Learning to be contented with the grace of God…


“To need God is a human being’s highest perfection.”  Describing this proposition as an “upbuilding thought,” Søren Kierkegaard presented it to his Danish readers as a way of introducing them to the essence of Christianity.  And Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians provided the basis for Kierkegaard’s “upbuilding idea”:  “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  (12:9, ESV)


In a human being’s relationship with God … the more he needs God, the more deeply he comprehends that he is in need of God, and then the more he in his need presses forward to God, the more perfect he is.  Therefore, the words “to be contented with the grace of God” will not only comfort a person, and then comfort him again every time earthly want and distress make him, to speak mundanely, needful of comfort, but when he really has become attentive to the words they will call him aside, where he no longer hears the secular mentality’s earthly mother tongue, the speech of human beings, the noise of shop keepers, but where the words explain themselves to him, confide to him the secret of perfection: that to need God is nothing to be ashamed of but is perfection itself, and that the saddest thing of all is if a human being goes through life without discovering that he needs God.


If … this view, that to need God is man’s highest perfection, makes life more difficult, it does this only because it wants to view man according to his perfection and bring him to view himself in this way, because in and through this view man learns to know himself.  And for the person who does not know himself, his life is, in the deeper sense, indeed a delusion.



“To Need God Is a Human Being’s Highest Perfection” was included in Four Upbuilding Discourses, published in 1844.  It is included in The Essential Kierkegaard, Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, eds. (Princeton University Press, 1978), and it is available online by going here and scrolling down to page 84.



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