‘Too spiritual or too heavenly-minded’: a Misnomer!
If you’ve been around christian circles, it’s likely you’ve heard it mentioned that so and so is too ‘shpiri’ (yes, pronounced with an sh), that is, too spiritual. Or maybe you’ve come across this wise-sounding piece of admonition whenever someone appears to hold views that seem detached from the reality of the world we’re living in — ‘don’t be too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly significance’. I’m convinced this is a misnomer.
I understand the views being conveyed by use of those phrases. Having accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour at a young age, I’ve pretty much grown up in church and I’ve had to constantly battle with balancing a spiritual life and the secular realities of our day-to-day activities. The sentiments expressed above, mostly in the context of church, are usually directed at someone that seems to be portraying a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude (real or imagined), or is putting on airs, being indifferent, aloof, slow (in the things of this world) or simply putting forth ideas that seem too idealistic or godly to be attainable. It goes without saying that even christians are imperfect human beings with weaknesses and all of us have prejudices that interfere with our perceptions.
Which is exactly why I believe that we should, in fact, be more spiritual and more heavenly-minded, not less. Aside from the negative connotation suggested by the word ‘too’, those phrases have a dangerous implication in the life of any christian who buys into them. The danger, as I see it, is this: If there is a risk that I could be ‘too spiritual’, then I need to constantly check my spiritual temperature and ensure it doesn’t get too hot, right? If there is a possibility that my thought-processes could get ‘too heavenly-minded’, then I need to regularly ensure I get a ‘healthy’ dose of the world…you know, just a little to remain relevant in our times, ama?
In the process, what happens is that whenever we experience more of God in our lives — so much so that we actually begin to see a change in the way we think, speak or act (and others notice) — we invariably engage a spiritual switch, a speed-governor. This switch is, apparently, meant to protect us from becoming weird freaks or fanatical in our beliefs. The problem is: I don’t think we become spiritual enough to make a real difference in our lives or the lives of those around us. Let’s settle this fact in our minds right now: We do not belong to this world any more than Jesus did (John 17:16 NLT). Let’s face it…we’re the real aliens in this here, not the ‘little green men’ from outer space!
If there was any one who ran the risk of being too spiritual and heavenly-minded to be of no earthly significance, it was Jesus Christ. yet, the Holy Scriptures and history itself tells a very different story. Jesus’ life while on earth gives us a picture of what our own lives can/ should be like when we’re heavenly-minded and deeply immersed in the Spirit.
I believe that any christian who seeks to fulfill God’s purpose and provide the world with some real significance should be spiritual and heavenly-minded. There’s no upper limit to this measure, no glass ceiling to break through; it’s a quest that cannot be fulfilled this side of heaven. But the benefits while on this side are immense. So go on…
Fix your gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever — 2 Corinthians 4:18.
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise — Philippians 4:8.
To dismiss the pursuit of greater spirituality with the term ‘too spiritual’ is to embrace a mediocre christian life. I believe it is a lack of understanding and an affront to the Holy Spirit, who seeks to lead us into all truth; from carnality to spirituality (1 Corinthians 2:13, John 14:17). To reject the high ideals that scripture calls us to with the term ‘too heavenly-minded’ is to embrace the logic of the world. Scripture admonishes Christians to guard against the patterns of the world Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2).
Notice that we are exhorted to fix our gaze and thoughts on spiritual things, not earthly things. Make no mistake, we still have to do earthly things but our fixation should be on things above. There’s beauty in the mundane when the majestic is what we’re focused on — school, work, family, relationships, politics, theatre, sports, tech and whatever else we do takes on new character. Even the hard, messy and difficult choices that we have to make in life can be seen from a new perspective when the Divine is where we’ve set our sights!