Is it possible to be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good?

        There is a statement that rings throughout western Christianity, “We can be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.”[1] Surprisingly enough, western Christianity is the only Christian philosophy that issues such a statement. The statement is used to defend our acceptance of this world’s culture. It argues that the best way to reach a lost world is to engage in the lifestyle and in the social culture surrounding certain people groups and generations. If taken at face value, we can all sympathize with the statement that has grown oh so popular. My question, then, lies with whether or not this western saying is in fact Biblical.


“One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, ‘Which command is the most important of all?’ ‘This is the most important,’ Jesus answered: ‘Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.’ Then the scribe said to Him, ‘You are right, Teacher! You have correctly said that He is One, and there is no one else except Him. And to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is far more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he answered intelligently, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And no one dared to question Him any longer.”[2]


Two diverging myths –synchronism vs. separatism

Two ways of life, it seems, have been prevalent throughout the history of the world. Individuals will either separate from what they believe to be wrong in order to stay pure or they will surround themselves with it in order to change the path of society. While our fathers were separatists, removing themselves from a world of sin, today most Christians will buy into the idea that we must partake in popular culture in order to turn other individuals who are immersed in such a culture to a God who loves them. When we are too heavenly minded, it seems almost impossible to reach a culture that is so earthly minded.

I wish to challenge you concerning this idea. Though it may be popular or even appear practical, it is not an idea derived from scripture. It is an idea developed by people who wish to reach this world by their own power. It is not wrong to want to reach this world or to think of practical ways that we can accomplish that goal. What is wrong is to assume that mankind has more wisdom to offer than God, Himself. If we are to believe that scripture is God inspired, then we also, as believers, must follow what it says over what is popular and over what seems practical to us.

The first thing we must realize, then, is that human history is reactionary because people yearn for revolution. When one generation considers itself separatist, the upcoming generation will see the apparent flaws with that attitude and react against it choosing another path, even if the path is not a better path to take, because the pitfalls are not apparent. In our case, the reaction is that God’s people try and live in synch with popular culture. Within the next few generation, the youth will react once again. Despite how many times humanity changes its mind, God still chooses to work and His works are always wondrous!


Should we be heavenly minded or earthly minded?

Because of this trend, and the fact that the trend will likely continue until Christ’s return, I believe that there is a dire need for our individual introspection. Are we heavenly minded or earthly minded? Is our attitude toward this world beneficial to God’s kingdom? Let us consider the very reason for our existence on this earth. Human kind was created in the image of God.[3] This fact alone implies that no one person can possibly fulfill his or her purpose without being God’s image on this earth. Now, we must consider the words of our Messiah as He quoted form the Old Testament Law[4]: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

So, I ask you again, should we dwell more on heaven or secure ourselves more on this earth? This question is meaningless. We ask it in vain. Through everything we are to dwell on God and secure ourselves in His existence. God is worth more than both the earth and Heaven. Our goal is not to enter paradise, but to be with God. We do not reach others by conforming or not conforming to culture. We reach them with the power of God and with the power of God alone. It is not important whether we claim to be more heavenly or earthly minded. What matters is that we devote ourselves to have a mind completely devoted to God and completely centered on God.


What it means to have a theocentric mindset

In scripture, we are shown the way that God deals with His people and are given what is right, true and holy. Having a theocentric mindset means nothing more than loving God with all of our minds. We spend time learning about God and getting to know God more. We spend time thinking of God and working out the ways in which God might want us to act and think and believe. We spend time struggling with the difficulties of the faith rather than brushing them off or using them as an excuse to simply trust only in self. Here are a few things that we can glean concerning how we should interact with this world:

  1. God cares about this world in such a way that He has not yet abandoned it, even providing a necessary sacrifice (Jesus Christ) in order for much of humankind to be returned to Him. In the same way, we should not abandon humanity and should do whatever it takes to introduce others to our God.
  2. God had a part in creating the variety of cultures present today.[5]  We should not therefore consider any culture evil in and of itself (only the aspects of that culture that directly contradict God’s scripture).
  3. Heaven and Earth are spoken of as places, we should therefore regard them as places and not as complete mindsets.
  4. Heaven is referred to (in scripture as a whole and by Christ Himself) much less than the world is referred to. This simply means that Christ emphasized the present much more than He did the future. We should also be concerned with the present: where we are now.
  5. All of scripture concerns itself much more with life under God’s kingship than it does arriving at any certain destination, we should therefore concern ourselves similarly.



The goal of human mindset


            Anyone who claims to be a child of God should never claim to be either heavenly or earthly minded, but instead to be Godly minded. If we are to focus on God, we will undoubtedly be the individuals we need to be according to God’s kingdom (both in this world and the next). If we are to focus on God, there is no doubt that we will be the community we need to be according to God’s kingdom. God cares about people who are lost in sin: so should we. Christ lived in the present even as He had Heaven to look forward to, so should we. Culture is not evil, therefore the Christian body must devote itself to reaching people within any culture for God’s kingdom. The goal of the human mindset should always be to love God and to obey God. Loving people only comes as a natural byproduct; such is the Kingdom of our God.

[1] Original quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes

[2] Mark 12:28-34 HCSB

[3] Genesis 1:27

[4] Deuteronomy 6:5

[5] Genesis 10-11

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