Only a Weight

Remember that man’s life does not consist in what he has, but in what he is. Serve Jesus and the Church. Oh, let not the best years of your life be years in which you have little communion with God, and in which you do little for Christ! “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Let not your biography be summed up: “He turned to God in his youth, he then became lukewarm, being engrossed in the cares and the business and the social demands of the world, and a short time before his death he saw his mistake, and felt that one thing be needful. For years his spiritual life was barely sustained by the prayers of friends and the weekly services of the sanctuary. He might have been a pillar for the Church, but he was only a weight.” This be far from you. Oh, serve the Lord with gladness, be strong, quit yourselves like men, and abound in the work of the Lord!

Adolph Saphir, The Hidden Life: Thoughts on Communion with God

Adolph Saphir lived from 1831-1891. He was a Hungarian Jew who converted to Christianity and became a Presbyterian minister. If the quote above feels antiquated, those feelings are warranted. The book containing it was published in 1877.

My views on the spiritual life lead me to push back against Saphir, or to at least ask for further nuance, on certain aspects of the above. But my disagreements do not keep me from laughing at what I’ve highlighted in bold, or from cheering when he exhorts, “This be far from you.” It is far better to be a blessing than a burden, especially when you consider the blessings we have received in and through Christ. If you serve the Lord with gladness, do not do so because you desire a more favorable biographical summary. Do so because you have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and that as a result you desire nothing more than to live a life pleasing in God’s sight.