Pascal, my favorite philosopher (see WHAT HAPPENED), seems to have said it best: “What is it, then, that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of what there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.
He only is our true good, and since we have forsaken Him, it is a strange thing that there is nothing in nature which has not been serviceable in taking His place; the stars, the heavens, earth, the elements, plants, cabbages, leeks, animals, insects, calves, serpents, fever, pestilence, war, famine, vices, adultery, incest. And since man has lost the true good, everything can appear equally good to him, even his own destruction, though so opposed to God, to reason, and to the whole course of nature.”
When we observe the history of man, when we observe our own nature, our acquaintances – even ourselves, we see how correct Pascal was.
I think of the story in John 4, of the woman who met Jesus at the well in Samaria. She had needs and she had a need. Though her physical and emotional needs were real, Jesus keeps pointing her to her deeper need – a need that only He could fill.
She came to draw water. Jesus pointed her to Himself, the One who could provide her with living water (verses 7-10). She had had five husbands and was living with a man who was not her husband (verses 16-18). When Jesus pointed this out to her, He wasn’t trying to put her down, wasn’t trying to show her what a sinful person she was, He was trying to show her that she had a need that she had been trying to fill and couldn’t. She was religious (verses 19, 20). Jesus pointed out to her that her religion couldn’t fill the need either (verses 21, 22).
And then He told her about God. That the worship of God goes beyond forms and places. God is to be worshipped in spirit and truth (verses 23, 24). And He told her that God is seeking such people as His worshippers. God was seeking this woman. God doesn’t need us, but He seeks out people who know they need Him.
And He pointed her to Himself (verses 25, 26).
We could definitely revise Pascal’s list to bring it up to the present, even though most of it already is relevant for the 21st century. Notice that most of the items in Pascal’s list are not evil in themselves. They are morally neutral. But as Pascal says they “are all inadequate.” They become sins when we try to fill the void with them. And the void can only be filled when we allow Christ to fill it through faith.