Are You Mature?
ARE you mature? If so, you are full-grown, able to do a man’s or woman’s work in your community. You have learned to gather information, to reason on it and to draw proper conclusions from it. If you are mature, you are able to meet difficult problems without becoming unbalanced. You can endure irritation without losing your temper. You do not become easily depressed or offended. Your knowledge of God’s Word is comprehensive, your ability to aid others is effective, and your application of Scriptural principles to your own life is exemplary. Yes, all this is involved in being mature.
The term “mature” has the meaning of being full-grown, completely developed. It is the condition that at times is described in the Bible as complete or perfect. Only by reaching maturity can we realize the purpose of our existence, properly discharging all our obligations and responsibilities.—Matt. 5:48; 1 Cor. 13:10.
There are four aspects of maturity that Christians are concerned with: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Physical maturity cannot be hurried. At best we can only co-operate with the force of life that brings it about. But mental, emotional and spiritual maturity can be hastened, depending upon the mental disposition of the individual and his environment. Then again physical maturity is something quite tangible, whereas mental, emotional and spiritual maturity are relative, depending upon conditions. In their day Mohammed and Charlemagne were considered mentally mature, yet the one was illiterate and the other could hardly write his name.
Physical maturity is not imperative to spiritual maturity, although it is a great aid and without it one’s activities are to a certain extent circumscribed. For example, there are minimum age requirements for becoming a member of a Bethel family and for giving a public Bible lecture. It is thus seen that time is a very basic element in physical maturity and it cannot be ignored. Usually, physical maturity is associated with adulthood, although certain physiologists hold that the human body keeps on growing until it reaches the age of thirty years.
The process of maturing physically may be said to begin at conception. Maternal affection is a most vital factor, especially early in life; in fact, as early as conception, for an unwanted baby is born with a handicap. Pediatricians claim that mother does not need to be so much concerned as to just what kind of baby food she uses or just when she feeds the baby as that her child receives an abundance of maternal affection.
Co-operation with the inherent life force for physical maturity also requires parents to see to it that their children get, not only sufficient food, but also the right kind. Palate-pampering delicacies, such as pastries, candy, and so forth, while causing a child to add weight, may cause it to be deficient in other respects.
For physical maturity children also need exercise, something that is being greatly neglected in some lands because of all the conveniences in this modern age. While children derive exercise from healthful play, there are also other ways in which to strengthen the muscles, such as useful toil, engaging in the Christian ministry and simply walking, to school or to the corner grocery store. Practical parents will therefore let their children walk any distance that is within reason, rather than always transporting them in the family auto. Why deprive your children of healthful exercise, at the same time giving them the vain notion that you exist solely for their benefit?
Rest and sleep also may not be slighted if progress toward physical maturity is not to be interfered with. Modern living habits deprive children of necessary sleep. In particular does watching television often rob children of hours that should be spent in rest and sleep.
In all this there is a lesson for adults whose physical health is not all that may be desired. Give sufficient—but not too much—attention to right food, adequate exercise, rest and sleep and you will be better able to discharge your responsibilities.
MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL MATURITY
Strictly speaking, mental maturity is primarily concerned with the mind as an instrument for thinking, for taking in facts, making comparisons, drawing conclusions and then showing determination to do something about them. Time is a major though not inflexible factor in attaining mental maturity. First parents and then schoolteachers have the responsibility of guiding and aiding their charges in attaining to mental maturity. However, there must be a willingness to co-operate on the part of the child if mental maturity is to be gained.
As with physical maturity, affection on the part of the child’s monitors plays a vital role in the progress made toward mental maturity. On the one hand, it makes parents and teachers more discerning and more efficient instructors, and, on the other hand, affection gives a child encouragement as well as incentive to learn.
Of course, for mental maturity the child must also have the right kind of mental food. In addition to what the child learns from school textbooks he is influenced and helped or hindered by the mental level of his environment. Parents should therefore be careful of their grammar and pronunciation. Aside from its value toward gaining emotional and spiritual maturity, the Bible by reason of the way it is written, in the choicest of language and with the clearest of thinking and logic, is an excellent aid toward attaining mental maturity. It helps cultivate thinking ability. This is something especially for adults to remember, who may not be in position to attend school but who would like to cultivate clear thinking ability, taking in knowledge from reading, observation and experience and reaching sound conclusions.—Prov. 2:10, 11; 2 Pet. 3:1.
Emotional maturity requires a certain amount of physical and mental maturity. Bible principles furnish the best help toward attaining to emotional maturity. It has been defined as the ability to get along harmoniously with one’s fellows with the minimum of friction. Its sum and substance are the two Scriptural requirements of loving your neighbor and exercising self-control.—Mark 12:31; Gal. 5:22, 23; 2 Pet. 1:6.
Important as affection is to physical and mental maturity, it is even more important for emotional maturity. In fact, it might be said that children do not become emotionally mature unless they are reared in a climate of love. Further, children must be taught to practice love themselves, to think of others. They must be trained in principles of justice and righteousness, must learn to submit to authority and to appreciate that all freedoms are relative. Where parents have failed along these lines the individual can bring himself to emotional maturity by application of Bible principles and the help of God’s spirit and other divinely provided aids. In addition to the plain and explicit commands in God’s Word regarding what is required of us in loving ourselves and our neighbor, the Bible also contains many fine examples to follow and many warning examples of things to avoid, all of which is conducive to our achieving emotional maturity.
