I have been kicking around the ideas of duty vs desire for a couple of weeks. I’d like to briefly explore these two ideas here.
It’s safe to describe a dutiful person as a person who is less impulsive, thoughtful, frames every decision and choice made through the framework of their positions and responsibilities. As a father, husband, and minister, the choices I make every day must be made through the lens of my responsibilities to my family, my calling, and my God. This is not always easy, but duty demands it. This might be a good definition of a dutiful person.
When I describe a person driven by desire, I think of a person who tends to be up for a good time. They are the life of the party and very outgoing. Desire-driven people engage in activities that provide a high level of excitement and enjoy pushing the boundaries of the norm. They tend to shy away from responsibility and duty. Chasing the next exciting event or experience is of paramount importance.
Duty or Desire Drive
The Netflix show, The Crown, illustrates the dutiful Elizabeth II in contrast to her sister the passion-filled desire chasing Princess Margaret. In one scene they describe a trend in the Windsor Family. For King Edward VIII (exciting, popular, and desire-driven) there was King George VI (dull, unimaginative, duty-driven). There was a passionate, risk-taking, sexually explorative, and desire-driven Prince Albert Victor and a contrasting dull, dutiful, stamp collecting, recluse King Georg V. For every Elizabeth II (dutiful, dull, and hesitant to change) there was a Margaret (outgoing, passionate, and eager to rattle norms). You can trace this pattern all the way up to Queen Victoria.
It really got me thinking about this idea of duty vs desire in my own life. We all have these two ideas held in tension. At some point in our lives maybe desire outweighs our duties. Other times we sacrifice our own desires for our family and loved ones. Sometimes it happens moment by moment. We want to give in to our desires, but when the desires conflict with our duties, what will we do?
What about the duty and desire in the context of the Christian life?
To this point what I described is a more worldly perspective of duty vs desire. What if we think about this from the perspective of a spirit-filled believer of Christ.
As Christ-follower, when we are driven solely by duty, we measure our efforts and make excuses for our lapses. Duty-bound leaders are often more interested in the abstract than the concrete; feeling that our love for God and obedience to Christ happens in our heads more than in our hands and habits.
Giving so much effort to our duties can lead us to ask the constant question, “Have I not done enough already?”
When we are driven by the desires from the Spirit of Christ within us, our constant question is: “Can I joyfully do more for Christ?” (Galatians 5)
Sometimes we cannot.
Not even the strongest leader or most faithful follower can serve out of a place of abundance all the time. We all need rest, rejuvenation, and restoration or we’d burn out. The desire-driven Christian has an engine of motivation that is self-fueled and practically always ready. Their satisfaction comes not in having done their part, but in doing their part.
Being a Christ Follower
I’ve had choirs that I direct sing a song by Heather Sorenson based on Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want…”
When we become Christ-follower, we do not stop having desires. Believers and nonbelievers have the same needs. We all need to feel a level of certainty, need variety, need to feel significant, need love and connection, and to feel like we are giving to or a part of something bigger than ourselves.
As humans, we all meet these needs in both positive ways, neutral and sometimes negative ways. There is a difference between how a Christian meets these needs and a non-christian fulfills these needs.
When we become Christ-followers we don’t cease having needs… we just order off of a different menu. The non-believer orders off of one menu, but the Christian orders off of a completely different menu! That’s why we can say, “I feast at the Table of Christ and I shall not want!”
If you sense you are driven more by duty in your Christian walk than by desire, “enough” is not a helpful category for considering your effort. It’s not about doing enough or having more to give; it’s about Christ having done more than enough.
What is your drive?
Duty and obligation are not currencies in the kingdom of God; passion for God, God’s Son, God’s Spirit. God’s image-bearers are what moves the kingdom and move us to love others in the same practical ways as we have been loved.
May we live passionate lives for Christ in the freedom He has given to us. We’re not bound by rules and law. We are driven by the Holy Spirit’s desires that dwell within our hearts and minds.
What will you allow to be your drive?