In his Manual for Interior Souls, Jean Grou offers a contrast between what he calls “interior souls” and “mercenary and self-interested souls.”
“We can understand also why these interior souls are hated and detested by mercenary and self-interested souls, although they may be otherwise virtuous and devout: it is because they are both traveling on such very different roads; it is that the one kind are serving God for His own sake, without any thought of their own interest, which is the necessary fruit of their simplicity; while the other kind are seeking themselves in the service of God, appropriating all to themselves, greedy for sensible fervour and consolation, wishing always to be certain about their state, and never consenting to lose sight of themselves for a moment. It is impossible that these two kinds of devotion can ever be sympathetic, and the simple souls, who have abandoned themselves entirely to God, must always have a great deal to suffer from the others, who see in them a silent condemnation of their principles and their conduct.” (Fr. Jean Grou, S. J. Manual for Interior Souls. London: St. Anselm’s Society, 1913, p. 390-91.)
The second group are those who pursue the things of God and even the work of God for some sort of personal gain, self-promotion or self-serving purpose. They may not even realize this is their motive. Of course no one reading (or writing) this entry would ever be guilty of such a motive (but all of us can be and often are!) We want to see a church grow, we say, for the glory of God, but we don’t mind what such growth says about our leadership capability and resourcefulness. We want to preach a great sermon or speak a great message, we say, so that people will be drawn to God and their lives will be changed, but we really don’t mind all of the “great message” comments we receive. We want to bear well a hard situation we’re facing, but secretly hope to perhaps achieve a level of spiritual hero status.
Grou describes the mercenary soul as, in one way or another, seeking themselves even in the service of God. They reference all they think, feel and do to themselves rather than to God. They are greedy and demanding when it comes to feeling close to God, feeling moved by God or feeling taught by God. They expect to always be certain about where they stand and where they are headed (not only for the next few steps, but for the next few legs of the journey). They are the souls with a confident ten-year spiritual plan for their lives and ministries. They forget the counsel of James:
James 4:13-16 (NIV), “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.
We really are blind when it comes to tomorrow. We don’t want to believe that in our over-confident USAmerican culture. Do we really believe that we are at the wonderful mercy of God as it relates to our future? Do we believe that our life is a brief mist? I too easily think too much of myself and not enough of God.
Father, may You Yourself become the center of my life and of my work. May I learn what this really means. Amen.