Double-mindedness #2


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!

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