Thursday, February 16

Passion, Joy, & Wisdom, & Why it's a Good Thing to Be a Little on the Selfish Side

My favorite people inspire me because they are selfless.  I'm reading "Atlas Shrugged" at the moment and was shocked to discover that Ayn Rand also inspires me in certain ways for different reasons.  Gasp! Inspired by an atheist, Celena!?  Yes, well, even an atheist can have a brilliant mind and can achieve great things in the eyes of the world.  She was an amazing writer who overcame great odds, she weaves a captivating story (too captivating, perhaps) and she paints a picture of humanity and the world that can't simply be brushed over. Atlas Shrugged makes me think more than I have since I graduated from NAU with a minor in Anthropology 3 years ago.  Minoring in Anthropology and being bombarded with relative truth and Darwinian evolution taught by the most amazing professor this side of the Universe will make a Christian think a great deal, I assure you.  But I've missed being so challenged.  I've missed having to actually think about things.

One thing I've begun to ponder is how selfishness invades everything I do and realizing that it's alright to be that way.  Maybe that doesn't sound like anything a Christian should consider, but bear with me!  Ayn Rand advocated nothing short of selfishness.  I began to think things like, "Maybe the only reason I really make my husband coffee in the morning is for what I'll get out of it."  Truly, it is a part of the reason. But that reason and my doing anything good is all wrapped around the reality that I love God and try my best to live for Him.  Think about why you do anything good.  You do it because of the feeling of gratification it gives you, or because of pride and the way people will see you, or because of what you'll get out of it, and, hopefully, because God wants you to.  Most of those things are selfish but the last thing wraps it all together and makes it good.  Ayn Rand leaves out that last part and so her ideal, "perfect" characters fall short of anything close to perfection because of it.

According to her, "rational self-interest (i.e. selfishness) is every individual's highest moral obligation."  My favorite Christian apologist, John Piper, said what sounds on the surface like the same thing: "some dimension of joy is a moral duty in all virtuous acts."  Joy is for ourselves, is it not?   Both John Piper and Ayn Rand believed that pursuing joy is selfish.  Rand wrote about 2 of her characters, "They were both incapable of the conception that joy is sin."  Truly, what rational person would want to be a Christian if joy is sin?!  Perhaps seeking joy is selfish, but joy in itself is not sin.

That idea that all joy is sin is totally anti-god, which any average person will discover if they read His Word.  According to the bible, God gives us "all things richly to enjoy."  When we "delight in Him, He gives us the desires of our hearts."  Mr. Piper said, "Pursuing maximum joy is essential to glorifying God.  All-surpassing, soul-satisfying treasure.  People actually don't seek pleasure with nearly the resolve and passion they should."

The greatest pleasure anyone can have is in living for God every day of their lives.  I'm not saying that I never question or doubt Him.  I'm not saying that I read my bible from dawn to dusk.  I'm not saying that I'm even close to perfect.  I know who I am and so does God, and I am not quite as "good" as I may seem on the outside; no one is.  But God made me a person who would want to seek joy and who wouldn't give up until she found it.  He made me someone who would long for passion and richness in life because He is the author of real passion and real richness.  He made me that way so that I would want to love Him and want to know Him.

Ayn Rand obviously sought passion and joy, too, but I pity her because she didn't realize that God is the author of the greatest pleasures and the greatest passions, and the author of complete wisdom.  I haven't touched on wisdom much but I want to be wise as much as I want the other things.  When King Solomon asked, God blessed him with the greatest wisdom any man ever had before or since.  As amazing as Ayn Rand was, as much wisdom as she had in certain things, as much as I like this book, it falls so short of what it could have been had she acknowledged the One who bestowed so lavishly a gift upon her.  Complete wisdom can only be found in God; no matter how brilliant a mind may be, there are certain things a person will never understand without the wisdom that only comes from asking the One who created our minds in the first place.

Knowledge of God without knowledge of man's wretchedness leads to pride.  Knowledge of man's wretchedness without knowledge of God leads to despair.  Knowledge of Jesus Christ is the middle course, because by it we discover both God and our wretched state. ~Blaise Pascal, 17th c. Scientist

As for you, dear reader, may God show you all passion, joy, wisdom, and truth; and may you understand the height, and depth, and width of His love for you! I'm just barely skimming the surface of something that's pretty deep. I hope you'll investigate it for yourself by getting to know Him better.


  1. Great post! I love that quote by Pascal. Enjoy your day.

  2. This made me think..."why did I do that for this person and this for that person?" I really do get joy out of blessing others. Paragraph 5, that's whats up ;)

  3. I think about this all the time! How strange that this topic is always on my mind and someone else writes about it.

  4. This was such a good post! The joy I feel in knowing Jesus and in knowing I'm eternally saved is awesome. It has changed how I view the world. It's also changed how I view all people who don't yet know Jesus. Thank you for such a profound and interesting post.

  5. Amazing post. My mom would love it!