Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1843

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Four Upbuilding Discourses is a 1843 work by Søren Kierkegaard.



The Lord Gave, and the Lord Took Away; Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

  • Not only do we call someone a teacher of humankind who by a special stroke of fortune discovered some truth or fathomed it by unflagging toil and thoroughgoing persistence and then left his attainment as learning that subsequent generations strive to understand and in this understanding to appropriate to themselves; but we also call someone – perhaps in an even stricter sense – a teacher of humankind who had no teaching to hand over to others but left mankind only himself as a prototype, his life as a guide for everyone, his name as security for many, his work as an encouragement for those who are being tried. Such a teacher and guide of humankind is Job, whose significance by no means consists in what he said but in what he did. He did indeed leave a statement that by its brevity and beauty has become a proverb preserved from generation to generation, and no one has presumptuously added anything to it or taken anything from it; but the statement itself is not the guide, and Job’s significance consists not in his having said it but in his having acted upon it.
    • p. 109
  • When one generation has finished its service, completed its work, fought through its struggle, Job has accompanied it; when the new generation with its incalculable ranks, each individual in his place, stands ready to begin the pilgrimage, Job is there again, takes his place, which is the outpost of humanity. If the generation sees nothing but happy days in prosperous times, then Job faithfully accompanies it; but if the single individual experiences the terrors in thought, is anguished over the thought of what horror and distress life can have in store, over the thought that no one knows when the hour of despair may strike for him, then his troubled thought seeks out Job, rests in him, is calmed by him, for Job faithfully accompanies him and comforts him, not, to be sure, as if he had suffered once and for all what would never be suffered again, but comforts as someone who witnesses that the horror has been suffered, the horror has been experienced, the battle of despair has been fought to the glory of God, for his own rescue, for the benefit and joy of others.
    • Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 110
  • Only the person who has been tried and who tested the saying in being tested himself, only he rightly interprets the saying; Job desires only that kind of pupil, only that kind of interpreter; he alone learns from him what there is to learn, the most beautiful and the most blessed, compared with which all other art or wisdom is very inessential. Therefore, we quite rightly call Job a teacher of humankind and not of individuals, because he presents himself to everyone as the prototype.
    • p. 112
  • But Job! The moment the Lord took everything away, he did not say, “The Lord took away,” but first of all he said “The Lord gave”. … Job’s soul was not squeezed into silent subjection to the sorrow, but that his heart first expanded in thankfulness, that the first thing the loss of everything did was to make him thankful to the Lord that he had given him all the blessings that he now took away from him. … His thankfulness no doubt was not the same as in those days that already seemed so far away, when he received every good and every perfect gift from God’s hand with thankfulness. But his thankfulness was nevertheless honest, just as honest as the idea of God’s goodness that was now so vivid in his soul.
    • p. 115-116
  • If he [Job] had never known happiness, then the pain would not have overwhelmed him, for what is pain but an idea that the person knows nothing else does not have, but now it is precisely joy that has educated and developed him to perceive pain.” Then his joy became his own ruin; it was never lost but only lacking, and in its lack it tempted him more than ever before. What had been his eye’s delight, his eyes craved to see again and his ingratitude punished him by inducing him to believe it to be more beautiful than it had ever been. What his soul delighted in, it now thirsted for, and ingratitude punished him by picturing it to him as more delightful than it had ever been. What he once had been able to do, he now wanted to be able to do again, and ingratitude punished him with fantasies that had never had any truth. Then he condemned his soul, living, to be starved out in the insatiable craving of the lack.
    • Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 117
  • Are you perhaps thinking that something like this could not happen to you? Who taught you this wisdom, or on what do you base this conviction? Are you wise and sensible, and is this your comfort? Job was the teacher of many people. Are you young and is youth your security? Job, too, was once young. Are you old, on the edge of the grave? Job was an old man when sorrow caught up with him. Are you powerful and is this the proof of your exemption? Job was highly regarded by the people. Is wealth your security? Job possessed the blessings of the land. Are friends your security? Job was loved by all. Do you trust in God? Job was an intimate of the Lord. Have you really pondered these thoughts, or do you rather avoid them lest they force a confession from you, which would now perhaps be called a depressed mood? And yet there is no hiding place in the whole world where trouble will not find you, and no one has ever lived who could say more than you can say, that you do not know when sorrow will visit your house. So, then, be earnest with yourself; fix your eyes upon Job.
    • p. 123-124

