Culture At Large

Spiritual Disciplines

Chris Salzman

Scot at Jesus Creed writing about spiritual disciplines:
Spiritual disciplines are a waste of time if they are not living out or toward the first element of the Jesus Creed: loving God...

I believe there is far too much of an instrumental use of spiritual disciplines. That is, we “do” the disciplines so we can “get” blessed. In brief, we see them as an instrument to get what we want. This is wrong-headed.

What do you think are the negatives of seeing disciplines as instruments? What can we do to make the disciplines less instrumental?

Spiritual disciplines may lead to spiritual growth but we dare not turn them into instruments. Matt 6:1-18 is Jesus’ own deconstruction of spiritual disciplines as instruments. John Ortberg said this well in his book on the disciplines: “The true indicator of spiritual well-being is growth in the ability to love God and people. If we can do this without the practice of any particular spiritual disciplines, then we should by all means skip them” (The Life You’ve Always Wanted).

Now here’s the kicker: one of the only ways to “sell” others on the disciplines is to show them the benefits they will get by doing them. Fine. Only Jesus doesn’t do that. What Jesus reveals in Matt 6:1-18 is that disciplines are to be an I-Thou encounter (Martin Buber’s famous expression) instead of an instrumental encounter.

The Aesthetic Elevator had a related point in the tithing comments: we often take the concept of "Don't let your left hand know what your right is doing" too far so that in our efforts to be secretive we don't provide examples of how to practice spiritual disciplines.

Take fasting for example. Many people do it but very few people talk about it because it's so primarily an "I-Thou" experience. When we talk about it clinically or theologically the practice seems that much cheaper. Yet, the only way we know how to fast is because someone taught us.

How do you learn new spiritual disciplines? Who taught you about them? Do you actively practice any disciplines? Any other thoughts?

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Faith