“For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
I was sketching this kid and asked him how old he was. “I’m 9,” he said. Then, making conversation to keep him focused, I said, “Do you like being 9, or do you wish you were 12 or 13?” I thought I knew the answer. Children always seem to want to be older than they are.
“I like being 9,” he said. “I’m still a kid and can still get by with a lot of stuff.”
Now, there’s a 9-year-old worthy of the name!
We all start out in life as immature. The trick is not to grow attached to what should be a temporary status, to camp out there and resist growing up.
You no doubt heard about the two-year-old daughter of a Chicago columnist who rebelled when her parents announced plans for her third birthday party. “I’m two and I don’t want to be three!” Eventually, after she had stubbornly made that point over several days, they canceled the celebration and went right on saying she was two years old.
Some people love being babies.
The immature–those claiming squatters’ rights on juvenility–are all around us. They will go into debt for expensive high definition televisions while skipping payments on the mortgage. They will pour hundreds of dollars into shiny wheels for their pickup truck when the children need that money for the dentist or the family lives in a shack. They live for their own pleasure, and grow pouty when asked to do something for others.
Pity the person married to the immature. Pity the employee whose boss has never grown up. Pity the pastor sent to shepherd a congregation of two-year-olds.
Immature people of any age have a number of things in common: They tend to be self-centered, shirk responsibility, cannot see the invisible, and live for the moment. They all seem to be afflicted with what I call the MENOWHEREUS Syndrome. That lovely home-made word combines the four basic drives of the immature: Me, Now, Here, and Us. Everything important is for me, I want it now, let’s do it here, and we will keep it for us.Menowhereus. (Thinking of copyrighting it! lol)
It’s my opinion that the number one error of the immature is time-related. They cannot see beyond midnight tonight.
1) THE IMMATURE SEE TODAY AND NO FURTHER.
The immature care little that their actions today will affect tomorrow, so all they do is short-sighted.
Speak to the immature about the dangers of smokeless tobacco–or the smoking kind for that matter!–and you might as well be speaking to the wall. Show them photos of what cancer does to one’s organs or appearance and they will remark that this sort of thing takes years and they will quit before that deadline approaches.
The immature high school student will announce plans to be a doctor or dentist, but sees no connection between his grades in school this week and his long-range dreams.
The immature athlete loves the glory but hates the discipline required to develop his skills.
2)THEY SEE THE PHYSICAL AND NO DEEPER.
The immature cannot see spiritual things–they are invisible, after all–so give no thought to the eternal part of their nature.
“The things which are seen are temporal,” Scripture says. That is, they are earthly and have a short shelf-life.
Some of those listed in Hebrews 11 are said to have seen “him who is invisible” (vs. 27) and thus were able to act by faith, meaning, they were able to do what appeared to be unreasonable actions based on the reality of God. Only the mature can “see the invisible.” (We must never forget that love is invisible, as are faith, hope, courage, and a thousand other virtues. They end up making themselves visible in a hundred ways, but the quality itself is intangible.)
The immature will stay up all night before Black Friday to buy televisions and computers at sale prices, but give no thought to their eternal soul. To people of a similar mind-set, our Lord said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26) The immature will read the Savior’s question and just not “get it.”
3) THE IMMATURE SEE ‘US’ AND NO OTHERS.
“Why should we give foreign aid to that country? What have they ever done for us?” Sound familiar?
“The homeless are all dead-beats. Let them get a job the way I have.”
I was reading the minutes of ancient church business meetings, dated in the first decade of the 1900s. The clerk, a man with a sense of whimsy, told how the pastor read a letter from a church in Texas asking for contributions from other churches to assist them in getting started. So, “our” church voted to send them ten dollars, which is all they requested. Then, “testing this new-found liberality,” the clerk wrote, “someone rose to point out that the fellowship hall needed a new paint job.” The church ended up spending over a thousand dollars renovating their meeting room to balance the ten bucks they had sent to another church.
4) THEY GLAZE OVER WHEN ASKED TO THINK ABOUT TOMORROW.
The immature cannot see down the road and so make no plans for retirement or the distant future.
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard,”the writer of Proverbs urged (6:6). It would appear that this writer of scripture enjoyed a good “nature show” the way the rest of us do. He said, “The ant has no guide, overseer, or ruler, and yet provides her meat in the summer and gathers her food in the harvest.”
A personal story. In the 1970s, Southern Baptist leaders decided because of runaway inflation to do something serious about assisting ministers for their future retirement. They recommended that churches set aside an amount equal to 10 percent of the minister’s salary for his retirement. Leaders from our Annuity Board held informational conferences on this around the country, one of which was attended by Bill Hardy, our church’s administrator. Bill then led our people to fund this program, to take care of their ministers. The best I recall, I had next to nothing to do with any of it, even though I was the pastor. In fact, had you asked, I would have probably said ‘I’m only in my 30s. Retirement is like a century off.’ And would have done nothing.
I’m so grateful for those who thought about those long-distant matters on our behalf.
I’m thankful for church leaders and friends who saved me from my immaturity.
What’s this? Pastors can be immature also? Don’t get me started.
“Grow up” is some of the best advice and wisest counsel any of us will ever receive.
Those who always want their way in church should grow up. They should learn the lesson of Ephesians 5:21 and learn to submit to one another as unto the Lord.
Those who cannot give in to a brother or sister even when knowing they are in the right need to grow up.
Those who will not deny themselves a pleasure today in order to provide a better tomorrow should grow up.
Those who cannot speak harshly to themselves–“No, we are not going there! We are going to keep our commitment!”–need to grow up.
Those who cannot let a bad driver cut them off in traffic without chasing him down to teach them a lesson should grow up.
Question: How does one grow up?
In life, a child grows into adulthood by doing the things all infants and children should do–exercise, eat well, get plenty of rest, take vitamins, and such.
A child grows into intellectual maturity by constantly reading and being taught and then applying the lessons. Eventually, the child who is taught his ABCs and how to print his name will be able to author books and teach others.
One grows into emotional and spiritual maturity in similar ways:
1) A constant diet of good spiritual food, with the Holy Bible being the primary staple.
To the one who says, “I read the Bible but don’t see any change in myself,” we respond, “It’s the same with physical growth. You can’t see it happening. But the mark on the door facing indicates that you are growing. Just believe it and keep reading God’s Word.”
2) Regular worship, both in the house of God and privately.
Again, people sometimes protest that they do not see the connection with the Sunday activities and their spiritual growth. Assuming they’re in a healthy church, the growth is taking place whether they see it or not. In fact, nothing brings home how far they had come like backsliding. Get a good dose of spiritual failure and you will look at how far you have fallen and realize you were much closer to the Lord than you ever thought. And you will long to be back there.
3) Exercise. Obedience to the commands of the Lord Jesus to feed the hungry, care for the hurting, and assist the helpless. We are to give, to love, and to serve. In the unforgettable phrase of Eugene Peterson (and Nietsche before him), it’s a “long obedience in the same direction.”
4) Discipline. I suggest that we each pray, “God, give me a heart of fire toward Thee, a heart of flesh toward others, and a heart of iron toward myself.” Few things indicate a spiritual maturity like the ability to tell oneself ‘no.’
My own sense is that we never reach a point of spiritual maturity where this world no longer tempts us or torments us or calls our name. We will be dealing with these issues so long as the Lord grants us breath. May He also grant us His grace to deal with them.