The Slow Road to Heaven – Why the Spiritual Life Doesn’t “Work”

We live in a world of practicality, a fact that has produced the marvels of technology that power us along and connect the world in its web. I have a nearly two-year-old grandson who has grasped some of this connection for many months now. He loves buttons – not the ones on your shirt – but the ones on any device. If there is a button in reach, he will mash it. He’s not alone, I’ve seen the same phenomenon throughout the herd of children that crowd my parish. Push a button; make something happen. If a toddler grasps the magic of a button, so, too, do adults. It is something of an icon our culture. If there is a problem, from cancer to poverty, we want solutions. This is also true of our spiritual expectations. But it is worth asking, “Does the spiritual life work?”

Chapter 3 in AA’s Big Book is entitled, “How it works.” It describes the 12-Steps with a commentary. It also assures that its program “works.” And it does, for a portion of those who participate. One set of statistics from peer reviewed studies put the AA success rate at less than 10 percent. AA sets it higher – perhaps as much as 33 percent. I endorse their program and encourage anyone with an addiction to participate in a 12-Step program. The numbers, however, are of interest. What I understand from these studies is that addiction is a very powerful force in some lives and can meet with failure in the face of well-designed cures.

I have wondered how the “success” of the spiritual life would be measured? I could imagine that the number of persons Baptized might be compared to the number of the Baptized who fall short of salvation – but there is no way to discover such a thing. In lieu of that, we often set up our own way of measuring – some expectation of “success” that we use to judge the spiritual life. “I tried Christianity…” the now self-described agnostic relates, “and found that it did not live up to its claims.”

To my mind, the entire question is a little like complaining about your hammer because it doesn’t work well as a screw-driver. The problem is that the spiritual life doesn’t “work,” and was never supposed to. It is not something that “works,” it is something that “lives.” And this is an extremely important distinction.

In 1859, Samuel Smiles, a Scottish author and government reformer, published the book, Self-Help, the first self-proclaimed work on self-improvement. His opening line is famous, “God helps those who help themselves.” Indeed, many modern people are under the impression that this statement comes from Scripture (it does not). It is not at all accidental that Smiles’ thought should echo that of the Scottish Enlightenment itself. We can build a better world, and do so more effectively by building better humans. Christianity was to be harnessed in this great progressive drive.

We look to our faith to solve problems. Whether we suffer from psychological wounds, or simple poverty and failure, we look to God for help. The spiritual life, and the “techniques” we imagine to be associated with it, are the means by which we “help ourselves” (God will do the rest).

This narrative is simply not part of the Christian faith. The progress/improvement/better-life scenario does not jibe with the account of the Christian life as given in the New Testament and the Tradition. Verses, such as, John 10:10 (“that they might have life more abundantly”), are “cherry-picked” and drafted into the false narrative of an improved existence. Consider instead this word from St. Isaac of Syria: “…without tribulations befalling us, God’s providence cannot be perceived.”

St. Isaac’s statement is fully in line with the New Testament. There, we are not presented with the solution to our problems, nor with the promise of a better world. Rather, we are taught how to live in repentance and participate daily in the life of the Kingdom of God. That the life of the Kingdom of God is full of joy and transcendence is not at all the same thing as success or improvement. The lives of the saints are filled with information of an opposite sort.

  • Mary of Egypt is directed into the desert by the voice of the Mother of God. She lives miraculously on very little food. But she tells of seventeen years of virtual torture as she battled the temptations that had governed her previously sinful life. Our daily trials would seem as nothing in comparison.
  • Silouan the Athonite related a period of 15 years in which he had no sense of God’s presence, but was instead tortured by demons.
  • Seraphim of Sarov spent years in prayer and fasting, was beaten, robbed and left a cripple.

Many modern readers first encounter the Jesus Prayer in the classic work, The Way of a Pilgrim. It is a work of pious fiction that offers some basic instruction and incentive towards the practice of the Prayer. It can also be misleading. In a matter of months, following instruction from a holy elder, the Pilgrim finds that the prayer has entered his heart and become “self-acting.” A blind man with whom he shares the prayer masters it in even less time and gains the ability to see things at a great distance. I know of modern cases where the Prayer came in what seemed an easy manner, but those cases are not stories of technique – they are singular gifts of grace that seem directed towards a very specific purpose. Most people never have an experience of “self-acting” prayer. It is extremely rare, even among monastics.

