The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity

How is it that ye do not understand?


— St. Mark. 8:21

With every trouble, great or small, go to God, and appeal to him, the God of your life. If your trouble is such that you cannot appeal to him, the more need you should appeal to him! Where one cannot go to God, there is something especially wrong. If you let thought for the morrow, or the next year, or the next month, distress you; if you let the chatter of what is called the public, annoy you; if you seek or greatly heed the judgment of men, you set open your windows to the mosquitoes of care, to drown with their buzzing the voice of the Eternal!

If you tell me that but for care, the needful work of the world would be ill done, I ask you what work will be better done by the greedy or anxious than by the free, fearless soul? Can care be a better inspirer than God? Is he worthy the name of man who, for the fear of starvation, will do better work than for the joy that his labor is not in vain in the Lord? I know as well as you that you are not likely to get rich that way; but neither will you block up the gate of the kingdom of heaven against yourself.

Commentary

As We Ought
“How is it that you do not understand?” (Mark 8:21)

by Dave Roney

MacDonald asks the question; “Can care [which he defines as 'the needful work of the world'] be a better inspirer than God?” to which the obvious answer is “No!, never!”  But the word “better” is, in any tongue, the middle condition among at least three possible Divine alternatives, which range from Good, through Better, to the Best.  There are also three basic regions which combine to make a man; the Physical, Mental, and Spiritual parts of him.  Let us see how the application of which Divine alternative among the three possibilities couple with the three basic areas of humanness; for it is in this combination we discover the motivations, strengths and weaknesses, purity and impurity of why a man does, or not, what he ought to do.  To begin, let us consider man and the “Ought,” doing so in an ascending manner:

  • A man does what he Ought to do because he is caused to do what he ought to do
  • A man does what he Ought to do because he ought to do what he ought to do
  • A man does what he Ought to do because he desires to do what he ought to do

Lowest among these is the man who is doing what he ought to do because of external pressures applied to him, wherein he has no liberty to do other than what he is commanded; it is the condition of the slave, the prisoner, of those held in bondage by another, and of the renegade, rebel, and criminal brought to task.  This lowest of region of influence (the Good) requires little other than the lowest part of his being, the Physical; he may concede and do by coercion a good thing though his mind and spirit are far from it.  It is Good that the murderer, imprisoned, is forced not to murder again; Good that a man's conduct be governed by laws; Good that a child be sent to school though he goes not willingly, and that he be held accountable for his grades whether he likes it or not.  Yet all such Good, predicated strictly on outer causation, is but a needful and lowly beginning; it is a start; a man must move beyond this condition if he is ever to improve himself; he must become Better.

At the next higher level of existence, that of a man doing what he ought to do simply because he ought to do it, we find correspondence to the intermediate level of his humanity; such a man does from a sense of duty, by self-discipline alone, a condition of Mind, the thing he knows must be done though in his inner self he would prefer to leave it to another or not to do it at all.  This is a vastly Better reason for doing the “ought” than the mere physical motion of Good through external imposition, yet the man is still in bondage; though he be no prisoner or slave to another, he is yet in bondage to his own Self; his high moral character is become his very jailer.  This is the level, the Better “ought,” the realm of Mind, and it is of such a man to whom MacDonald's question pertains; it is thought and action predicated on sense of duty and obligation, or “care.”  Having risen to this level of “care” which is Better, the child of God can not content himself; he must further ascend.

If the man continues to climb toward the face of God, to seek the sublime level of his humanness, that strata where a man is free indeed, he is come to the actual and most true Spiritual plane of existence; and when a man is spiritual he does also, both Physically and Mentally, what he ought to do, neither by any coercion from without himself nor by Self's cold sterile duty-bound processes, but and only because he desires to do it: and this for him is not the Good, nor the Better, but the very and utmost Best; for in this state of being he most resembles Christ in his life and sends forth that Image into the world.  This is the pinnacle for us, where there is no “better inspirer than God,” Who is our only loving constraint, possible to us by the renewing of Mind, of transformation, of indwelling Spirit, of very likeness of Jesus, the One express image and exact representation of God our Father.  It is, in such case alone, that all three basic areas of our existence, the Physical, Mental, and Spiritual, are brought into a great unity which may be described as our conformity to the image of Christ Jesus.  It is here, at this level of life, that a man lives in joy even though his circumstance, quite miserable, may make him unhappy; be free while in chains, live to God though dead to Self.  We often would content ourselves with the Good, or the Better, but God can only give to us His Best; and the Best may not look at all like either the Good or the Better; those who are spiritual will know this, and recognize the difference, and praise God whatever their circumstance.

In closing, though I have, by such abbreviated remarks barely done any justice to the above subject, let me say that the only manner by which we can ascend to and also stay upon, such a lofty pinnacle which is the pleasing of our God, is to become the childlike children of our great Father, becoming those who by surrender of all self-will and our willingness to then be obedient to all which we know to be obedient, made possible by the daily, even momentary, self-crucifixion of all other passions, the continuous putting to death of the desires of our flesh and abhorrence of all within us which is ungodly, by the indwelling Spirit of Holiness, Who is the Agent of our Sovereign, Savior, King and Brother, and our compassionate longing to live, not to Self, but live unto Christ; herein we are able to do that which by any other means is impossible to us.  What began as a meager Good, foisted upon us from sources without, has grown in us to be at least the Better, but God is neither pleased nor satisfied that we remain as merely Better people; He would have us be the Best.  Let us, then, press on to this high calling of God; we shall do it with failings, we shall do it in the midst of unrelenting spiritual warfare, we shall do it as weak, as fraught with difficulties, we shall do it by the Fire which is Love, by coldness, by tempests, by humiliations, by a thousand different paths we shall follow after this Divine excellency set before us, knowing that God will help us, the Spirit will guide us, the Son will advocate for us, and that our Father has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them we, even now, participate in the Divine Nature, and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  It is with the surest confidence that we can, with the Apostle, exclaim and believe:

“And I am sure of this, that He Who began a Good work in you [a Start] will bring it to completion [the Best] at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)