What Matters to God? A Response From C. S. Lewis

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Mere Christianity" by C. S. Lewis. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What matters to God? What is God chiefly concerned with?

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis asserts that we should cultivate Christian virtue. He argues that virtue is essential to human thriving. Most importantly, though, God cares about the kind of people we are.

Here’s C. S. Lewis’s take on what matters to God and why that should matter to us.

What Matters to God

If virtue comes from God and practicing virtue changes you into a new person, then it follows that God is not just concerned with how you behave but what kind of person you are. What matters to God is who you are on the inside. Lewis argues there are three points we should take from this.

1. Motives matter. It is not enough simply to act in the right way, one must do so for the right reasons. To be virtuous, you must pursue virtue for its own sake. For example, if you give to charity for recognition, or help a neighbor to put them in your debt, you have not been virtuous.

2. Every choice matters. God is concerned with every decision you make, large or small, because choices accumulate over time, ultimately shaping the person you become.

3. Effort matters. Lewis writes that God understands the obstacles each of us faces in trying to become virtuous. While God’s ultimate standards may be difficult to reach, he welcomes every attempt as a positive step. This does not mean God has different standards for everyone. Rather God expects effort at virtue from everyone no matter their stage of moral development.

Why Does God Care About Us?

A central tenet of Christian faith is that God cares deeply about us: God cares about each decision we make, our reasons for making it, and how much work we put into trying to be good. This raises a fraught theological question: Why? If God is truly all-powerful, then why does God care at all whether mere humans are living virtuously? Here we’ll explore three explanations:

• God cares about us because we have a role to play in completing creation. According to this view, God created us with the intention that we would live virtuous lives and join with him in the next life. Therefore, God expects us to be good so that it will complete his plan for creation. If God’s plan is for us to be virtuous, then it matters why we make each decision.

• God cares about what we do because God loved us enough to create us and plan out our lives. It follows that God would care whether we make decisions that bring us closer to him and the lives he wants us to lead.

• God cares about our efforts to live more virtuously because human obstacles and mistakes are inevitable parts of life—it’s in making efforts to overcome and grow from these mistakes that God can see our true character and devotion to him.
What Matters to God? A Response From C. S. Lewis

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  • A look at the objective nature of morality
  • What it means to surrender yourself to God's moral law
  • What Christ means to Christian practice and how to follow his example

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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