to the goal, and yet it is the fear itself that makes the goal terrifying. 85-86
Of a man who only wills the Good out of fear of punishment, it is necessary to say with special emphasis, that he fears what a man should not and ought not to fear: loss of money, loss of reputation, misjudgment by others, neglect, the world’s judgment, the ridicule of fools, the laughter of the frivolous, the cowardly whining of consideration, the inflated triviality of the moment, the fluttering mist-forms of vapor. . . . he is continually intent upon what is in flux, upon what is changing, and he fears continually that which no man should fear. He fears that which has power to wound, maltreat, ruin or strike dead the body, but which has no power whatsoever over the soul unless it obtains it through fear. 88
If I am honest, there are many times that I choose to do that which is right out of fear of punishment for doing that which is wrong. In doing so, am I truly resisting evil? Or am I giving evil power that it does not possess in and of itself? I am sure I have said, “whatever works”, with regard to avoiding sin and evil. But when I will the Good out of fear of punishment, I am admitting my own double-mindedness. I am really admitting a greater fear of man than God and a greater fear of the loss of what this world offers than a joy and delight in what God offers. Yet, choosing the good is still better than choosing the evil, even if my motivation is improper, right? I need to think about this more. Comments are welcome!
I started to read Soren Kierkegaard’s Purity of Heart again today. These are the words that begin his book. Life becomes much simpler when they are followed. Philippians 3:8
Father in Heaven! What is man without Thee! What is all that he knows, vast accumulation though it be, but a chipped fragment if he does not know Thee! What is all his striving, could it even encompass the world, but a half-finished work if he does not know Thee: Thee the one, who art one thing and who art all! So may Thou give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing; to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding; to the will purity that wills only one thing. In prosperity may Thou grant perseverance to will one thing; in suffering, patience to will one thing. Oh, Thou that giveth both the beginning and the completion, may Thou early, at the dawn of day, give to the young man the resolution to will one thing. As the day wanes, may Thou give to the old man a renewed remembrance of his first resolution, that the first may be like the last, the last like the first, in possession of a life that has willed only one thing.