Why Saying “Don’t Be So Heavenly Minded That You’re No Earthly Good” May Not Be Good Thing

And the Kingdom of God Mentality that We Desire to Communicate

Besides poor grammar, “don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good” communicates that thinking about heaven and living in anticipation of arriving at heaven is a negative thing. As with any group of words, the context in which these words are given help determine the actual meaning.

Don't Be So Heavenly Minded That You're No Earthly Good

The context which this phrase normally appears in is something similar to the following:

  • A new believer decides he is not going to hang out with his old friends. He makes this choice even though he has not yet told them about their decision to follow Christ. Then, a well-meaning Christian explains that they must share the gospel of Christ and cannot shrink away from those who do not yet know him. “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good,” he or she may say to convince the new believer of his need to become evangelistic with his old friends.
  • A mature believer tends to spend time praying in solitude. This mature believer has not honestly shared the gospel of Christ with someone since before they can remember. A well-meaning person of the faith will then explain that the mature believer must go out and get to know non-Christians. “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good. Get out there and help people now!”

This phrase is also often stated in reference towards people who are content to know they can go to heaven. Consequently, life change stops and these “contented” individuals rest in their confidence of salvation through Jesus Christ. They simply have what they need, a ticket to heaven, and cease (or never begin) to spread the gospel of Christ to those who desperately need to hear it.

The Issue with “Don’t Be So Heavenly Minded that You’re No Earthly Good”

The problem with this phrase, “don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good,” is it communicates that an anticipation of heaven is a bad thing. It communicates that a focus on arriving at heaven once this life ends is almost a distraction from what we are to be doing in the here and now as we follow Christ. It carries a negative connotation: “don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.”

Maybe we should reconsider our phrasing of the idea we are trying to communicate. I do not believe those of us who use this phrase are attempting to discourage the hope of heaven, after all, this hope has been given to us through Jesus Christ. We know that Jesus gives eternal life to those who follow him. We also understand this eternal life is experienced in the reality of heaven.

So what should we do?

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Heb. 10:24-25

Instead of telling people, “don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good,” maybe we should explain to people and teach them more about the kingdom of God. Maybe we should say, “let’s consider what is best for God’s kingdom.” Maybe instead of barking at people (unintentionally albeit – but the “don’t be so heavenly minded” phrase still comes off a bit rude), we should come beside people and help them think through the present and future aspects of the kingdom of God.

What is a Kingdom of God Mentality?

A kingdom mentality includes the anticipation of heaven, but its dual reality makes us focus on what we can do here and now to help grow God’s kingdom. A kingdom mentality understands that the experience of eternal life starts the moment we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. While our experience of eternal life starts in the here and now, it will also run on for all eternity. God’s kingdom is a present reality, something that has been initiated on earth. However, the completion of His kingdom rule is still yet to be fully realized.

Consequently, a kingdom mentality recognizes the eternal rule of God. He is the sovereign LORD; He is the complete, total, and absolute rule of everything throughout time past, time present, and time future. As followers of Christ, we live underneath the rule, reign, and government of the Most High God. We serve Him, and we are to fulfill what He has required of us to do in this life.

Therefore, while we are living out our eternal life in the balance of heaven and earth, we should encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ with a positive message. We should avoid attempting to elicit a change of actions with a negative statement. Let’s instead turn our phrase around and elicit a change in action with a positive encouragement. Let’s follow the teachings of our Lord and set our hearts to be sure that we communicate the correct message in the best way possible.

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

1 Thess. 5:14

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4 thoughts on “Why Saying “Don’t Be So Heavenly Minded That You’re No Earthly Good” May Not Be Good Thing

  1. I have heard this statement many times, but I have never, ever taken it the way you have explained. It is my understanding that it simply means don’t become so spiritual (heavenly minded) that you omit practical matters (earthly good).I have never understand it to mean it is said to make light of one’s mind being on heaven or to discourage one’s thoughts about heaven. Many people operate as though they are no longer in this world once they become believers thus, forgetting they have to eat, sleep, work, pay bills, etc.They behave as though practical matters no longer matter. In other words, I believe the statement is intended to encourage people not to forget they are in this world still. As heavenly minded as one may be, we are earthly still.The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are fewm

    • Thanks Charmaine for your thoughts.

