“Spirituality” does not mean “morality” or “wisdom”

9 Dec

“I’m spiritual, not religious.” That’s what people say today when they want to make out that they are taking care of their inner man or inner woman. “I take deep, spiritual things seriously,” they want to tell you. Along with, “I think of myself as a good person,” and “I feel I have access to God, and am sure I will go to be part of the Great Light in the sky when I die.”

It sounds great, doesn’t it? The problem is, it’s a crock. And here’s why.

“Spirituality”, as most people mean it, is divorced from “organised religion”. “No churchgoing for me, thank you!” “I don’t want to give up on the idea of there being Something Out There, but nobody had better tell me what to do!”

An example occurred just today. A Facebook friend (as distinct from a real-world friend) who describes herself as “spiritual” regularly posts cheering thoughts for the day about how to live a more god-centred, conscious and considerate lifestyle. But today she posted a picture featuring a “hilarious Christmas drinking game”.

I didn’t consider this suitable for the young people who would be viewing it, and I said so, appealing to her to consider that alcohol abuse leads to all kinds of negative consequences for young people. Earlier this year, this British teenager had three heart attacks and ended up in a coma after downing ten Jagerbombs (shots of Jagermeister spirit in an energy drink) at a nightclub. The fact that it was the caffeine that did most of the damage is beside the point – it was a lack of common sense around alcohol that put her in the situation.

Needless to say, my expressions of concern fell on deaf ears: “My family and friends know this is all just a joke.”

Where is spirituality here? How spiritual are we being if we still think fun and games come from a bottle? Doesn’t “spirituality” teach us to find contentment in things that are truly fulfilling, rather than reaching for an easy chemical fix? Apparently not.

And here’s where spirituality comes up short as a system of values. The Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ give us not only spiritual life, but also morality, by teaching us what is right and wrong, and wisdom, by showing us how to live in ways that do not lead ourselves or others into trouble. Spirituality, with its undertone of liberal morality and “anything goes as long as you’re not hurting anyone” values, has none of this. As long as nobody gets hurt – that you can see, anyway – what you’re doing is all right.

Never mind the children and young people who might see a post like that shared by my Facebook friend and think it’s a great idea. Never mind that one of them could end up in hospital, or in a drunk-driving wreck, or the victim of a sexual assault they cannot prove in a court of law because they were too wasted either to fight it off at the time or to remember what happened afterwards. Tragedies only just happen, right? I mean, they are never the responsibility of anybody who planted the idea in that young person’s head, or of the individuals who together make up a society that has lost its way morally. We can’t actually be leading anybody into temptation, can we?

But they are. And we can. And this is what the Bible teaches:

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak… Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.” (1 Corinthians 8:9,10)

So you can carry on fooling yourself that spirituality – thinking of yourself as godly while not allowing your godliness to affect your actions – is enough if you wish. But to see the Kingdom of God established; to see people lifted out of their misery and distress; to build a society that does not condemn people to suffer the consequences of actions they should have been equipped not to choose in the first place, we need something more.

And that means repenting of our sins and living the way God says to instead of how we want. We need to stop telling ourselves God’s all right with us, and instead come through faith in Jesus Christ to get ourselves right with God. And then we can start exemplifying what is right to those around us.


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