Every Good and Every Perfect Gift Is from Above

  • The Garden of Eden was closed; everything was changed, the man became afraid of himself, afraid of the world around him. Troubled he asked: What is the good, where is the perfect to be found? If it exists, where is its source? But the doubt that had come along with the knowledge coiled itself alarmingly around his heart, and the serpent that had seduced him with the delectable now squeezed him in its coils. Would he find out what the good and perfect is without learning where it came from, would he be able to recognize the eternal source without knowing what the good and perfect is? Doubt would explain to him first one thing, then another, and in the explanation itself would lie in wait for him in order to disquiet him still more. What happened at the beginning of days is repeated in every generation and in the individual; the consequences of the fruit of the knowledge could not be halted. With the knowledge, doubt became more inward, and the knowledge, which should have guided man, fettered him in distress and contradiction.
    • Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Hong, p. 127
  • Perhaps you would say: Who would want to deny that every good gift and every perfect gift is from above? But not wanting to deny it is still a very long way from wanting to understand it, and wanting to understand it is still a very long way from wanting to believe it. Does the fruit of the knowledge here again seem so delectable that instead of making a spiritual judgment you demand and identifying sign from the good and the perfect, a proof that it actually did come from above? How should such a sign be constituted? Should it be constituted? Should it be more perfect than the perfect, better than the good, since it is assumed to demonstrate, and it pretends to demonstrate, that the perfect is the perfect. Should it be a sign, a wonder? Is not a wonder the archenemy of doubt, with which it is never combined?
    • p. 135
  • The apostle turns to the single individual in order to explain the condition that makes it possible for him to receive the good and perfect gift. This condition God himself has given, since otherwise the good would not be a gift. This condition is in turn itself a perfection, since otherwise the good would not be a perfect gift. Earthly need is no perfection but an imperfection. … but to need the good and perfect gift from God is a perfection; therefore the gift, which is intrinsically perfect, is also a perfect gift because the need is perfect. Before this need awakens in a person, there must be a great upheaval. All of doubt’s busy deliberation was mankind’s first attempt to find it. However long this continues, it is never finished, and yet it must be finished, ended, that is, broken off, before the single individual can be what the apostle calls the first fruit of creation.
    • p. 136

Every Good and Every Perfect Gift Is from Above

  • Every upbuilding view of life first finds its resting place or first becomes upbuilding, by and in the divine equality that opens the soul to the perfect, and blinds the sensate eye to the difference, the divine equality.
    • p. 143
  • Every good and every perfect gift still comes down from above, and thus providence does not need specifically your treasure and your goods, since it always has twelve legions of angels ready to serve humankind. … You could just as well keep everything or give everything away; you still would not achieve or produce equality before God. All this I will give you if you will fall down and worship me. Have you forgotten that this was the tempter?
    • p. 145-146
  • God in heaven surely knows best what is the highest that a person can aspire to and complete. Scripture only asks if you were a trustworthy servant.
    • p. 148
  • When the rich man thanks God for the gift and for being granted the opportunity of bestowing it in a good way, he does indeed thank for the gift and for the poor man; when the poor man thanks the giver for the gift and God for the giver, he does indeed also thank God for the gift. Consequently equality prevails in the giving of thanks to God. p. 157

To Gain One's Soul in Patience

  • A human being is born naked and brings nothing with him into the world, and whether the conditions of life are like friendly forms with everything in readiness or he himself must laboriously find them, everyone must nevertheless acquire the conditions of his life in one way or another. Even if this observation makes an individual impatient and thereby totally incompetent, yet the better people know how to comprehend this and how to conform to the idea that life must be gained and that it must be gained in patience, to which they admonish themselves and others, because patience is a soul strength that everyone needs to attain what he desires in life.
    • p. 160
  • The world can be possessed only by its possessing me, and this in turn is the way it possesses the person who has won the world, since one who possesses the world in any other way possesses it as the accidental, as something that can be diminished, increased, lost, won, without his possession being essentially changed. If, however, he possesses the world in such a way that the loss of it can diminish his possession, then he is possessed by the world.
    • p. 164-165
  • But whose possession, then, is his soul? Is it not the world’s, since illegitimate possession is no possession; it is not his, for he, of course, must gain it. Consequently, there must still be a possessor. This possessor must possess the soul only as legitimate property but nevertheless must not possess it in such a way that the person himself cannot gain it as his legitimate possession. Therefore, this possessor can be none other than the eternal being, than God himself.
    • p. 166
  • Must he not possess his soul in order to have patience in which he gains his soul? Not at all, for patience comes into existence during the gaining, and in this gaining he does not become stronger and stronger, which must be assumed if he were to use force, but he seemingly becomes weaker and weaker. Precisely because the world possessed his soul illegitimately, the ultimate consequence of this, also because the world actually is the stronger, is that he becomes weaker and weaker in regard to the life of the world.
    • p. 171

See also