Family, Life, And Other Relative Goods

Family, Life, And Other Relative Goods September 12, 2021

Photo: Lawrence OP: Gabriel Loire of Chartres’ Mosaic of Simon of Cyrene Carrying the Cross of Christ /flickr

Family is important, but we must not make an idol out of it. Family is important, and so we should take care of and respect members of our family, but we should not be so focused on our family that we ignore our neighbors and their needs. Family is important, but we must remember what is more important. We must be willing to say no to our family and what it wants or expects from us if it gets in the way of the greater good. That is, if our family gets in the way of God and what God expects and desires out of us, we must deny our family, not God. The good which comes out of a family is real, but it is not the absolute good. We must preserve the good of our family in the proper fashion, that is, recognizing that good but also recognizing and preserving the greater good in which are family resides. Indeed, it is because our family resides in the greater good that we still honor and respect our family if we follow the greater good and its expectations over the whims of our family, because our family will gain a share of that greater good through us, while it might lose everything with us if we ignore that greater good.

One of the reasons why Jesus found himself in trouble with authorities due to the way he acted when they abused their authority. He always promoted the greater good, and with it, the greater truth, over partial goods and truth. When he found something trying to override and replace the greater good, Jesus would speak out, sometimes with extremely shocking words. He spoke in such a way that we should think and ponder what he meant, because if we do so, we will be able to discern  a great truth in the midst of rather confusing statement. He didn’t want us to get too attached to the way things are, to the good which we find in them, turning them into absolutes. Instead, he made sure all lesser forms of the good, no matter how good they were in and of themselves, were shown to be relative goods. He didn’t want us to idolize lesser goods, because if we did, we would replace the absolute good with them. This is why he told us that the good of the family and the good associated with life itself must not be absolutized:

He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;  and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it (Matt. 10:37-39 RSV).

Jesus did not deny the good which lies behind the things which we attach ourselves to, nor did he say we could not love them. The problem is we often love them too much. We need to love them with a proper kind of love. We should love God as the source and foundation for all that is good, and so through that love of God, we can and should love all relative goods. We should love them, of course, as goods in and of themselves and with the realization that their good is limited. We should not attach ourselves to them in such a way that they get in the way of our loving others or the greater good, God, from which they came. That is, we must not use our love for a lesser good as an excuse to ignore and reject the greater good; such an attachment leads to idolatry and the dangers associated with idolatry (that is, we will begin to sacrifice all other things for the sake of our disordered love).

We must seek to be worthy of God; we must follow after God and engage the greater good which God would have us do. Those who would have us ignore the common good, for example, always put something over and against the common good, that is, they place some lesser good in its place, causing harm to the common good as a result.  Jesus challenges us to make sure we do not  form such unhealthy attachments, that is, we don’t turn particular goods into dangerous idols which prevent us from following the dictates of the greater good. Indeed, those attachments often make us create, as it were, a false sense of wisdom, a wisdom which tells us how things can and should be if they are centralized upon those attachments instead of how things should be if we took the greater good into consideration. We can see this in the way various capitalists treat money and discuss economic theories based upon their love for money. Everything is related about money. The accumulation of money is more important than anything else, so all other moral considerations are treated as secondary concerns at best. This is how every age creates its own disordered wisdom, for every age has its own undue attachments, its own goods which it appropriates to itself in a way that has it ignoring or unable to perceive other goods. This is why every age, in its wisdom, offers much which we can learn from, but if we are not careful and don’t reform it, it turn us away from the fullness of the truth if we are not careful. This is why we must never become too attached to the ideologies of our time but instead seek for universal wisdom which does not pass away. For it is in and through such wisdom we find our path to the transcendent good and the beatitude which it provides (eternal life).  Thus, Paul said if the people of his era were not so attached to their own ideology, they would have recognized the wisdom of Jesus and seen him for who he was and would not have challenged him nor crucified him as they did:

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:6-9 RSV).

We must not think we are any different today. Every time we put an idol over and above the greater good,  we sacrifice people and their livelihood for that idol. Money. Work. Sports. Entertainment. All of these often serve as idols in our age. It should not be difficult to see how people, attached to them, become like those who crucified Christ, for they use their attachment to ignore those who are in need (and, what is done to those in need, is done to Christ). This is why it is vital for us to listen to Jesus, to the voice of transcendent wisdom, pick up our cross, and cut ourselves from all undue attachments, such as attachment to the family, so that then we can follow after him and love all things in their proper fashion so that we don’t end up sacrificing others for the sake of some ideology.


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