“'(Sensual love) ceases to be a devil when it ceases to be a god.’ Isn’t that well put? So many things—nay every real thing—is good if only it will be humble and ordinate.”
C. S. Lewis to Dom Bede Griffiths, April 16, 1940
“Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things. We never get, say, even the sensual pleasure of food at its best when we are being greedy.”
C. S. Lewis to Dom Bede Griffiths, April 23, 1951
“When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.”
—C. S. Lewis to Mrs. Johnson, November 8, 1952
“The woman who makes a dog the centre of her life loses, in the end, not only her human usefulness and dignity but even the proper pleasure of dog-keeping.
The man who makes alcohol his chief good loses not only his job but his palate and all power of enjoying the earlier (and only pleasurable) levels of intoxication.
It is a glorious thing to feel for a moment or two that the whole meaning of the universe is summed up in one woman—glorious so long as other duties and pleasures keep tearing you away from her. But clear the decks and so arrange your life (it is sometimes feasible) that you will have nothing to do but contemplate her, and what happens?
Of course this law has been discovered before, but it will stand re-discovery. It may be stated as follows: every preference of a small good to a great, or partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice is made.
. . . You can’t get second things by putting them first. You get second things only by putting first things first.”
—C.S. Lewis, “First and Second Things,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 280.
For an outstanding study of Lewis’s understanding of the Christian life, see Joe Rigney, Lewis on the Christian Life: Becoming Truly Human in the Presence of God (Wheaton: Crosssway, 2018).
And for the most comprehensive study of Lewis’s life, see Harry Lee Poe’s trilogy in the making, with two volumes out so far: (1) Becoming C. S. Lewis: A Biography of Young Jack Lewis, 1898–1918 (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019); (2) The Making of C. S. Lewis: From Atheist to Apologist, 1918–1945 (Wheaton: Crossway, 2021)