Emotional maturity also includes satisfactory sexual adjustment. The emotionally mature person is not frustrated, be the one married or single. If the individual is single, that one remains chaste, fleeing fornication. If the person is married, that one limits sex interest to one’s own mate, one’s own flesh.—1 Cor. 6:18; Prov. 5:15.
The emotionally mature person is able to exercise self-control regardless of the circumstances. He does not lose his temper or succumb to passion under temptation. Here again we have no better aid than God’s Word with its express commands, reasons and examples, all uniting to strengthen us to exercise self-control.
Spiritual maturity is the most important of all, for it involves not only our present life but also our future destiny. (1 Tim. 4:8) Christendom gives little or no thought to spiritual or religious maturity. That is why the increase in church membership has had no impact upon the moral tone of society. The average church member is unable to give a reason for his beliefs, and his conduct is not different from that of nonchurchgoers.
But true Christianity is concerned with spiritual maturity, for it is imperative to keeping one’s integrity. That is why the Scriptures keep stressing its importance and need:
“Stay awake, stand firm in the faith, carry on as men, grow mighty.” “Become full-grown in powers of understanding.” “Let us press on to maturity.” The very purpose of God in providing apostles, prophets, shepherds and teachers is so that Christians may “all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of growth that belongs to the fullness of the Christ; in order that we should no longer be babes.”—1 Cor. 16:13; 14:20; Heb. 6:1; Eph. 4:11-14.
In what ways is the mature Christian different from the immature one? The immature Christian reads the Bible and Bible-study aids only as he finds time, which he seldom does. The mature Christian is not content with merely reading these but studies them so as to make the information his own and to be able to explain it clearly to others. He schedules time for his study.—2 Tim. 2:15.
The immature Christian permits bad weather to interfere with his attending meetings of the Christian congregation, comes late and unprepared to take part, and leaves right afterward. The mature Christian prepares in advance, comes regularly regardless of the weather, takes an active part in the meeting and lingers afterward to associate and encourage others.—Heb. 10:23-25.
The immature Christian preaches spasmodically and contents himself with talking and placing literature. The mature Christian serves regularly in all features of the ministry, is skilled in teaching, makes return visits and gets results. More than that, he helps train others in the ministry.—Rom. 15:1-3.
The immature Christian is easily offended, and is prone to compromise, to yield to temptation, to show fear of man and to go to extremes. The mature Christian is forgiving, manifests the fruitage of the spirit, is strong and keeps balance by avoiding extremes. Far from letting outside influences govern him, he is guided by principle. He keeps on seeking first God’s kingdom and lets its interests dominate his life, his family affairs, his secular occupation and his recreation. He keeps everything in its place; he does not let his secular work run away with him, nor does he let his recreation become a dominating hobby. He is not so busy preaching to others that he neglects either himself or his family. The mature person has godly devotion with self-sufficiency and thinks of others and not just of himself. By this criterion, are you mature? No doubt you are mature in some respects though not in others. Seek diligently to acquire the maturity you lack.—1 Tim. 6:6; 1 Pet. 1:13.
AIDS TO SPIRITUAL MATURITY
The most important single factor in attaining as well as maintaining spiritual maturity is depth of devotion. To the degree that our devotion is truly deep we will avail ourselves of the various aids that God has provided to help us to come to maturity: his Word, his visible organization, his holy spirit or active force and prayer. In other words, we will ever be keenly conscious of our spiritual need.—Matt. 5:3.
Among the very first essentials to gaining spiritual maturity is spiritual food, and that means studying the Bible and such aids as God has provided to enable us to understand it properly. There is so much to read and so much to study, there are so many meetings for which to prepare and to attend, that we have no time or energy for valueless things. Reading higher criticism is like nibbling at poison. Such a morbid curiosity may cause our death, spiritually and eventually physically. Reading novels is like making a meal on pastry or candy. It may taste pleasant, but good spiritual food is needed for spiritual health.—Matt. 4:4.
Association with God’s organized people is also imperative for spiritual maturity and that for several reasons. God’s organization furnishes us with spiritual food without which we could not mature spiritually. It also supplies us with loving care and affection as a mother, which we as Christians need to thrive, and this it does by means of various congregational meetings and large assemblies. It furnishes us opportunities for spiritual exercise, the preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom as well as training us for this activity. Here in particular we show that we are mature Christians. The mature Christian is able to “stand firm,” fully clothed in the armor of God and skilled in wielding the sword of the spirit, God’s Word. He heeds the apostle’s command: “Preach the word, be at it urgently in favorable season, in troublesome season.”—Eph. 6:14-17; 2 Tim. 4:2.
And finally, for spiritual maturity we need both God’s spirit and to keep in touch with God through prayer, the two being related. We obtain God’s spirit by study of his Word, association with his organization, activity in his service and by asking him for it in prayer. As for prayer, it keeps us in touch with God, cleanses us from a sense of guilt, and gives us comfort and hope.
It should not be overlooked that spiritual maturity can be lost if we do not continue in spiritual growth. To maintain our spiritual maturity we must continue faithfully to use all the aids that God has provided and that enabled us to attain to spiritual maturity in the first place.