I’m not sure who first said it, but Johnny Cash captures the sentiment in his song “No Earthly Good”:
If you’re holdin’ heaven then spread it around There are hungry hands reaching up here from the ground Move over and share the high ground where you stood So heavenly minded you’re no earthly good No earthly good you are no earthly good You’re so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good Move over and share the high ground where you stood So heavenly minded and you’re no earthly good
I remember hearing that phrase as a kid and understanding it as a description of someone who was so godly that they were of no use to us here on earth anymore. “They are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” Does this capture the heart of what it means to be a Christian? Is this to be our pursuit? Is this really the inevitability, to have our minds so set on heaven, so conformed to heaven, that we become useless on earth? Isn’t our responsibility presented differently in Scripture? Here are a couple of passages to serve as quick examples. Matthew 6:33:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Paul goes on in verses twelve through fourteen to connect heavenly mindedness to reformed earthly behavior:
Put on these as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 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. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
The implications here are that heavenly mindedness does not make us useless for earth. In fact, being heavenly minded serves the dual purpose of preparing our hearts for heaven while also making us more useful, more of a blessing in our lives now. The pursuit of the vertical is what makes us most effective in the horizontal. C. S. Lewis captures the heart of this in one of my favorite quotes from Mere Christianity:
A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither.
So let’s resolve to aim at heaven today in our thoughts, actions, goals, pursuits and dreams, and watch how much earthly good results. To the Praise of His Glory, Pastor Steve