      In my experience, I’ve heard the phrase used as a correction that we are neglecting physical matters as you’ve stated. However, if we start to think about what is best for God’s kingdom, it then impacts the way we eat, sleep, work, pay bills, etc.

      I agree, we are living in a tension between the spiritual reality with the Kingdom of God and the earthly reality of the world’s system. We do need to encourage people to keep with practical matters and to share the gospel of Christ to those who have not yet heard.

      I feel we do a better job teaching this concept to people re-phrasing the way we communicate the idea.

      All that being said, in my experiences, I’ve seen and heard it used as a correction with an exhortation. It sometimes sounds like people are saying, “don’t spend so much time reading your Bible because there are other things that need done.” Sometimes, people need to spend every extra minute in their Bible, for a season, and it isn’t our job to tell people when that season ends. That is between them and their relationship with the Lord.

      So, I’m not saying people can never use the “don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good,” phrase in a positive way, because they can. But I am suggesting that we consider teaching them to think about God’s kingdom, which includes how we live here on earth along with an anticipation of heaven.

  2. On 2 thoughs by Charmaine Ducre

    I understand when you say that you have heard the saying many times, but have never taken it that way. Although, that being said, what is being discussed is whether or not it line up with what God is saying to us in his word. Let’s look at what God says in his word: In Phillipians 1:27, God commands us to; Only let you conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ…that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. Clearly here in this scripture we are instructed on how we can even speak being the children of God, hoping that you are a child of God, what I mean is I hope that you have repented of your sins and confessed Jesus Christ.

    In Collossians 1:10, God instructs us: That ye might walk worthy of Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. In chapter 2:2; of Colossians God instructs us: That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ. As we can see from God’s point of view, this statement: Don’t be so heavenly minded, that you are no earthly good, is not in agreement with God’s word or his. Verse 8 of the same chapter says: Beware lest any man spoil you through phlilosophy and vein deceit, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

    In Epheasins 5:6-10, God instructs us: Let no man decieve you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
    Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
    For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light;
    (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
    Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

    You see, as children of light, we are to walk (live, talk) in the way that is pleasing unto the Lord. Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord not what is acceptable to ourselves.

    In Fist Corinthians 1:18-20, God says: For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God.
    For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will, bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
    Where is the wise? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
    For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

    We see here in this scripture clearly that God is saying that those sayings in the world which seem to be wise, God have made foolishness, and that he will deatroy the wisdom of the wise in this world.

    We as believers in God through Jesus Christ are not even to have any other doctrine (teaching/sayings) except the gospel of Jesus Christ as God instructs us in Galatians1:9, As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have recieved, let him be accursed.

    I hope and pray that you will read God’s word for yourself and hold fast to his word and doctrine. May you increase in the knowledge of God’s word.

  3. 3 thoughts on Why the saying: Don’t be so heavenly minded, that you’re no earthly good. May not be a good saying.

    In light of the idea made regarding people who become believers forgetting to eat, sleep, or pay bills, is an highly exerggerated inaccurate statement.

    No one forgets to eat, sleep, or pay bills, although what is true is some people ( very few in comparision) struggle with Kingdom thinking and living becauase as Phillipians 4 says: we are new creatures in Christ Jesus, old things are passed away, all things are become new, all things are of God. Because when we become new creatures, we as believers have to learn the word of God to renew our minds so that we can live according to God’s word, not our own will or desires.

    The statement: Don’t be so heavenly minded, that your no earthly good, evokes the thought that having your mind on heaven will put you at a dissadvantage in this world and it also, it serverts a person from trusting in the word of God completely for our lives.

    It also suggest that in order to get through challenges in this world, you have to forget about God’s and live by the rules of this world. This way of thinking pursaudes many to believe that God’s word in ineffective in this world and only have use once one gets to heaven, so it’s alright to live according to the world’s rules because it’s far more effective than God’s.

    The God instructs us in his word 1 Corithians 3, to: Set your affections on things in heaven and not pn things below on the earth. If we believe that God is watching over us and providing pur every need, why do people don’t trust God