“This negligence in a matter where they themselves, their eternity, their all are at stake, fills me more with irritation than pity; it astounds and appalls me; it seems quite monstrous to me. I do not say this prompted by the pious zeal of spiritual devotion. I mean on the contrary that we ought to have this feeling from principles of human interest” (Pascal, Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal’s Pensées, 191).
A Second Reflection from Part III: Two Popular Pseudo-Solutions
We spend hours thinking about and discussing trivial things in life. We might, for example, spend days or weeks preparing our lawn for a new landscape design that we hope to bring to our property. Likewise, we spend massive amounts of time think about what car we might purchase, what we want our wardrobe to be like, or following our favorite sports team. When it comes to these things we typically have plenty of time and devote substantial amounts of mental energy.
Surprisingly, however, we give very little attention to the weightier things of life. We might follow the overall progress of our stock portfolio, but spend very little time seeking to understand the particular funds we invest in or the mechanics of the market. And yet, our future depends on such things.
Yet, even more surprising is the amount of attention we give to the weightiest thing of all—eternity. After 20 years of ministry, I’ve had hundreds, maybe thousands, of conversations with people about eternity. And though I’ve seen it so many times, I’m repeatedly shocked by how little thought people give to their own mortality and the fact of eternity. How, I wonder? How can they go through life and be so indifferent to the most important thing in their whole existence? How is it that they can be so blinded by the temporal things of life and lose sight of something so much bigger, so much more important? Like Pascal, I ask this not because I’m more spiritual than they are. I ask this because (1) I care about my life both now and for eternity, and (2) death is certain. In the interest of self-preservation, how can we not pursue the knowledge of God?
Pascal’s answer to this was simple. The indifference found in the lives of so many is really nothing more than just a coping mechanism for dealing with our own mortality. We are like the silly child who covers his eyes when monsters are around, thinking that if he can’t see the monster, then the monster can’t see him. Perhaps if we don’t think about it, then the stark realities won’t come.
We all know this is foolish, and yet this is what we do. A better way, as Pascal reminds us, is to replace our indifference with a passionate pursuit of Christ. We cannot avoid death, but we can find life through death in our Lord’s death, burial and resurrection. To do otherwise is reckless and foolish.
I encourage you to continue reading through Pascal as he helps us see more clearly. Let’s chose the better way. Let’s cast off indifference and in our own interest, seek Christ!