Wednesday, October 21, 2009

too heavenly minded?

"don't be so heavenly minded that you're no earthly good." 

ever hear that expression?  i have been pondering it a bit recently, and wanted to know what you think about it.  i have been reading several bloggers and others who react negatively to that sentiment, and who argue that it is impossible to be too heavenly minded.  they say we are supposed to be heavenly minded, that scripture tells us to have the mind of Christ. 

i certainly understand that, but i have always understood it a bit differently.  i always thought that the expression was literally talking about being "heavenly minded," that is, too preoccupied with heaven.  haven't you ever encountered a person of faith who was perhaps a bit too preoccupied with the afterlife?  or maybe you yourself have been?  i have.

i remember a season of my faith journey, when i was in high school, which was consumed with where i would go when i died.  i had a very legalistic faith at that time, and i truly believed that God was tallying my sin like a cosmic scorekeeper, and that i had better convince my sins regularly lest i die in some freak accident with an unconfessed sin, and end up burning for eternity in hell.  this fear literally drove me.  it guided me.  it was a prime mover in my faith, causing me to be incredibly concerned with right behavior.  i spent hours and hours trying to discern what words were okay to say, and which ones weren't; what things were okay to do with a girl, and which things weren't.  i spent an equal amount of time wrestling with guilt associated with all of this.  all of this spent time left me very little time for actually putting my faith into action.  in fact, one could argue that my faith was pretty much paralyzed by a performance issue.  i was worried about heaven and hell, so i became consumed with living correctly, which paradoxically, kept me from living the way Jesus clearly called us to live.  in short, i wasn't loving anyone besides perhaps myself.  this is not the Way Jesus describes in the gospel. 

i was so heavenly minded that i was no earthly good.  i think sometimes people also get too caught up on the glories to come, that they arren't willing to get their hands dirty in the world that is.  so i find that on both ends of this spectrum (heaven and hell) we can find ourselves too caught up in the afterlife to experience the abundant life that Jesus offers to us right here, right now.  frederick buechner writes, "you do not love God and live for him so you will go to heaven.  whichever side of the grave you happen to talking about, to love God and live for him is heaven." 

so those are my thoughts on the issue.  on this october wednesday, i'm just wondering what you think.  hit me up with a comment to let me know. 


Anonymous said...

I feel sometimes we use this topic for an excuse to make ourselves feel better. We see someone living a life where everything is centered on Christ and we don't want to give up some of our wordly ways so we say that that person is "too heavenly minded".

Emoly said...

well I won't get a discussion started on my thoughts because I always thought of it the same way as you, greg. I'm glad you made the opposing point because I had never thought of it like that before. It won't change how I think of the term. I will continue thinking about it the same way.

Anonymous said...

When I think of that phrase, I think of people (like the Pharisees of Jesus' time) who spent an abundance of time studying theology (they feel they are above just reading the Bible itself) and yet they can't seem to apply much more than "rules" to their own lives. Their kids are unruly, their marriages are a mess, and they are usually too lazy to provide for their families.

I honestly never really thought the phrase meant: "too focused on the after-life", but in some cases that might be true. I know of more than one fellow personally who thought that "since the world's coming to an end soon anyway, I really don't have to be concerned about caring for my family or paying my bills..." Obviously that phrase could apply to those people.

Obviously we can't be thinking about pleasing God and striving to please God too much. But if we are neglecting our families (thus disobeying God) in order to do "churchy" things or bury our noses in theology books 24/7, we are inviting this phrase to be said about us.