There are questions worth asking in life. Did I put deodorant on? Did I forget to pay my credit card bill? Should I eat the re-fried beans considering I’m on a date? These are helpful questions.
Then, there are unhelpful questions, the king of which, in my opinion, is “Am I spiritual enough?”
Nothing sucks me into a vortex quicker than The Unhelpful Question. High winds and negative pressure pull every insecurity into its path. It pulls up contentment by the roots, splatters guilt everywhere, and keeps me spinning so fast that I start to lose grip on reality.
I should know better, but last week I stepped into the vortex. A friend has taken a couple months off work to write a Bible study. A classmate runs a women’s ministry at her church. A friend volunteers her time with refugees. I’m not doing any of those things. Am I spiritual enough?
Within the vortex, I felt sure I could only please God if I wrote a Bible study, led a woman’s ministry, and started meeting with refugees. I suffered from temporary amnesia, forgetting that God has already called me to other things right now: my work as a nurse practitioner and finishing my seminary degree. As the vortex kept spinning, though, I worried that it wasn’t enough.
Part of the allure of The Unhelpful Question is that asking if I’m spiritual enough sounds… well, spiritual. The Bible does talk about spirituality, after all.
Spirituality was a hot topic for the Corinthians. In Paul’s first letter to them, he used the word “spiritual” (pneumatikos) fourteen times, which is three times more than all his other letters combined. When Paul wrote about spirituality, though, he wasn’t not offering them a measuring stick so that they could see who was the most spiritual, he was contrasting spirituality with a lifestyle that neglects God. Spirituality, according to Paul, is about having “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16), seeing life through his eyes, whether the people at work, the project at home, or the loud neighbors.
By contrast, scrounging around for evidence of our spirituality and comparing our pile with someone else’s, is a very unspiritual thing to do, and that was exactly what the Corinthians were doing. According to Paul, it was proof of their unspirituality (1 Cor 3:1-3; 8:1-3).
So, instead of ending up like the Corinthians, let’s find more helpful questions to ask, ones that won’t sweep us into the vortex. The Bible is full of concrete guidelines to draw from. For example:
- Was I thankful today, or did I rob God with my complaining?
- Have I honored God today, or was I focused on serving myself?
- Did I live by grace today, or did I slip back into thinking that I can earn (or lose) God’s favor?
These questions are helpful. If we’ve been ungrateful, we can confess it and move on. This pleases God. Or perhaps, as we’re ordering at Starbucks, these questions can prompt us to thank God for the wonders of the Frappuccino. On a different day, they might prompt us to skip Starbucks altogether. This pleases him, too.
After all, what are we aiming for? To be more spiritual than the Joneses or to please God? Take it from someone who frequents the vortex all too often. Get rid of The Unhelpful Question. It deserves a place on the Do Not Ask list, right before “Do I look fat in this dress?”
Originally posted on shannongianotti.com