Monday, August 3, 2009

What's Wrong with Being Selfish?

A link from Between Two Worlds posts the following paragraph from this article, which considers the charge that it is selfish for a woman to say she doesn't want to have children:
Women should be allowed to care about pleasing ourselves -- and only ourselves -- without being judged. What is wrong with a woman being selfish? Really. Think about it for a second. Why shouldn't we be selfish if it means we're meeting our own needs and taking care of ourselves? What's wrong with caring more about bringing pleasure to your own life than anything else? It should not be as controversial as it apparently is for women to think of themselves first if they are not hurting anyone. Reasonable people agree a woman should make herself happy, but why do these people suddenly become so unreasonable when those women say it would make her happy to just focus on herself?

Wanting the very best for ourselves and living to make sure that we get it is not the problem with what this woman is saying.

The problem is not knowing the One who is, without exception, the very best for all of us.

In one of his sermons I listened to a while ago, John Piper exhorted his congregation to be "greedy for God." I think that's a God-honoring, Biblical exhortation.

So it's not that this woman's desires for happiness, comfort, pleasure, etc. are wrong in themselves. It's just that she is blind to the fact that all the delights that the human soul is capable of and longs for are wrapped up in the Person of Jesus Christ, through whom and for whom she was created.

The problem with this woman's thinking and morality is not that her desires are too strong. The remedy, as some Christians might conclude, is not an extinguishing of her desire to be happy and fulfilled and satisfied. But as C. S. Lewis has famously put it, her desires are not too strong, but too weak. Here's what he says in that famous passage:
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. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition [and not having kids, in the article linked above] when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, as cited in Piper, Desiring God, p. 20.)
Passion. Strong, constraining desire. The pursuit of pleasure. Far from militating against sincere, orthodox, God-honoring Christianity, they are foundational to it. I'd love to discuss why in the thread, and/or in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, what are some of the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of rewards promised in the gospels -- and in the rest of Scripture -- that Lewis talks about?

UPDATE: The continued discussion can be found at this link.

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