What immaturity does and what to do about it

“For the things which  are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Sketching this kid, I asked 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.

I heard about a two-year-old 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 toys while skipping payments on the mortgage. They will pour hundreds of dollars into shiny wheels for their pickup when the children need dental work or the family lives in a shack.  They live for their own pleasure and grow pouty when asked to consider 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.

Pity the congregation saddled with an immature pastor!

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.

It’s my opinion that the number one error of the immature is time-related.  They cannot see beyond midnight tonight.


The immature care little that their actions today will affect tomorrow, so everything they do is short-sighted.

Speak to the immature about the dangers of smokeless tobacco (or any kind of tobacco!) and you might as well be speaking to the wall.  Show them photos of what cancer does to one’s organs or skin and they will remark that it will take decades and they will quit before then.

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.


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 the people in Hebrews 11 had seen “him who is invisible” (vs. 27) and thus were able to act by faith. That is, 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.)

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.”


“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 a church business meetings, from the first decade of the 1900s.  The clerk, evidently someone with a sense of whimsy, said the pastor read a letter from a church in Texas asking for a contribution 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 dollars they had sent to the other church.


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 our church’s administrator.  Bill Hardy then led our people to fund this program, to take care of their ministers.  Even though I was the pastor, I had next to nothing to do with any of this. 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 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.

Immaturity is a huge problem, one dealt with in Scripture.

By this time you ought to be teachers, said the writer of the Hebrews Epistle.  But you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles (of God).  You have come to need milk and not solid food.   The teaching on Melchizedek the author was attempting to convey was hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  (Hebrews 5)

Check out the early chapters of First Corinthians.  The church in Corinth had more problems than any other in Scripture, and the underlying problem was the immaturity of the members.  And I brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.  I gave you milk to drink, not solid food…. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men? (First Corinthians 3)

The church at Corinth was riddled with immaturity, threatened by lawsuits with members against members, and weakened by partisan groups aligned behind their favorite preachers.  The Apostle Paul was horrified.

“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, and quickly.

Question: Exactly 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.’

Give yourself time.  Keep on keeping on.  Do that and the day will come when you realize you have literally “grown up in Christ.”

We will never know it all, never feel satisfied that we are all we should be.  But there will be a certain pleasure in knowing that we are not what we were.

Likewise, we will 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. The nature of the temptations change, I have observed, as we age and our circumstances change.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)

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