Recently, in the comments section of this blog, an atheist critic took to accusing Latter-day Saint believers of being “in it” for the expectation of reward.
Here’s a passage from The Weight of Glory, by C. S. Lewis, that has been deeply meaningful to me since I was a teenager:
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of reward. There is the reward which has no natural connexion with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love; that is why we call a man mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it. A general who fights well in order to get a peerage is mercenary; a general who fights for victory is not, victory being the proper reward of battle as marriage is the proper reward of love. The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation.
On a slightly related topic: Surely you don’t need to be told that even enormous wealth can’t shield us from the pains and sorrows of mortal life. You already know that. But here’s a horribly poignant reminder:
Three of his four children, pointlessly and suddenly dead at the hands of malevolent nihilists.
Nobody is exempt.
It’s why we need Easter:
I’m sure that Anders Holch Povlsen would love to have his children back, to see them and to hold them again, to hear their voices again. I’m sure that he desperately wants his pain to stop, that he would give almost anything to undo the evil that occurred on 21 April 2019. There’s absolutely nothing “mercenary” about that. Nothing.