Too Heavenly Minded?

Too Heavenly Minded?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good?” This phrase is not as common as it once was but is still something we might hear every now and again.

Usually its said when someone is talking about (read: gossiping) about some other person (read: insulting). Basically they are trying to say, in the nicest way possible, that the person being discussed is useless. The person is so focused on heaven that they are of no use here on the earth.

While this is a neat little saying and a clever way to insult someone while simultaneously complementing them, it does not wash biblically.

In fact, the Bible teaches the exact opposite! If we are heavenly minded we will be of great earthly good. The problem would be that we can be so earthly minded we are of no earthly good!

Consider this from Colossians 3:

            [1] If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. [3] For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. -Colossians 3:1-4, ESV

Paul seems to be actually advocating for us to be heavenly minded. After all, that’s where Christ “who is your life” is seated. But then he follows it with this:

            [5] Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. [6] On account of these the wrath of God is coming. [7] In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. [8] But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. [9] Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices [10] and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. -Colossians 3:5-10, ESV

You see? If we are earthly minded we are of no earthly good because with being earthly minded comes love for, drawing towards, clinging to, things of earth such as covetousness, wrath, slander (this is that thing we do when we say someone is too heavenly minded to be any earthly good), and things like this.

So what will we love, be drawn towards, and cling to if we are heavenly minded?

 [12] Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, [13] bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. [14] And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. [15] And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. [16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. -Colossians 3:12-17, ESV

According to Paul if we are heavenly minded we will be full of love, teaching and admonishing one another, we will be thankful, we will sing, and more. In addition, we’ll let “the peace of Christ rule in” our “hearts.”

This means we will be drawn to obey Christ’s commands: we will make disciples, we will serve others selflessly, we will love others even to our own hurt, we will forgive, we will teach, rebuke, exhort, we will actively keep the peace in the church, we will be united, we will love the marginalized and oppressed.

In other words, if we are heavenly minded, setting our minds on “things above,” we will truly be earthly good. Our problem is not that we are too heavenly minded, our problem is that we are too earthly minded, and therefore, in danger of being no earthly good. As John Piper once said:

Yes, I know. It is possible to be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly use. My problem is: I’ve never met one of those people. And I suspect, if I met one, the problem would not be that his mind is full of the glories of heaven, but that his mind is empty and his mouth is full of platitudes.

I suspect that for every professing believer who is useless in this world because of other-worldliness, there are a hundred who are useless because of this-worldliness.

So let us not try not to be too heavenly minded because such a thing is not possible! Instead, let us not be too earthly minded but rather “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-2, ESV).

And if we do that, we will not “grow weary or fainthearted” (Heb. 12:3b) and we will be of exceeding earthly good for the kingdom of God and the fame of Christ’s name.

As on of my favorite band The Collection says in their song “The Gown of Green:” “Stop looking at the ground/start looking at the leaves/up above the dirt and rust is where the kingdom breathes/you’ll see freedom.”

You’ll see freedom and many will see Christ.