“too heavenly minded”?

For much of my life, a pallor has been cast over my spiritual aspersions by this insidious little whisper, spoken by some persnickety church person in the general ether of evangelical life:

“She’s too heavenly minded to be any earthly good!”

Why does that whisper manage to come in and cripple my prayer life, my attempts at fasting, my desire to serve?

Granted, there is a kind of spirituality that never brings salvation to bear on our life here. You know the kind–“fire insurance” Christianity, in which Jesus only matters because he saved us from hell. I think that’s what “too heavenly minded” is supposed to refer to. And it’s true–that kind of false spirituality isn’t any earthly good. But it’s not truly heavenly minded, either.

In my own life, the pallor has come because I’ve applied the saying to seeking after God in radical ways. There’s a deep-rooted suspicion in much of the evangelical world toward “emotionalism,” or spiritual extremism, or getting a mite too Pentecostal or a mite too radical. But I have to wonder: when it comes to seeking and serving God, can we really get “too” heavenly minded? Is that possible?

If God is real, eternity is real, and heavenly reward is real, then our problem is not being too heavenly minded. It’s that we’re not heavenly minded enough. We look with suspicion on “extreme” faith because it doesn’t make sense within the context of this world, not because it’s out of step with the next.

Real heavenly-minded faith will put God first in everything. But in doing so, it can’t check out of life on earth. It brings heavenly values, heavenly priorities, heavenly actions to bear on life here, for the sake of the next life. Richard Foster talks about this in the context of prayer:

“We must never believe the lie that says that the details of our lives are not the proper content of prayer. For example, we may have been taught that prayer is a sublime and otherworldly activity, that in prayer we are to talk to God about God. As a result, we are inclined to view our experiences as distractions and intrusions into proper prayer. This is an ethereal, discarnate spirituality. We, on the other hand, worship a God who was born in a smelly stable, who walked this earth in blood, sweat, and tears, but who nevertheless lived in perpetual responsiveness to the heavenly Monitor.”
– Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home

As a Christian, I want to reject “discarnate spirituality” completely . . . but I welcome heavenly mindedness. When it comes to living for God, I am not sure it’s possible to get too radical.







4 responses to ““too heavenly minded”?”

  1. […] the rest of this article here […]

  2. Elisabeth Avatar

    Thank you – this is what I needed to read today.

  3. Rachel Avatar

    Yes, exactly!

  4. Adrian Keister Avatar

    James Montgomery Boice, a theological vertebrate, as Douglas Wilson put it, once wrote in his Romans commentary:

    “Give me more of that pie-in-the-sky theology!”

    I totally agree that if someone is no earthly good, they’re not heavenly-minded enough. Their theology and practice are not in harmony.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *