“Our friends there were too worldly and too clever at mixing the pleasures of the world with the service of God.” (Story of a Soul, The Autobiography of Saint Therese of Lisieux)
Recently I read the autobiography of Saint Therese of Lisieux, who lived from 1873 to 1897. What was most remarkable to me about Therese was her singular devotion to Christ from a very early age. Her observation about family friends was made when she was a child.
As I read her statement, I wonder if she might say the same of me? Am I too clever at mixing the pleasures of the world with the service of God? Is such “cleverness” what I desire?
Peter instructs his readers about such cleverness in 1 Peter 4:1-3:
Therefore, since Christ suffered as a human, you should also arm yourselves with his way of thinking. This is because whoever suffers is finished with sin. As a result, they don’t live the rest of their human lives in ways determined by human desires but in ways determined by God’s will. You have wasted enough time doing what unbelievers desire—living in their unrestrained immorality and lust, their drunkenness and excessive feasting and wild parties, and their forbidden worship of idols.
Human desires of unrestraint in food, entertainment, material wants, and physical pleasure—these sound a lot like the standard operating mode of our culture. Peter says that pursuing such things is a waste of time. Yet many of us who call ourselves Christians are right there, living in the unrestrained consumer mindset of our society. Maybe we are too clever for our own good, trying to live with such divided devotion. After all, Jesus observed: No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24)
Do I really believe Jesus? Does my life show that I am singularly devoted or am I trying to live with divided devotion, serving two masters, which Jesus says cannot be done? I don’t want to waste time trying to do the impossible!