The Never-ending Process of Becoming Spiritually Mature (Sat. Oct. 16)

The word of the day is “mature.”  In today’s reading of 1 Corinthians 14:20-25, Paul gives instructions about the practice of speaking in tongues.  In the middle of this discussion, he lays out a principle for Christians to guide the manner of thinking of the faithful.  He writes: “Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature” (vs. 20).

Childish Behavior

In effect, Paul says that the Corinthian’s behavior is childish.  Like children, they are boasting that they have the superior spiritual ability to speak in tongues.  In their pride in their spiritual talents, they are thinking like three-year-olds.  St. John Chrysostom says that children are awestruck with trifles but are not impressed with noble things (NfPf1:13, 14).  Thus, the braggarts in Corinth are inflated with pride because they have the gift of tongues which Chrysostom calls “the lowest of all” perfection (NfPf1:13, 14).

Paul admonished them to set aside their conceit and to be “mature” in their thinking.  Speaking more generally, the apostle advises that believers be children concerning “malice” (vs. 20).  That is, they should have no acquaintance with what is by nature evil and hurtful (Strong’s #2549, 126).  But they should be grown up in the thinking of their hearts (Strong’s #5424, 266).

Spiritual Maturity

But what is spiritual maturity?  The Greek word for “maturity” refers to the end of a process (Strong’s #5048, 248).  When this growth reaches that final point, the development is complete.  It is like a full-grown tree.  In 2 Peter, the apostle writes about such a process of growth.  He advises, “…giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, to brotherly kindness, love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).  In this way, we develop excellence (arete) and perfection (teleios).  As we develop toward these goals, the apostle assures us that we will “be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8).

For Reflection: Becoming Mature Never Ends

Do we ever reach the completion of the process of maturing spiritually?  Paul writes, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12).  In the same vein, St. Maximos writes, that things in the natural world stop growing when they have reached maturity.  But he teaches, “when what has been brought about by the knowledge of God through the practice of virtues has reached maturity, it starts to grow anew.  For the end of one stage constitutes the starting point of the next” (Maximos-the-Confessor 2010, Loc 10919).

After we dig out the roots of corruption within ourselves by the practice of virtue, the Almighty grants us “other more divine experiences” (Maximos-the-Confessor 2010, Kindle Loc10919). Therefore, our maturation never comes to an end, neither barren nor unfruitful.

Works Cited

Maximos-the-Confessor, St. 2010. “Two Hundred Texts on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God ” In The Philokalia: the Complete Text, edited by G.E.H. Palmer-et. al.: Kindle Edition; original publisher: Faber and Faber.

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