Quit Asking How He’s Doing Spiritually (Ask These Questions Instead)


The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 
~ Luke 11:34

“So how are you doing spiritually?” 

It’s a common question in the context of church, mostly used in an effort to delve deeper than small talk. And we need to stop asking that question. We need to stop, because it really isn’t the best way to gauge how someone is actually doing spiritually.

At least, not in much of today’s Christian culture. 

It’s truth that someone’s spiritual state is of vital importance. The whole point of Christian discipleship is growth in spiritual maturity (Col 1:28). I am not saying that it is not important to know how someone is doing spiritually. What I am saying is that, asking someone the question, “How are you doing spiritually?” really isn’t the best way to find out how they are doing spiritually. Why? I will offer two reasons.

It’s an Invasive Question
Given that the spirit of a man is the deepest recess of his being (see 1 Cor 2:11), to ask someone the question “How are you doing spiritually?” is equivalent to saying, “Tell me what you’ve been thinking about all day long.” Talk about an invasion of privacy. I remember a high school student once mentioning with respect to being asked that question, “I don’t think people realize just how personal that question is.” Thus, he said that he has three different answers that he’s ready to give to people who ask him that, depending on how close he is to the inquirer. As love is not unbecoming, it’s important for Christians to learn to respect what is private. If people want to share, let them share. But to ask about it, especially when people aren’t ready to share, is simply inappropriate.

It Produces Canned Responses
Second, such a question can produce canned Christianese responses about how regularly one is engaging in his “daily devotions” (or “quiet times”). I’ve been in enough of these awkward small groups and leadership meetings, where each person, in an attempt to answer the question about their spiritual health, has to go around sharing how many hours he or she spent–or didn’t spend–reading their Bibles during the week. Of course, spending the first part of one’s mornings reading Scripture and praying in private is indeed a very helpful spiritual discipline in the pursuit of godliness. But the truth is, consistency in morning devotions or quiet times is not a part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), and is not the indicator of spiritual health. And yet, many saints in the Reformed Christian community have been trained or programmed to answer the question “How are you doing spiritually?” in this way. So perhaps we need to stop asking that question, and stop answering that question that way.

In my work of discipleship and mentoring men over the last fifteen years, I’ve stopped asking this question for the two reasons mentioned above. 

The Solution to the Dilemma
This poses the dilemma, then: If the goal of discipleship in the church is spiritual maturity, then we need some knowledge of people’s spiritual health. How can we attain this knowledge? The answer is found in Luke 11:34:

The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness.

Here Christ uses figurative language to instruct his disciples about spiritual health. The eye in this passage represents the eyes of the heart—one’s spiritual condition. The body represents the whole of one’s life. When the eye is in good condition, the body also does well. When the eye is in poor condition, so also is the body. The condition of the eye affects the condition of the body. The relationship to Christian living is clear: the spiritual condition of man affects the entirety of a man’s life. 

So how can we discern how someone is doing spiritually? Here’s the answer: observe the whole of his life. If his life and all of its components are in line with the Lord’s will, then it is indicative that he is spiritually healthy. The opposite is also true: if the various areas of his life are misaligned with God’s will, then it is an indication of poor spiritual health. 

Getting Practical
How does this look practically? If a person’s spiritual condition will become evident in the whole of life, then what should we be observing and examining, either in our own lives (if we’re looking to evaluate our own spiritual health) or in the lives of others?

Examine how his marriage is going. Does he spend time with his wife? Does he nurture her spirit? Is he faithful to her in his sexual purity, and are the two of them regularly intimate? Is he both leading her and listening to her? Does he put her needs before his own? Are they continually arguing at home, or is there peace in the home? What is communication like between him and his wife? When they do talk, do they regularly talk about God’s will for their lives and what God expects from them?

Examine how he’s doing as a parent if he has children. Does he spend quality time with his children, or does he allow work and his own interests to crowd out his time? Do his children respect him and his authority, or are they rebellious? Is he keeping them under control? Is he afraid to discipline his children? What is he doing to equip his children for adulthood? What skills is he working to pass down to them and equip them with? Is he teaching his children how to live according to God’s Word in all areas of life? 

Examine how he’s doing in his relationships in general. Is he relational? Does he have close friends, or does he close himself off from people? Does he have a good reputation amongst the people who know him best? Does he get along with his parents? Is he investing his time in mentoring younger believers? Does he seek counsel from older believers? Does he surround himself with good, wise, and upright people in his age demographic and outside of it? 

Examine his involvement in the local church. Is he regularly gathering with other Christians, and specifically those in his local church? Does he submit to and support his elders, or is he either a squeaky wheel or an outright rebel who makes life difficult for them? Is he using his gifts to further the ministry of the church, or is he simply a church observer? How exactly is he contributing to his church’s mission? 

Examine, if he’s a student, his academic endeavors. Is he going to class consistently? Is he doing all of his assignments? Is he cheating, or is he abstaining from it? Is he doing the bare minimum to pass, or is he striving for excellence in his classes? 

Examine (if he’s not retired) his occupational and community endeavors. What kind of work does he do for a living? Is he earning money lawfully and ethically? Is he making enough money to adequately provide for his household? Does he submit to his boss? Does he have a reputation of diligence or flakiness? Does he have a pattern of bouncing from one job to another every two years?

Examine how he’s physically taking care of himself. Is he a healthy eater, or does he put lots of junk into his body? Does he continually struggle with health ailments that are a result of lifestyle issues? Is he regularly getting intoxicated and/or addicted to illegal substances? Is he regularly exercising and physically active, or is he generally sedentary? How many hours of sleep does he get each night? 

Examine his financial endeavors. Is he continually spending more than he is earning to the point of incurring unnecessary debt? Is he contributing financially to his local church and/or missions efforts? Is he generous with the material assets that God has given him, or is he selfish and stingy? Is he always complaining about how much money he doesn’t have, and constantly thinking about how much more he wants? Is he a high-maintenance individual, or is he fairly economical?

Examine his recreational life. Does he spend an unhealthy amount of time playing video games? Is a disproportionally large chunk of his budget going into recreational activities? Is he a workaholic, or does he take days off to rest and enjoy time with healthy hobbies and with his family? Are the things he does for pure enjoyment healthy and wholesome? Does he watch movies or TV shows that are questionable in content?

If a man is living a life in which every sphere is healthy, thriving, integrated, and consistent with the will of God revealed in the Scriptures (yes, God’s Word has something to say about all of these spheres), then he is a man who is doing well spiritually. A man who has any of these areas that are suffering and inconsistent with God’s design is a man who is spiritually unhealthy (think about it: how many internal organs have to be compromised for a man to be considered ill?). 

Remember that when Christ saves a man, he redeems the whole of a man. Every area of a man’s life is then freed from the power of sin, and brought under the influence of the Holy Spirit’s leading. And when that man walks in the Spirit, he is characteristically a spiritual man (Gal 6:1). And when he is a spiritual man, then it will be obvious how he’s doing spiritually. It’s time to stop asking unhelpful questions and to start observing the wholistic work of the Spirit in people’s lives for evidence of spiritual health. 

Related Articles