Stewardship 7: Mind and Soul

Watch the video or read the lesson text … or both.

Lesson Text

Scripture Reading:

1 Corinthians 6:12
Ezekiel 18:4
Romans 14:8
Ephesians 4:17-24
Matthew 15:19 
2 Corinthians 10:5
James 1:14-15 
Matthew 5:28

Discussion:

We are stewards over our minds. This discussion could have been included in the lesson on stewardship of our bodies, however, there are a number of important aspects to consider that warrant a separate lesson. We will not rehash the creation of our minds because they are part of our bodies. God created us, we belong to Him and are created in His image, and we owe Him a responsibility over our minds.

By now, you have likely seen this word “rebellion” several times. Refusing to acknowledge God through stewardship or attempting to take control over God’s creation is rebellion. Rebellion lies at the very heart of sin and is the origin of sin. Stewardship seeks to align our hearts with God to ensure that we give Him the honor, glory and obedience that He deserves. It may sound like we have no freedom at all, yet we do. We have the freedom to rebel against God, and since The Fall in Genesis 3, this is our default mode. Instead of bondage, 1 Corinthians 6:12 clearly teaches that anything and everything are lawful for us to practice. We limit ourselves not because God fences us in, but because we desire not to be mastered by wickedness and because we desire to be profitable in the kingdom of heaven.

Because this is not our default mode, obeying God takes an immense amount of effort. If we take the attitude that we want to be profitable in the kingdom of heaven, then anything God does to cleanse and purify us helps our cause. The moment we view stewardship as a duty, as legalism or as something that is forced upon us, we are off track and have missed the heart of God.

God created our soul, and He makes a bold claim over our soul. We also live or die for the Lord when we set out to please Him. Ezekiel 18:4, Romans 14:8 As we discussed in the lesson on the body, when we set our eyes on the kingdom of heaven, some things will be off limits for our soul and mind.

An example of this is what we allow into our minds. Consider this quote by Albert Mohler:

We are stewards of our media engagement, and we don't have to watch all of it. We don't have to listen to it. There is a sense in which we need to make sure we are careful stewards of our cultural engagement. It is a responsibility, but that doesn't mean we fulfill our responsibility by seeing everything and listening to everything. It is impossible anyway. We do need to be aware of what is going on in the culture around us, but we don't actually have to immerse ourselves in all the artifacts of the culture to know what is going on.

We can recall here the lessons on truth and the body. It is a choice we make to engage in media that does not edify, that is untruthful or that does not please God. It is a choice we make to allow our feet, hands, ears and eyes to engage in things which go against God’s nature and His design for us as people. This includes such things as pornography, false doctrine, practically all of the news on television, and a variety of television shows. (Are we practicing good stewardship of our time with these?)

Ephesians 4:17-24 teaches us that as disciples of Jesus Christ we are renewing our minds through God’s Holy Spirit. We are separate from the world of sin, no longer walking as the world walks, seeking God’s wisdom, setting aside sensuality and greed, and putting away deceit. We are to put off every part of the old self and to put on the new self in its entirety.

A short video clip along these lines depicted a husband and wife at home. She was facing a major decision. As she woke up and made herself breakfast, the television news was blaring. The car radio on the way to work was blaring. At work, she was constantly bombarded by email and internet. On the way home and at dinner, it was more radio and television. Of course, after that, it was social media. As they went to bed that night, he asked her if God had spoken yet. She said, “No, not yet.” The point of the clip was to illustrate how the media we allow into our minds can so easily crowd God out.

God has at times called me to fast from Facebook and reading the news for this purpose, and these types of fasts would likely help many people. We don’t have to engage just because it’s there. We must instead deliberately leave room for God to speak. He is not going to compete for the loudest voice in our lives. Instead, He is the still, small voice which often goes unheard because of the busyness of our day.

Honestly, we take too little thought to the media we are bombarded with day by day. Billboards along the road, newspaper, television, internet (including social media), email, texts and smart phones, magazines, books, and the list is almost endless. How can we properly assess the impact our media engagement is having on our minds? Really, it is impossible to know, but our minds are always tuned into something.

We will revisit this in a later lesson, but California State University published information on the effects of television on children. The television is on 6 hours, 47 minutes per day on average in U.S. homes. At least 8,000 murders are seen on television by the time an average child finishes elementary school – what is that, 10 or 11 years old? What is the cumulative effect of all this on our minds? Truly, the impact is immeasurable.

To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, we of necessity must disengage from at least some of the media and more carefully select what we allow into our minds. This means we have to exercise good judgment (gasp! there’s that word “judge” again).

Let’s switch gears here and discuss our thoughts. Dennis Prager, a self-proclaimed liberal talk show host, claims that our private thoughts should not be the basis of public criticism. We should instead only measure a person by their actions and words. On one level, Mr. Prager is not wrong. Thinking something, for example, about a person without converting the thought into action or words might be evidence of self-control or self-discipline.

There is also definitely some truth to the notion that we cannot control all of the thoughts that come into our minds. Temptation is one example of this.

On the other hand, we are responsible for what we think whether or not we are held responsible publicly for our thoughts.

Jesus said in Matthew 15:19 that our thoughts originate from the heart. If we think evil thoughts, it is a reflection of what is in our hearts. We are most certainly tempted to commit evil, and whether or not we take action on the temptation is a decision we have to make. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that we are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. Just because a stray, evil thought comes into our mind does not mean we have to or should act on it. Quickly capturing the thought and subjecting it to Jesus Christ transforms our hearts and reduces the number of evil thoughts.

While it is true that thinking something but not acting on it is to our credit, Matthew 15:19 suggests that dwelling on a thought or allowing ourselves to ponder a thought is just as bad as an action or word. In that situation, whether or not we act on it becomes irrelevant. Add to that, continually thinking on something, especially if it is evil, and not acting on it is likely to lead to unintended consequences, not the least of which is a mental health imbalance or an impulsive decision we will later regret.

In James 1:14-15, we see how easy it is for a thought to turn into sin. The thought turns into lust, which turns into action, causing us to sin. This is why Jesus said the thoughts are a reflection of what is in our hearts, and Paul said we are to take thoughts captive. We have to take our thoughts captive as early as possible to prevent lust (in the most general sense) and taking action on that lust.

Lastly, Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 that a man who looks on a woman with lust has committed adultery with her whether or not there are any words or action. By this, we know that thoughts can condemn us. What we think in the privacy of our own minds can be just as damaging as our words and actions. Often, what swirls around in our minds will eventually come to the surface, whether accidentally or intentionally. Whether in adultery or any other area, taking thoughts captive becomes the guardrail that keeps us from getting ourselves into compromising situations. The moment we allow ourselves to entertain a thought, we step over the guardrail and open the door to compromise and to sin. This is one reason why we have to carefully guard who we allow into our friendships and where we allow our feet to take us. Running with the wrong crowd, as an example, even if we do nothing wrong, makes us complicit in any crimes the crowd commits.

Should our thoughts define who we are in the public sphere? Based on the verses discussed above, I have to disagree with Dennis Prager. While prosecuting someone based on their thoughts is near impossible, what a person thinks can defile them just as much as their words and behavior.