If you asked twenty good men to-day
what they thought
the highest of the virtues,
nineteen of them would reply,
But if you asked almost any
of the great Christians of old
he would have replied,
You see what has happened?
A negative term
has been substituted for a positive,
and this is of more than philological importance.
The negative ideal of Unselfishness
carries with it the suggestion
not primarily of securing good things for others,
but of going without them ourselves,
as if our abstinence
and not their happiness
was the important point.
I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love.
The New Testament has lots to say
but not about self-denial as an end in itself.
We are told to deny ourselves
and to take up our crosses
in order that we may follow Christ;
and nearly every description
of what we shall ultimately find if we do so
contains an appeal to desire.
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 about with drink and sex and ambition
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, Weight of Glory