Best of Daily Reflections: Should Spirituality Always Trump Practicality?Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
When the people of the land come into the LORD’s presence for the festivals, those who enter through the North Gate to worship should go out through the south, and those who come in through the South Gate should go out through the North Gate. They shouldn’t turn around and go out the same way they came in. Instead, they should go out the opposite gate.
I've been in plenty of church meetings that seem to pit the "spiritual" people against the "practical." The "spiritual" people want to raise the mission budget in the next year; the "practical" people wonder how we're going to pay for it. The "spiritual" people want to let the Spirit be free in worship services; the "practical" people wonder when the services will be over so the Sunday School teachers can plan adequately. Sometimes, the "spiritual" folk get exasperated. They think that they can play their "spiritual" trump card, which means that the "practical" folk should back down. Is this right?
In fact, Scripture often balances the "spiritual" and the "practical." It might be better to say that Scripture doesn't recognize such a distinction. The God who created the heavens and the earth to be orderly seems to understand that the "spiritual" always takes shape in the "practical."
Consider the case of Ezekiel 46, for example. This chapter explains in detail the practical matters associated with sacrifices in the temple. Verse 9 describes how the people are to flow in and out of the temple: "When the people of the land come into the LORD’s presence for the festivals, those who enter through the North Gate to worship should go out through the south, and those who come in through the South Gate should go out through the North Gate. They shouldn’t turn around and go out the same way they came in. Instead, they should go out the opposite gate" (46:9). Talk about practical! This verse is about crowd control. (I checked several commentaries to see if I had missed some sort of symbolic significance here. But scholars are agreed that this verse is simply trying to make sure the people pass in and out of the gates in an orderly fashion.)
So, if you happen to be someone with "practical" talents, if you're an engineer or a planner, if you're an accountant or an attorney, don't feel as if you have to always play second fiddle to the visionaries and mystics. All of us have gifts to contribute to the body of Christ, and God has formed the body so that all of us matter. Deep spirituality is not incompatible with realistic practicality. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, "Everything should be done [that is, all spiritual gifts should be exercised] with dignity and in proper order" (1 Cor. 14:40).
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do spirituality and practicality come together in your experience of Christian community? What are some of the talents and gifts that God has given you for the upbuilding of the body? Are you using these talents and gifts in your church?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the example of Ezekiel 46:9. As one who tends to worry about the practical side of things, I'm encouraged by this part of your revelation to Ezekiel. I'm glad to know that you care about things like crowd control.
Help us, dear Lord, not to get stuck in unedifying debates between the "spiritual" and the "practical." May we see how these two dimensions of life are thoroughly overlapping and interconnected. In our churches, may we learn to value the differing perspectives of others. Let us be glad for the visionaries who see what more we could become by your power. And let us be equally glad for those who tend to the details.
Help me, Lord, to use well all the talents and gifts you have given me for your purposes and glory. Amen.