The prayer and fasting, almsgiving and confession that are the very heart of the Orthodox way of life are not techniques or ways of self-improvement and betterment. They are the embracing of a way of life in which self-improvement and betterment are beside the point. To observe “improvement” in ourselves is to abandon the way of humility and repentance. It is the nature of the Orthodox way that we become increasingly aware of our failures rather than our progress.

Christ said, “…when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say,`We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” (Lk. 17:10)

Accepting this represents a change of mind within the modern context. Indeed, the very word for repentance in Greek means a “change of mind” (metanoia). Christianity should not and properly cannot be a subset of the modern lifestyle. Most likely, if carefully followed, it will ruin all our modern plans. Well and good! The Kingdom of God will not be populated by the successful, the well-adjusted and the wise. It is the failures, the foolish, and the fragile who will enter ahead of us, or at least those who were willing to risk their lives in such a manner. The modern narrative is not only false, it creates expectations that are never truly met. Our media torments us with carefully crafted examples of those for whom self-improvement and personal progress seem to work. We can only wonder why it fails to work for us! These are false images that belie the normative struggle of human existence in every age.1

If you are having a difficult time, you are not alone. It is the very nature of human life. That same struggle, however, united with Christ in His Cross, becomes transformative – not in the manner that the world expects, but in the likeness of the Crucified and Risen Christ.

 

 

 

Footnotes for this article

  1. Quite frankly, if “help” were the criterion, one would have to admit that life-centered secularism helps actually more than religion. To compete with it, religion has to present itself as “adjustment to life,” “counselling,” “enrichment,” it has to be publicized in subways and buses as a valuable addition to “your friendly bank” and all other “friendly dealers”: try it, it helps! And the religious success of secularism is so great that it leads some Christian theologians to “give up” the very category of “transcendence,” or in much simpler words, the very idea of “God.” This is the price we must pay if we want to be “understood” and “accepted” by modern man, proclaim the Gnostics of the twentieth century. But it is here that we reach the heart of the matter. For Christianity help is not the criterion. Truth is the criterion. The purpose of Christianity is not to help people by reconciling them with death, but to reveal the Truth about life and death in order that people may be saved by this Truth. Salvation, however, is not only not identical with help, but is, in fact, opposed to it. Christianity quarrels with religion and secularism not because they offer “insufficient help,” but precisely because they “suffice,” because they “satisfy” the needs of men. If the purpose of Christianity were to take away from man the fear of death, to reconcile him with death, there would be no need for Christianity, for other religions have done this, indeed, better than Christianity. And secularism is about to produce men who will gladly and corporately die—and not just live—for the triumph of the Cause, whatever it may be. Christianity is not reconciliation with death. It is the revelation of death, and it reveals death because it is the revelation of Life. Christ is this Life. And only if Christ is Life is death what Christianity proclaims it to be, namely the enemy to be destroyed, and not a “mystery” to be explained. Schmemann, Alexander. For the Life of the World (Kindle, 1439)

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.



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Comments

125 responses to “The Slow Road to Heaven – Why the Spiritual Life Doesn’t “Work””

  1. Esmée La Fleur Avatar

    The Cross is the symbol of self-sacrifice for others… Yet, he who loves and gives his own self to help others, does not feel this as a self-sacrifice. When Love is given, it is not given by man. It is the Love of God that flows through the heart of the giver. He doesn’t feel it as a “sacrifice” because he is not aware of it. He feels it as his natural condition – without any change in his own life or health. On the contrary, he is in a state of permanent joy, for he is at the same time both giver and receiver of Divine Love and Power.

    ~Mother Gavrilia, The Ascetic of Love, p. 187.

  2. Agata Avatar
    Agata

    Paula,
    Since Dino is not answering, I hope he does not mind if I say that ANY book in English that you can get will be a great blessing. “The Way of the Spirit” is the first one I read, then there is “Church at Prayer” (if I remember right). There is also a great one on the Psalms… And just Google his name and look for articles, there are a few out there….
    Also, I highly recommend watching a documentary (on YouTube) on the Simonopetra Monastery called “A Thousand Years as one day”… You will find in it a short part with Elder’s own words…

    That should get you started on the amazing path of meeting Elder Aimilianos… And keep you busy for a while, LOL!!

  3. Esmée La Fleur Avatar

    Q: This utter love, this boundless love… how do you practice it every day for so many people?

