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St Augustine Part 3 (of 3): Enjoy God

May 12, 2010

Chapter 2 defines a “Thing.” Chapter 4 defines and contrasts “Use” and “Enjoyment,” and presents the idea that the things of this world are to be used – not enjoyed – to get to God.

Chapters 5 through 21 discuss several things. Among them:

  • Nothing on earth is really enjoyed because once it’s attained, it’s value quickly fades – nothing material is ever as satisfying as we think it will be, and eventually we want something else to “enjoy.”
  • God is to be esteemed above all because, in part, His wisdom is unchangeable and eternal.
  • By Christ’s sacrifice we have access to the Father.

Chapter 22 almost made me walk away from Augustine. It seems so wrong, but when I try to argue with it – I can’t. (This is a tad long, but as abbreviated as I can reasonably make it.)

Among all these things, then, those only are the true objects of enjoyment which we have spoken of as eternal and unchangeable. The rest are for use, that we may be able to arrive at the full enjoyment of the former.

We, however, to enjoy and use other things are things ourselves. For a great thing truly is man, … And so it becomes an important question, whether men ought to enjoy, or to use, themselves, or to do both.

For we are commanded to love one another: but it is a question whether man is to be loved by man for his own sake, or for the sake of something else. If it is for his own sake, we enjoy him; if it is for the same of something else, we use him.

It seems to me, then, that he is to be loved for the sake of something else. For if a thing is to be loved for its own sake, then in the enjoyment of it consists a happy life, the hope of which at least, if not yet the reality, is our comfort in the present time.

But a curse is pronounced on him who places his hope in man.

Neither ought any one to have joy in himself, if you look at the matter clearly, because no one ought to love even himself for his own sake, but for the sake of Him who is the true object of enjoyment. … If, however, he loves himself for his own sake, he does not look at himself in relation to God, but turns his mind in upon himself, and so is not occupied with anything that is unchangeable.

For this is the law of love that has been laid down by Divine authority: “Thou shall love they neighbor as theyself;” but, “Thou shall love God with all they heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy mind;” so that you are to concentrate all your thoughts, your whole life and your whole intelligence upon Him from whom you derive all that you bring. … He means that no part of our life is to be unoccupied, to afford room, as it were, for the wish to enjoy some other object, …

When God says “all” in the great commandment, does He mean “all”? That means that we don’t love other people except as a means by which to love God. We don’t enjoy anything in the world except as a means by which to enjoy and better understand God.

Which necessitates some re-evaluation in my life. What am I enjoying outside of Him? What am I spending time – or even money – on that does not draw me closer to Him?

“You shall love the Lord your God with all.”

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