“Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:12–14)
At the end of Hebrews 5, the author of Hebrews wants to dig into the deep stuff (about Melchizedek, specifically) with his readers, but he can’t. Why? Because they are immature in their faith.
That’s understandable, really. Lots of people in this world are immature Christians. For some, that’s because they’re physically young. How deep into the mysteries of God were you delving at age five? For others, it’s because they’re relatively new converts. If you’ve just submitted your life to Jesus after hearing a message on John 3:16, are you ready to start leading Bible studies on the sovereignty of God?
Immaturity is understandable. It’s a healthy part of growing up. But the author of Hebrews doesn’t hide his irritation. It’s one thing for a child to be immature. It’s another thing for a middle aged man to act immaturely. And the author of Hebrews was writing to people who had been in the faith long enough to have matured naturally, yet they had remained in a state of immaturity—of arrested development, if you will. He describes them as “unskilled in the word of righteousness.”
Unfortunately, our churches are often filled with the wrong kind of immaturity. We have people who have been church members for years and years, and yet remain unskilled in the word. They can’t handle difficult doctrinal discussions because they’ve never gone deeper than the main points of a Sunday morning sermon can take them. When the sermon does dive deeper, they check out. Shallowness is a hallmark of their faith.
One of the greatest tragedies of this situation is how easily it could be remedied. What does the author of Hebrews want from his readers in terms of maturity? He wants them to be able to train their powers of discernment to distinguish good from evil. Know what is good. Know what is evil. That’s maturity. Be able to dig deeper and tell the true from the false. And how is this accomplished? It’s simple: constant practice.
Pianists don’t become accomplished on accident. Engineers don’t casually create bridges or iPhones. Michael Jordan didn’t lazy his way into total league domination. Skill—maturity—is developed through constant practice. And our faith is no exception. If you are “unskilled in the word of righteousness,” there’s a solution. Constant practice.
You may feel like you aren’t enough of a scholar to pick up your Bible, read it, and understand it. But the reality is that you won’t gain this ability apart from picking up your Bible and reading it. The understanding will come through constant practice.
If you want to remain immature and “unskilled,” neglect is the perfect strategy. It will work wonders! But if you want to press on toward maturity, if you want to train your powers of discernment so that you will recognize the difference between good and evil, there’s a simple (yet taxing) solution: constant practice. Beware of substitutes.