It probably began, like most old adages do, as a simplistic attempt to describe a frustrating person. It’s not hard to imagine….
Jimmy starts hanging out around the church. Jimmy changes his ways. Jimmy takes every class, every training, every series that he can take at the church.
He’s publically commended by leadership for his commitment level. If the doors are open, he’s there. He trades in his Gideon New Testament for a Scofield Reference Bible so large that he can barely carry it. The Bible becomes one large, highlighted mass of pulp, decorated in seven colors of ink according to a complex system – Blue = Revelation, Green = Work of the Spirit, Chartreuse = Angelic appearances to those ages 12-21, etc.
He starts ordering books over the internet and studying late into the night. He writes lengthy articles on Calvinism vs. Arminianism. He begins to get argumentative in classes. He thinks he knows more than the teacher. The teacher thinks he might be right about that.
Then, one day after he leaves the men’s pancake breakfast, having put forth what sounded like valid argument against New Testament bacon, someone drops the bomb. It’s the label that no one wants. Forever forward from that moment, he will be judged according to the words that no church goer can afford to bear – “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good.”
You’ve probably heard this phrase to describe the fringe, ethereal member who seems deeply connected to the unseen yet entirely detached from reality. They can describe the colors of the rainbow around the throne but can’t tie their shoes. They know exactly who the 144,000 are but aren’t sure why they bounced their tithe check. Determined by the rest of us to be ‘so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good’, they are forever dismissed. They’ve gone over the edge…to far in the knowledge of the holy to be of use to us. They have become a drag on the machine, seatwarmers who refuse to buy in to vision and forget to write tithe checks.
While understanding the frustration with people like this, it’s important to recognize what we’re saying to ourselves: That going hard after God is a dangerous undertaking…in essence that if you study too much, if you dig too deep, or go to far, something snaps in the human brain that will make you good for nothing…except there are a few snags with that.
1) Every discipline has compulsive people.
In fact, every area of life has compulsive people. The problem is with compulsive behavior, not the actual content. It’s the guy who spends six hours a day at the gym while his kids watch reruns of Judge Judy at home. It’s the woman who spends the grocery money on lottery tickets. It’s the seventeen year old girl who weighs herself three times a day. Compulsive people will move from compulsion to compulsion. The issue or behavior is just a vehicle for the quirk to manifest. Take away their Scofield and most of these people would move on to obsessing over something else.
2) Scripture actually encourages us to concentrate more on the spiritual aspect of life than the physical.
No, it doesn’t tell us to avoid paying our mortgage or to irritate others by arguing about the Bible, but Romans 8:5 does say “For those who live acording to the flesh set their minds on the things of hte flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, on the things of the Spirit.” Compulsive people exist, but a compulsion with the things of the Spirit is often the least of anyone’s problems. It’s a little like everyone warning against legalism. It’s hard to think of a person under 40 who truly struggles with legalism. In fact, a little legalism might bring me back to center.
The issue of being ‘too heavenly minded’ only comes up in the realm of being compulsive about the things of God because people like this make the rest of us nervous.
We’re not challenged to be the guy at the gym.
We don’t want to trade places with the woman buying the lottery tickets.
No one lays awake at night wishing they were a little more like the anorexic girl.
But sometimes…late at night…we admit to ourselves that we wish we were able to concentrate a little more on the spirit of God, tune in to that reality, hear Him more clearly and live it out in front of our family. Whatever our issues are, they are rarely exacerbated by being too heavenly minded.
Scripture is full of people we would label as unbalanced. David spoke with great conviction of the ‘one thing’ that he desired. Solomon in all his wisdom and riches came to know that none of it was worth anything apart from God…in face, it often conspired to tear him apart from God. Job went from riches to rags and declared “I will follow hard after God if it kills me….if HE kills me.”
Funny how we fear emulating the behavior of our heroes, isn’t it?
Don’t be afraid of going there. Magellan was actually right – you can’t fall off the edge. There’s a whole new world out there full of useful, practical, valuable stuff to bring back home.
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