The prevailing ways and means curricula in which we are all immersed in North America are designed to help us get ahead in whatever field of work we find ourselves: sales and marketing, politics, business, church, school an university, construction, manufacturing, faming, laboratory, hospital, home, playground, sports. The courses first instruct us in skills and principles that we are told are foundational and then motivate us to use these skills so that we can get what we want out of this shrunken, dessicated “world, flesh, and devil” field. And of course it works wonderfully as long as we are working in that particular field, the field in which getting things done is the “end.”
When it comes to persons, these ways of the world are terribly destructive. They are highly effective in getting ahead in a God-indifferent world, but not in the community of Jesus, not in the kingdom of God. When we uncritically accept these curricula as our primary orientation in how to get on in the world, we naively embrace the very temptations of the devil that Jesus so definitively vetoed and rebuked.
Warnings are frequently and prominently posted by our sages and prophets to let us know that these purely pragmatic ways and means of the world weaken and enervate the community of the baptized. The whole North American ways and means culture, from assumptions to tactics, is counter to the rich and textured narrative laid out for us in our Scriptures regarding walking in the way of righteousness, running in the way of the commandments, following Jesus. In matters of ways and means, the world gives scant attention to what it means to live, to really live, to live eternal life in ordinary time: God is not worshiped, Jesus is not followed, the Spirit is not given a voice. …
Jacques Maritain, one of our more prescient and incisive prophetic voices from the twentieth century, continues to call on all of us who have taken up membership in the Christian community to be vigilant and active in what he called “the Purification of Means.” He saw this as urgent work, about which we should not procrastinate if we are to follow Jesus in the freedom where he leads us, and we are not to end up as slaves of a de-souled culture.
—Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way: a conversation on the ways that Jesus is the way, 2-4.