Thursday, July 11, 2019

Avoid Covetousness in Our Spiritual Life.

To become united with a God demands our total focus on pleasing Him by living by His teaching. This means we love for God above all else. Any covetousness we may have must be rejected. We cannot be concerned about worldly possessions. This does not mean that we cannot own anything, but that we cannot have a thirst for more and more, or live in fear we might lose what we already have.

Th prophet David has a prayer for us.
Incline my heart into Thy testimonies and not unto covetousness. (Psalm 118:36)

When we look around we can see that the principal efforts for most people concern possessions. The more they have the more they seem to want. This misplaced desire consumes the powers of the soul making it difficult to give our full attention to doing His will according to His law. Our lives become busy with tasks so that there is no time left for God.

Our task is to rid ourselves of this condition so that we will not be seeking to be in good standing with God and all His teachings so we can receive some gain from worldly business. Our material success is not related to our standing with God. God may have gifted us with worldly well being and we should give thanks to Him when this is the case. But we cannot err by think that our well being is the result of our effort to do God’s will.

Saint Theophan points out the difficulty the rich face.
It is difficult for the rich to discern why they are devout, whether for God and His law, or for their own prosperity. In times of prosperity, they themselves cannot discern this with certainty, due to the cunning of the heart which, while trying to do everything for God’s sake, can harbor a reliance on prosperity. Only privations reveal this; and the more extensive they are, the more definitive the proof; for if then the love of God does not cease, then this means that previously it had not been for the sake of what had been possessed, but now is lost. Under normal circumstances, in order to avoid the love of possessions, those who possess much ought to warm up in their hearts such a disposition, mentally placing themselves in various situations of deprivation, and in so doing restoring in their hearts a peaceful mood. By this, they can imprint in their souls such, resolution that even if everything were to be taken and they should have to be without anything, they would be ready for it at once. Thus disposed they, even though possessing, will be like those who have nothing which, according to the Apostle, is the last degree of perfection in this regard for those living in this world and unable not to possess.
Live as if you were to lose everything you know you could still live a god-pleasing life with a peaceful mood

There is also a spiritual love of gain, in which one works to carry out the commandments in the hope of obtaining spiritual rewards here or in the life to come. This love of gain is subtle, not easy to define or to discern. In general, one must say that as soon as anything but God and the pleasing of and obedience to His will intrudes into the endeavors of a good and devout life, then already there is self-interest. 
This last type of covetousness is the most difficult to discern and correct. We desire to be with God in hope of eternal life, but this desire has to be based on our love of Him and not just on the benefit we hope for. There are steps involved in our spiritual life and we need to seek Gods help in walking this narrow path. To help us we also need a spiritual father to guide us in proper discernment of our condition. The ego is very strong and is good at misleading us.

Reference: Psalm 118: A Commentary by Saint Theophan the Recluse, pp 98-102

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