I’ve been thinking a lot about what spiritual maturity looks like (and being someone who likes to measure things, how to measure spiritual maturity), and the more I’ve reflected on the subject, the more I realize that it’s just a really hard to thing to quantify.
Why? Because I’m a sinner.
No matter how much I pray or read the Bible or forgive people, there will be times that I revert to bad habits and selfish tendencies. I can get irritable and defensive and unloving in an instant, usually depending on whether I’ve taken a nap or not.
Moreover, each of us have different temperaments, tendencies, and ways of relating to God that are different. Hence, what looks like quantifiable spiritual maturity for you, may not be quantifiable spiritual maturity for me.
John Ortberg put it this way, “Disciples are hand crafted, not mass produced.”
Usually, spiritual maturity is measured by spiritual practices (known as “spiritual disciplines” in an earlier era), but in Scripture the most spiritually disciplined people happen to be the Pharisees, and it doesn’t take a scholar to see that Jesus’ harshest words were saved for the “religious” people.
Now this is not to say that we should do away with any core spiritual practices – it’s just to clarify that measuring spiritual maturity by the types or kinds of spiritual practices can be somewhat of a dangerous thing, especially if it’s used to judge another person’s spiritual maturity (notice I use the word “judge” instead of “assess” – there can be a fine line, I think).
Or, it can be a dangerous thing to insist that somehow I’m the most spiritually mature person there is, thereby losing any semblance of spiritual maturity by losing the very hallmark of spiritual maturity – humility.
It’s also true that some of us may have more raw “loving God and loving others” material to work with than others. I’m not saying this as an excuse, but as a general observation. If we’ve come from nurturing environments and have been given a certain type of temperament, then we might have a higher proclivity toward being a loving, secure person than others.
I remember reading somewhere in one of CS Lewis’ books (I believe it was Mere Christianity but I’m too lazy to pick it up due to my lack of spiritual maturity) that measuring spiritual growth by good deeds is different for each person because of where one started with Christ, as opposed to where one is currently with Christ.
So for instance, “person A” could have come from a generally healthy family system and been given a certain type of “grace” toward being freely generous. Christ in “person A” still needs to work on some stuff though, and if he is prideful then he won’t grow much from the raw material that he’s been given.
Meanwhile, I could be a really arrogant miser who somehow meets Christ, and I’ve actually come a long way toward being generous and thoughtful, but because I started out as a miser, I don’t look nearly as mature as person A. In fact, I still lag way behind according to most people when observing the “love meter” or “spiritual maturity” meter.
Ah, but I’ve grown much more from where I started, and that’s the part that people don’t see or understand.
More thoughts to come…