"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."
So wrote Henry David Thoreau almost 170 years ago.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
This is a great quote. It's one of the most famous in the entire history of American literature. But, as memorable as this quote is, Thoreau was wrong. Dead wrong. I, for one, don’t believe that millions of our fellow Americans lead lives of quiet desperation. This is not to downplay the loneliness, depression, and misery that are prevalent in our society. However, it appears that many of our neighbors are doing just fine. Believe it or not, this includes many people without God.
This can be hard for people like us; people of faith who can't imagine life without God. But the truth be told, millions of our fellow Americans seem to have little or no need for a deity. As a matter of fact, I'm guessing that those of you reading this know someone in this category. Someone close to you who is quite content to live without God. They might be our siblings, our children, or our grandchildren. They could be our co-workers or our next-door neighbors.
Christians need to face a harsh reality: many, many people lead happy, well-adjusted, and productive lives apart from God. Thoughts of eternity may occasionally cross their minds. Many believe in a hereafter. It's just that they see no need for the Church, the Bible, or organized religion. Spirituality is enough for them. Being a good husband, a good friend, a good worker, or a good neighbor, that is really all that matters.... if there is a God.
What if they are dead wrong?
Jesus' stark warning echoes down through time: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)
Jesus could be quite blunt. He wasn't one to mince words. How could he? He knew exactly what was at stake:
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?" (Mark 8:34-37)
In the end, a good career won't matter. The same goes for a good home. The same is also true for a good family. If these good things get in the way of God, they are idols. It is as plain and simple as this.
What good is it for someone to have a great life, if, in the end, they forfeit eternity with God?
Photo by Jordhan Madec on Unsplash