    A: This is not done consciously, nor is it a programme with which I put love into practice. It is not something tangible… this is the Spirit of God, Who has created us to love. Is it a young boy? You will love him. Is he a Jew? You will love him. Is he a Turk? You will love him. He is not responsible for what he is or where he was born. Am I to be the judge? No! So, at that moment, when you do not think of yourself, but rather of the Limitless Love God has for this person, you love him, little by little, as much as you can, while He loves him immensely. That’s the difference. I never think that I shall love him. Who am I? He! All the time, He!

    ~Mother Gavrilia, The Ascetic of Love, p. 245.

  4. Esmée La Fleur Avatar

    What is man’s destination? “I give you a new commandment: Love one another.” The destination is, again, Love. Nothing else. Do nothing else… When you see a person, make yourself non-existent, really, as an entity, and enter into that person’s soul, even if he is a wrong-doer or someone you do not understand… You must do this! For he, too, has in him the Breath of God, the Spark of Christ, and a heart that beats like yours… Unless you do that, you cannot help the other person. And what is the purpose of loving only God, of raising our hands vertically to the Lord, and not extending our arms also horizontally to take in the whole of humanity… and so turn our body into the Sign of the Cross… Saint Augustine said, “Love, and do anything you want,” because, if you love, you cannot do harm! …When man ceases to love, it is as if he ceases to breathe. Love is like our breath. We are made, we are kneaded so-to-speak, with love… love, love, love.

    ~Mother Gavrilia, The Ascetic of Love, p. 260-261.

  5. Esmée La Fleur Avatar

    I love all and I am not interested in criticizing anyone… I love all and everything and do not care about anything else. And if this is not enough for others, it is for me; for we all have to answer accordingly to God… God loves me. He is pouring to me His Love. If I keep it… I shall burst under Its Power. When I love someone else with all that fire, knowing that I have it from Him, extraordinary things do happen to that person… He must not be grateful to me, that would spoil all the sharing of that Love. He should… praise God for God’s sake… for the Love God gives him… [I do] not expect anything in return from persons anymore, but [rejoice] that another human being is united to God… Love as He loves, everyone and everything. Then every moment will be filled with joy, peace, love, blessings. Because you will be truly free and a servant only of Him.

    ~Mother Gavrilia, The Ascetic of Love, p. 386, 390, 409

  6. Agata Avatar
    Agata

    And here is something for all mothers who read this blog:

    http://orthochristian.com/110434.html

  7. Esmée La Fleur Avatar

    Please forgive for posting so many quotes on love from Mother Gavrilia, but she is such an inspiration on this topic for me. Thank you again everyone for another very elucidating conversation!

  8. Paula Avatar
    Paula

    Esmee and Agata….thank you so very much!

    ” This is not done consciously, nor is it a programme with which I put love into practice. It is not something tangible… this is the Spirit of God, Who has created us to love.”
    How very true, Esmee… which brings me back to Father’s words “God give us grace” to have friends eager for truth and love the gospel. It is only the dullness of my heart that I need a kickstart in reading about these things, lest I keep groping forever. Through it all, indeed, any change of heart would only be by His Grace.
    In my bookmarks I have Mother Gavrilia’s book you quote from. It has been some time since I read it though. I’m so glad you referenced her. One of her quotes I pray to my guardian angel before bedtime..”Take my soul even tonight and put it at the feet of Christ and in the morning may I find it better”. I then add ‘protect me in my dreams and guide my unconscious’, on the occasion of those disturbing dreams. I’m sure I don’t need to add that…but I do anyway! Thanks again, Esmee.
    Agata…thank you so much for directing me to the books and the You Tube video. I’m sure Dino won’t mind! You pretty much said the same as he did, that any book the Elder wrote would be a blessing! Still, I wasn’t sure which one to choose!

  9. Suzie Avatar
    Suzie

    I do enjoy your posts Fr. Stephen, and I think I know where you are trying to go with your thoughts and assertions, but again, as in previous posts such definitive statements such as this:
    “The Kingdom of God will not be populated by the successful, the well-adjusted and the wise.”
    are misleading.
    That statement is then juxtaposed with this statement, which does make sense:
    “If you are having a difficult time, you are not alone. It is the very nature of human life. That same struggle, however, united with Christ in His Cross, becomes transformative – not in the manner that the world expects, but in the likeness of the Crucified and Risen Christ.”

