Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desire and enticed. Then when desire hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is accomplished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variation, nor shadow of turning (as a sundial). (James 1:13, King James)
St. James says in his epistle: “Every good gift and every perfection comes from above, from the Father of lights”. Now you must know that for people who resign themselves to God and diligently seek to do His will alone, whatever God sends them will be the best. As God lives, be sure that it must be the very best, and there could never be any better way. Though some other way may seem better to you, yet it would not be so good for you: God wills this way and no other, and so this way is bound to be the best for you. Sickness or poverty, hunger or thirst—whatever God sends you or does not send you, what He grants you or withholds, that is the best for you. Even should you lack fervour and inwardness—whatever you have or lack, be minded to honour God in all things, and then whatever He sends you will be best.
Now you might say, ‘How do I know whether it is God’s will or not?’ Be sure, if it were not God’s will it would not be. You have neither sickness nor anything else unless God wills it. And so, knowing it is God’s will, you should so rejoice in it and be content that pain would be no pain to you. Even in the extremity of pain, to feel any pain or affliction would be altogether wrong, for you should accept it from God as the best of all, for it is bound to be the best for you, for God’s being depends on His willing the best. Let me then will it too, and nothing should please me better. If there were someone I tried hard to please and who I knew for certain liked me better in a grey coat than in any other, however good, assuredly that coat would delight and please me too more than any other, however good. If I wanted to please anybody, whatever I knew that he liked, of word and deeds, I would do that and that alone. So now, judge for yourselves [the measure] of your love! If you loved God, you could rejoice in nothing more than in that which pleases Him best and that His will is done in us. However great may seem the pain or distress, unless you have an equal delight in it, it is wrong.
One thing I am wont to say and it is a fact: that we daily cry in our pater noster, ‘Lord thy will be done!’ yet when His will is done we are angry and discontented with it. But whatever He did should please us best, and those who do take it as for the best ever remain in perfect peace. But sometimes you think and say, ‘Oh, it would be better if it had turned out differently’, or ‘If it had not been so, things might have been better’. As long as you think this way you will never find peace—you should take everything for the best. This is the first meaning of our text.
But there is another meaning, and mark it well! He says: “Every gift.” Only the very best and the very highest are true gifts in the truest sense. God gives nothing so gladly as great gifts. Once in this very place I said God likes forgiving big sins more than small ones. The bigger they are, the more gladly and quickly He forgives them. So it is with the graces, gifts, and virtues: the greater they are, the more gladly He bestows them, for His nature depends on giving great gifts. And so, the better the things, the more he bestows them.
I said once that, properly expressed, a matter must come out of a person, bringing its form with it. It cannot get into you from without. No, it must issue from the inner man. Its true life is in the soul’s inmost recess. There all things are present to you, alive and active, and are at their best and highest. Why are you unaware of this? Because you are not at home there.
Sermon Forty Three
Now you might want to ask, ‘How do I know if it is God’s will?’ I reply, ‘If it were not God’s will for a single instant, it would not be—it must always be His will.’ Now if you really enjoyed the taste of God’s will, you would be just as if you were in heaven, whatever happened or did not happen to you. It serves them right who want anything other than God’s will, for they are always in sorrow and distress. They often suffer violence and oppression and are always in trouble. And that is just as it should be, for they [want something in return for their faith]. They love God for the sake of something else that is not God, and if they get something they love, they do not bother about God. Whether it is contemplation or rapture or whatever you welcome, whatever is created is not God. Scripture says, “The world was made by Him, and what was made knew him not” (cf. John 1:10 ). If anyone should think that to gain a thousand worlds plus God were any more than to gain God alone, he would not know God or have the slightest idea of God and would be a boor. Therefore a man should heed nothing but God. Whoever seeks for anything with God, as I have said before, does not know what he is looking for.
M. O’C. Walshe (1987). Meister Eckhart: Sermons and Treatises Vol I & II. UK: Element Books Limited.