Treasure of the Inner Life
“And he told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?” And he said, “I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.'” —Luke 12:16-21
In this parable our Lord shows us that our worth in God’s eyes is not measured by our things. God cares for us; He is not worried about our possessions. Life in Christ is easier to talk about, than it is to practice. I find myself trying to live in two worlds. One is very focused on Christ and the Kingdom, (or so I think) the other world, although not completely consumed, is never the less concerned with things of this world. We try to find a balance that we can live with instead of choosing Christ completely. If we are not careful we come to a place where we believe that it is not only possible to straddle the fence between this world and the Kingdom but that the best way to live is to cooperate with the world and still keep calling ourselves Christian. Unfortunately we cannot serve two masters.
Mr. Big Barns is the name I have given this man in the Gospel. And even though I try to take comfort in the fact that in my mind I do not have nearly as much stuff as he does, deep down I know that I am in danger of seeing the world from the same perspective that he does. Still it must be clear to us that it is not the amount of possessions that separate us from Christ, but our attitude towards them.
I want to talk about how we protect our souls from attitudes that harm it and how to develop attitudes that protect and heal our souls. It is called the inner life. We are the ones that are responsible for developing this life.
First we have to ask ourselves what we really want. Jesus says that He came so that would have life in abundance (John 10:10). I do not think our Lord is talking about material possessions or success. Abundance is found in a deep abiding relationship with Christ. Relationship implies interaction. We cannot have any kind relationship with a person if that relationship is based only on our thoughts about that person. We must pray, not just on a regular basis, but without ceasing. We must participate in His life, His death, and His resurrection. Not just on Sundays, but every day, We must become partakers of the divine nature. We must become part of a living temple.
These goals are not something we can accomplish on our own and they not stationary. A living relationship is always getting deeper and richer. How much do we want the inner life?
Another reality we must face is that neither the scriptures, the Church, or out Lord Himself teaches that once we become a Christian our lives will become easy. In Fact the opposite is true. But I must point out that this is only true from the world’s point of view. From our point of view, even martyrdom is seen as easy compared to living without Christ.
The goal of our life is not to be saved from something like hell or punishment. Our goal is to be saved to Some ONE. Our goal is Jesus Christ. Everything that we do here has only one objective. By what happened on the cross our Lord has freely offered us complete victory over the world, sin, death and the continuation of our healing. Our brothers and sisters who came before us were willing to suffer imprisonment, torture and even physical death for the sake of Christ.
The key to transforming our lives is embracing a way of life that denies our self while we affirm Christ. This is called the inner life. If we say that we love our children but we never talk to them, never hold them or caress them, then we really don’t love them. It is the same thing with our inner life. It would be impossible for me to over emphasize the importance of daily prayer, reading the scriptures, the lives of the saints and participating in the sacraments of the church especially the sacrament of repentance and the Eucharist. The inner life is closely bound up with what the church calls the ascetic disciplines. As we embrace the Church’s ascetic disciplines, we place ourselves in the sunlight of God’s grace. When we participate in the ascetic disciplines of the church, we are not alone; we join with the apostles, the prophets, and all the saints, especially the Theotokos and above all Christ Himself. We enter into the community of the Church. How do we become a member of the Church? We have to go to this class and say we believe these certain doctrines. Yes, but on the other hand I still desire to become a deeper member of the Church. We have to empty ourselves. We have to become an icon of this inner life. In this living icon we come together in worship and stand with our brothers and sisters who are also walking with us on the inner, unseen path of purification, illumination and Theosis.
I cannot force anyone onto this path, in fact the issue is not just a simple decision to be made, yes or no, the reality is that we must fight tooth an toenail to even want to be on this path, and then staying on the path takes every ounce of everyone’s energy to help each other to stay on the path.
We need to be reminded how different the life of the Christian is from the life of the person in the world. It’s not just a matter of externals; all of the differences that really matter are established with the inner man. But it is essential for the inner realities to become manifested in our lives. People who are firmly established on the inner path of the Kingdom look and act different from the people in the world. There is a physical side to being spiritual.
We live for God, we are His servants and He is our Master. In every way we try to do only what is pleasing to Him. The weapons of such a life are: prayers in church and at home, fasting according to our strength and the rules of the Church, vigilance, solitude, physical labors, living a life of repentance, the Eucharist, reading the scriptures, the writings of the Fathers, and spending time with people who are on the same path with us. When we do this we allow our inner life to take over our external life, understanding that there is only one life. Another powerful weapon in the fight for the inner life is the kindling of the fire of the Spirit that burns in our hearts. As we continue on this path with all our strength, the inner life will become the only context in which we live. In this way by God’s grace we will lay up for ourselves treasure that is rich towards God
Photo courtesy of Mybroetchen.