    The one thing I have been taught in the Orthodox Church is that only God judges the heart. So if “successful”, “well-adjusted” and “wise” people will not be in the Kingdom of Heaven that could very well exclude people such as King David, Abraham, Joseph and Solomon, much less any of us. There are many people who are considered well-adjusted and perhaps wise, especially through their life in Christ, being remade in His image, although not perfect, as all sin in some way. One can consider themselves successful in their lives in many ways. I say this in all love, I have even brought up concerns to my Priest because of your blogs, for clarification, because according to some of the statements you make, I would not be considered a legitimate child of God.

    The Christian life and the Orthodox Way can and does “work” for any who will repent, believe and walk with Christ everyday. Who are teachable, who self-examine the heart and with the power of the Holy Spirit grow into His likeness daily, overcoming the passions and distractions of the mind and empowering the Nous to become ascendant.

  10. Esmée La Fleur Avatar

    Suzie – I don’t think Fr. Stephen is saying that “the successful, the well-adjusted and the wise” won’t be in the Kingdom of heaven, but that those criteria will not be the criteria upon which they are there. Please correct me Father if I am mistaken.

  11. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Joseph Barabbas Theophorus,
    Please forgive me for mangling your name. I referred to you as one of my teachers, but called you Theodorus. You have brought so much insight in our discussions and regret very much such a mistake.

    On Love vs attachment: it seems that some of our comments reflect the idea of ‘kinds’ of love. I’m inclined to say there is only one Love, and our own darkened reflections of that Love. I associate ‘attachment’ with acquisitiveness, a hallmark of our insatiable consummatory laden culture.

  12. Paula Avatar
    Paula

    Dee…unless I misunderstand, I think you are saying pretty much the same thing, only wording it differently. If ‘kinds’ of love are implied, it may be a result of trying to describe the brokenness of sensual love… which we may think of as true Love but is really self centered…so, in a way is “another kind” love. I agree it is one of the consequences of a consumer culture, as we try to “buy” another’s love to fill a void only Christ can fill, thus creating an attachment called “love”. So you are right, it is not the same as true Love, the selfless love of God.
    I hope I am making some kind of sense here!

  13. Agata Avatar
    Agata

    Susie,
    I appreciate your comment. I also have brought some things I read about here with my confessor, and his words were: “Not everything Fr. Stephen writes about applies to you…” 🙂

    So it is always best to bring it up in confession, as it safeguards our life in Christ..

    Hope Dino forgives me, but such quotes from him have helped me tremendously in the past. Especially to make an effort in confession…..

    dino says:
    May 7, 2014 at 12:40 pm
    In Orthodoxy, when practiced rightly – as is usually the case on Mount Athos to use a prime example -, the ‘guidance part’ of Confession appears to be the most ‘personalised’, (as in ‘individually fine-tuned’) sacrament for both our heart and our mind.
    What is no less than astounding is that a Spiritual Father’s word (‘Logos’ if you like to make the deeper connection here), uttered and listened to in a state of prayerful and trustful attention, has the power to enlighten through the Holy Spirit, more regularly than any other Sacrament, under the usual circumstances.

  14. Suzie Avatar
    Suzie

    Dear Esmee,
    I understand Fr. Stephen is pointing out the heresy in some modern Christian denominations or movements, such as the prosperity gospel, which says you will be blessed with material things, or just being a Christian will fix all things, or that your life will be perfect. As well as not falling into the trap of secular definitions of success. There were several themes he was exploring. You are probably correct it is not what he meant, but that is indeed what the statement says literally. Which is why we must be so careful with what we say, especially when someone is seen as an authority, as such, of the Orthodox Church. Had it been worded as you worded it, there would be no confusion. Statements like this pop up in many of the blogs.

    What is the definition of successful? Many of us can be considered successful. We are blessed to have a job, a home, food and a car. We aren’t movie stars, professional athletes, leaders of the tech industry, but are successful in our own ways. Many of us can be well-adjusted, though no one is perfect, and we must reflect on what is in our hearts daily that is sin and needs to be rooted out. Well-adjusted meaning, we are law abiding, do not lie, steal, cheat, bear false witness, hold grudges, commit adultery, are not addicted to anything, no self-made drama in our lives, don’t buy into the hype of the world, walk with Christ’s help to do His will and work taking care of others, etc. In this way I am “successful” and “well-adjusted”.

    I met with my Priest this week out of concern, to discuss the themes about wealth and struggle and literal statements from the blogs . Because, according to what was literally said in them, we might not be legitimate children of God. I was relieved to find clarity from my Priest across the whole of the Orthodox teaching that I am a child of God, still, and I am saved, am being saved and will be saved and with the mercy of the Lord will be part of the Kingdom of Heaven.

