Kierkegaard's Spiritual Writings
Spiritual Writings: A New Translation and Selection (Harperperennial Modern Thought)
Harper Perennial Modern Classics
November 9, 2010
336 pp., $11.64
"Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness."
But what does this mean? What am I to do? What kind of striving is it of which it can be said that it seeks or desires the kingdom of God? Ought I to get a position corresponding to my abilities and powers in order to bring this about? No, you are first to seek the kingdom of God. Ought I, then, to give all my fortune to the poor? No, you are first to seek the kingdom of God. But does this, then, mean that, in a sense, there is nothing for me to do? Quite right—there is, in a sense, nothing. In the very deepest sense, you are to make yourself nothing, to become nothing before God, and learn to keep silent—and it is in this silence that you begin to seek what must come first: the kingdom of God.
Thus, in a godly way, one goes in a certain sense backward, toward the beginning …. The beginning is this art of becoming silent, for there is no art in being silent in the way that nature is silent. And to be thus, in the deepest sense, silent, silent before God, is how one begins to learn the fear of God. For just as the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, silence is the beginning of the fear of God. And just as the fear of God is more than the beginning of wisdom, since it is "wisdom" itself, so, too, is silence more than the beginning of the fear of God—it is "the fear of God." In this silence, in the fear of God, wishing, desire, and their many thoughts fall silent. In this silence, in the fear of God, the verbosity of thanksgiving falls silent.
Human beings' superiority over animals consists in being able to talk, but in relation to God this can bring about their ruin if, being able to talk, they want to talk. God is in heaven, and we are on earth, and therefore we cannot easily talk together. God is love, and human beings—as one says to a child and maybe even for its benefit—are little rascals, and therefore they cannot easily talk together. It is only with much fear and trembling that human beings can talk with God, in much fear and trembling. But to talk in much fear and trembling is also difficult for other reasons, for just as anxiety causes one to be physically unable to speak, so, too, does much fear and trembling make speech become dumb and fall silent.
The person who knows how to pray knows this, and those who don't know how to pray might perhaps learn this by praying …. Praying is not listening to oneself speak but is about becoming silent and, in becoming silent, waiting, until the one who prays hears God.
Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins.
Copyright © 2010 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Spiritual Writings is available from Amazon.com and other book retailers.
Reach Christian History's profile of Søren Kierkegaard.
Other articles on Kierkegaard from Christianity Today's sister publications include:
St. Mugg's Wrestling Prophets, Part II: The "Weird Little Dane" | How a struggling soul built a bridge to Christ for those caught in the world's snares. (2004)
Cloud of Witnesses | S. K. highlights three basic differences between a genius and an apostle. (July 1, 1996)