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Pointers along the way #679

Balanced spirituality

- Jacob Ninan

What is it to be spiritual? To be very keen to observe rituals, forms and practices and to keep a mental list of do's and don'ts for ourselves is not spirituality but religiosity. To be spiritually minded is to pay attention to what is going on in our heart (spirit) in the sight of God and to seek to be pleasing to Him in everything. People generally do not make this distinction, and so when they see a man who spends a lot of time in prayer, reading the Bible, 'going to church', etc., they assume he is spiritual. A spiritual man may also do these things, but merely doing them without a sensitivity towards God in our heart does not make us spiritual.

Then we can have a problem of classifying religious practices as spiritual and everything else as secular, earthly or worldly. We think that abstention is spiritual. People think that going to work, eating and drinking, sleeping, doing exercises, relaxing with music, a good book or movie as earthly or worldly. Thus we have monks or nuns who move away from common life and spend most of their time with 'spiritual' activities. But look at Jesus. There was a time He worked as a carpenter. He ate, drank and slept like everyone else. He had no problem with going to wedding celebrations, attending dinners given by Pharisees and mixing with sinners whom the religious people avoided. But His heart was devoted to the Father, and He kept Himself without sin even as He moved around and lived in this sinful world.

If we take a super-spiritual attitude and 'give up' earthly things and spend all our time reading the Bible or praying, it will finally affect us badly. We are not people with just a spirit with which we connect to God, but we also have a soul (mind) and a body. It is God's desire that we experience His blessings in all three aspects of our being (1Th.5:23). Although we must seek God's kingdom and His righteousness first in our life (Mt.6:33) and our mind must be set more on the things above than on the things of this world (Co.3:1,2), we must not neglect to pay attention to the needs of the body and our mind too. Of course, whatever we do, we must do for the glory of God (1Co.10:31). But we will suffer in the long run if we don't take care of the needs of our body and mind also.

Our body needs good food, good exercise and good rest. Our mind needs excitement, relaxation, and development in knowledge and understanding and the ability to analyse situations and make proper decisions. Even though our body and mind can be denied satisfaction at times in order to give importance to the things of God (Lk.9:23), if they are neglected for long periods it can affect our physical and mental health also. If that happens we will also get hindered from accomplishing the will of God! One mark of spiritual growth is getting better balance among our body, mind and spirit. This usually takes place as we exercise our mind about it and allow the Holy Spirit to teach and correct us (He.5:13,14).


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