    Another area that I get what is being said, but clarification is helpful is the below:

    “The prayer and fasting, almsgiving and confession that are the very heart of the Orthodox way of life are not techniques or ways of self-improvement and betterment. They are the embracing of a way of life in which self-improvement and betterment are beside the point. To observe “improvement” in ourselves is to abandon the way of humility and repentance. It is the nature of the Orthodox way that we become increasingly aware of our failures rather than our progress.” Christ said, “…when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, `We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” (Lk. 17:10)

    The Orthodox Way of life does improve us as throughout the teachings we are to become more Christ-like. It’s not a program as in the secular world, as it is not based on what we alone do, but what is done with the cooperation of our will and that of Divine Grace in synergy. Observing improvement can be misapplied and lead to spiritual pride; but it is a relief to see regeneration. Orthodoxy does not advocate self-flagellation and over pious denigration of self as was seen in Roman Catholicism. Everything is a balance. Personally I have grown even more in the Orthodox Church because of the depth of the ancient and original Christian teachings. Every day I examine my Nous, the Holy Trinity is on my mind, is my strength and my rock as I walk, fall, get up again.

    Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.

  15. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Thank you Paula,
    I suppose that I may be splitting hairs but I sense a wider gulf of receiving Gods energy of grace that will fill us with God’s Love and placing that on a sort of linear spectrum of ‘kinds of love’ that is motivated by acquisition. You have eloquently described of the latter, as our attempts to fill a void. I’m just not willing to call the latter shades of Love. Perhaps I do sound dogmatic, but I seek clarity.

    I think sometimes we’re trying to acquire God. And that ‘doesn’t work’.

  16. Paula Avatar
    Paula

    Dee…Thank you for clarifying what you mean by “acquisition”. I appreciate very much that you take note of these subtleties that I do not see and kindly bring it forward. I do know what you mean, in trying to even buy God’s love, because I do revert back to that very thing myself.

  17. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Suzie,
    I would suppose that any statement, if taken in its most literal sense, and pressed in the wrong direction, would fail to be true. Why would it be pressed into a wrong direction – most often out of our own personal concerns or worries (in the most benign cases) or for darker reasons, in some few instances.

    In context is the best way to read something. But removing the “scandal” of something by too much interpretation also leads in the wrong direction. Christ said some things that seemed so extreme to his disciples that they asked him “then who can be saved?”

    The criteria of “success, being well-adjusted, and wise” as the world measures these things – or as some Christians wrongly important them into the faith, are indeed stumbling blocks to our salvation. Christ said He came to seek the lost.

    But you’ve acted wisely talking to your priest – I would trust his guidance far more than anything you read here – he knows you and knows how you hear and understand. Forgive me if I’ve caused any confusion.

  18. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Suzie and Fr Stephen,
    So much of what and how we interpret what we read is framed and filtered, so to speak, from our life circumstances.

    For example, in the culture of the US, there is an underclass who has a desire to come out of their circumstances of poverty, and as such, no one might blame them. On the other hand, aspiring to the criterion of success as outlined in this society, might also make attaining such goals (especially for the underclass) ever elusive, because the structures of the society might be racist, for example, and set up structure to minimize the development of financial security of particular groups ‘of color’. Furthermore, acquiring monetary success, does not shield one from continued barriers formed by racism (again as an example). Among people of color I hear a sort of drive for monetary success for the sheer purpose of developing a form of ‘protection’. In a culture that values ‘financial success’, such goals might seem reasonable, for ‘protection’.

    What ‘success is’ seems to be have a kind of floating meaning. Again, using myself this time as an example, my own financial circumstances might seem a nightmare to some people, and yet my life circumstances might appear ‘idyllic’ to others (and therefore a success of a different type). My hope is that the following is aligned with the Orthodox faith: namely, that the ‘truth’ of our circumstances lies in the heart. How do we carry or live ‘our wealth’ or ‘our success’ there? Do we and how do we “strive for success” there? What are we trying to attain? Can we actually attain what we seek, by trying to attain it?

    Suzie, more often than not I see Fr Stephen’s writings as a means for reflection and for opening up our hearts to the will of God. I can’t remember ever seeing it to be dogmatically prescriptive about what we need to do in our individual lives, but he has suggestions which flow from his pastoral work, such as ‘follow Christ’s commandments’ and ‘give away your stuff’ (and ‘stuff’ might be just about anything including ‘one’s time’). It seems to me his essays are intended to help us ask ourselves what might be considered ‘hard questions’ and to raise such questions with our confessor priest as you have done and as both Fr Stephen, and Agata recommend.

  19. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Fr Stephen,
    I wan’t to emphasize the importance of these words you wrote (forgive my edit and correct my edit as needed):

    “The criteria of “success, being well-adjusted, and wise” as the world measures these things – or as some Christians wrongly [import] them into the faith, are indeed stumbling blocks to our salvation. Christ said He came to seek the lost.”

    “The lost” is so contradictory with a Protestant belief of ‘once and always saved’. Perhaps I’m overly sensitive to a Protestant interpretation of the Orthodox faith and overly needful of emphasizing words that contrast with what I believe is a Protestant understanding of the faith.

    Anyway, I’m just grateful that you reminded us.

  20. NSP Avatar

    Suzie,

    What is the definition of successful? Many of us can be considered successful. We are blessed to have a job, a home, food and a car. We aren’t movie stars, professional athletes, leaders of the tech industry, but are successful in our own ways.
    — Suzie @ February 5, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    I hope you won’t take this as my starting an argument with you, because that’s not my intention. I’m just honestly puzzled: “can be considered…” – by whom? Oneself? Perhaps. Others around us? From my interactions with other people, I seriously doubt it, because I don’t see anyone in today’s world labeling such metrics as you provide here as “success,” except when stated (unintentionally, perhaps) condescendingly by a person from an affluent background about someone from a troubled background.

    In contrast, I find in society an unspoken expectation that someone who already started off from a comfortable background (middle-class or above) has no business considering himself “successful” on having “a job, a home, food and a car.” (And in today’s uncertain professional world, who can really be sure of continuing to have a comfortable job and the financial & psychological stability that derives from it?) Even if most people won’t (but some will, make no mistake), out of some vestiges of politeness left over from the past, say it to the face of another, the truth is that the world would actually call this “mediocrity,” and in the eyes of the world, “mediocrity” is synonymous with “failure.”

    That, at least, has been my unvaried experience in my part of the world. Perhaps your experience has been different, but if so, you are really blessed to live among very kind & gentle people.

    If my comment has disturbed you, please forgive me, and ignore what I’ve written.
    -NSP

  21. Esmée La Fleur Avatar

    NSP – In support of what you said… during one honily, my priest reminded us that NOTHING we have is ours. It has ALL come from God. If we have achieved ANYTHING in life, it is due to talents, intelligence, social position, financial status, and each of THOSE things were also a gift from God that gave us an advantage over others.

  22. learningtobestill2016 Avatar
    learningtobestill2016

    A couple of yardsticks on wealth.

    According to Credit-Suisse Bank, two-thirds of the adults in the world have less than $10,000.

    According to the Pew Research Center, 80% of the people on the planet live on less than $20 per day ($7300/yr). Over half live on less than $10 per day ($3650/yr),

    So, since I have more than $10,000 and I live on more than $7300 a year, I am one of the world’s wealthiest people.

  23. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    Learning,
    Thank you for this information. I’m also grateful that you provided your sources. Often I’ve been in conversations of this sort and other potential ‘topics of concern’ where sources are not given, particularly in science topics. Then I’m asked to comment, from the ‘perspective of science’, when in fact what I’m really being asked to do is give an uninformed opinion. Thank you for your participation here.

  24. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    Learningtobestill
    Which also means most Americans are wealthy. In my life as a military dependent and 20 years of service I have first hand seen what real poverty is. I really understand why the world wants to come here and why many in the world hate us.

  25. Meg Avatar
    Meg

    Hi Fr Stephen !
    Thank you so very much again for your wonderful insights !
    You mention: “The problem is that the spiritual life doesn’t “work,” and was never supposed to. It is not something that “works,” it is something that “lives.” And this is an extremely important distinction. ” And: “The prayer and fasting, almsgiving and confession that are the very heart of the Orthodox way of life are not techniques or ways of self-improvement and betterment. They are the embracing of a way of life in which self-improvement and betterment are beside the point. ” You say also: “St. Isaac’s statement is fully in line with the New Testament. There, we are not presented with the solution to our problems, nor with the promise of a better world. Rather, we are taught how to live in repentance and participate daily in the life of the Kingdom of God. ”
    Thank you ! To remind oneself with awareness of the falsity of the world, and when in this space, to then pivot, turn and remember to more live simply in the life of the Kingdom as mentioned, and recognize the above, is such a great point ! And very grounding ! Meg

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