Meister Eckhart: Waxing and Waning

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Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. Colossians 3:1-6

“Not by fasting and outward works can we gauge our progress in the good life: but a sure sign of growth is a waxing love for the eternal and a waning interest in temporal things. If a man had a hundred marks and gave them all for God’s sake to found a cloister, that would be a fine deed. And yet I say, it would be greater and better to despise and naught himself for God’s sake. In all a man does he should turn his will Godward and, keeping God alone in mind forge ahead without qualms about its being the right thing or whether he is making a mistake. If a painter had to plan every brush-stroke with the first, he would paint nothing. And if, going to some place, we had first to settle how to put the front foot down, we should get nowhere. So, follow the first step and continue: you will get to the right place, and all is well.”

Meister Eckhart (1260-1328) in “Sermon Fifty-Five” in The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, translated and edited by Maurice O’C. Walshe (New York: Crossroad, 2009) 291.

In this sermon, Eckhart focuses on generosity. He reminds us that our giving must be toward God and not to people because our heart must be focused on the eternal and not earthly things. We find roots for this thinking in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians. We must set our hearts and minds on the eternal while putting to death the patterns of the earthly nature.

What does this mean for each of us today?

Don’t try to go do a generous act or make a big gift. While it may sound counterintuitive, try something else instead. Set your mind and hart on the things of God. Feed heavenly desires with care. Feast on what is good and true and right so that you are turning your will Godward. Meanwhile, starve earthly desires by shutting off all sustenance to them.

This will lead, one step at a time, to a waxing love for the eternal and a waning interest in temporal things. It’s a journey and not a sprint. Speaking of journey, Jenni and I fly to Seattle today. Pray for us as we speak at a conference with Korean pastors and their wives through Friday. Pray for Spirit-led teaching and receptive hearts. Thank you.