Mind-Waste

"A mind is a terrible thing to waste." So goes the ad for the United Negro College Fund. It occurs to me there is more than one way to waste a mind. One way, alluded to in this advertisement, is to deprive it of information, keep it illiterate and ignorant.

   Another more common but less obvious way to waste a mind is to fill it full of useless information, stuff that will keep it occupied endlessly with shallow concepts. If we fill it full of facts, trivia without any real value, we have wasted a mind.

   Thirty years of television coming back at us all at once through sixty cable channels has opened the possibility of wasting a mind through trivia overload. Never in the course of human events have so many known so much about so little. Everyone seems to know what to buy, what to wear, what to see, and what to hear; but the deeper questions of who we are, why we're here, and where we're going have been buried under an avalanche of trivia.

   Some of us have had the privilege of encountering a person with an exceptionally sharp mind. Perhaps it was a grandmother

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who read, a professor who challenged us to think, or a minister who made us go back through why we are a Christian, but these people are always exceptions to the rule. We are, by and large, a generation geared toward mental shortcuts.

   Enter the computer. It can be argued that the computer is an amoral tool of man capable of good or evil, depending upon the hands into which it falls. It can also be argued that the computer is not a mere mindless machine bent on the ultimate takeover of the human race, but a tool programmed by human minds to make a myriad of resources readily available to the fingertips of the average man.

   It can also be argued, however, that the computer is dangerous in that it makes the minds of a few accessible to many. In essence, fewer people are doing the thinking, but they make their ideas accessible to many people quickly.

   But what happens to the time that we save by this process? If this mental convenience can set men free to think higher thoughts, then it has truly been of service, but if it merely programs man to receive an endless stream of mental junk, then we'd be better off going back to slide rules and multiplication tables.

   And what about the lost art of reading? Libraries are fast becoming the relics of the twentieth-century. A flick of the switch has replaced the solitary turn of the page and drained the verdant forest of man's mind into a video vacuum.

   What of conversation, that challenge of discovery and disclosure which allows us a look into the mirror of human relationships: into the desires, dreams, doubts and destinies of the human heart? What of the painful process of confrontation, where ideas are hammered out as iron sharpens iron? When do we have time for any of these anymore?

   Instead, our twentieth-century lifestyle has left the switch on and the mind off, and there's no place to dump the truckloads of unsanitary mindfill that accumulate on the curbs of Brain Street.

   In the middle of all this cultural mind-waste is the contemporary Christian who finds his mind is no less in jeopardy because of his faith. Not only must he fight the current of popular culture, but he must also pick his way through the garbage of false teaching that tells him to give up his mind for God. Listening

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to the average popular preacher gives the impression that the audience can't think. As the camera pans the rows of faces, the audience gives the impression they fully agree with him. Their appearance is fairly predictable: "My mind is open; pour it in."

   The Scriptures discourage this intellectual passivity. In the Book of Acts, the Bereans were commended because they received Paul's message with great eagerness and "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11).

   The Bible calls us to the renewal of our minds, to be nourished with truth and sharpened like a sword for battle. God is not asking us to turn our brains to mush for His sake, to mindlessly obey and blindly accept what someone else calls truth.

   God wants us to use our minds, to test the spirits, to discern good from evil, to study to show ourselves capable of handling the Word of God correctly, and He wants us to hold on to faith and a good conscience. He wants mindful obedience, participation. He is not seeking a relationship with robots who spit out programmed truth on demand without the integrity of their own choice to follow that truth.

   At the bottom line is the issue of integrity. Am I a co-participant with God or am I a spiritual clone? Do I sign my mind over on the dotted line or do I bring it before God each day ready to question, to test, and to choose that which is being revealed to me through the Spirit?

   This is the challenge, and it is a heady one indeed for the contemporary Christian who must fight the battle of the mind on two fronts. On the cultural front, one must struggle to keep the mind from being wasted by senseless overload. Meanwhile, on the Christian front, one must keep the mind from being wasted by false teaching that equates mindless passivity and obedience while critical thinking is considered rebellion.

   It's not easy, but then again, a mind, created and given by God, is a terrible thing to waste.

   Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy . . . mind.

Chapter 46  ||  Table of Contents