Spiritual apathy is often a silent battle that many believers face but do not have the courage to admit it out loud. At times, spiritual apathy is a struggle that perpetually rises within a person’s heart and mind when they have experienced extensive moments of longsuffering or adversity. Other times, one may find his or herself dealing with a tug of war of neutrality in choosing between following societal norms or walking the righteous path of God. Whatever the battle is, it seems to carry this constant urge to give in to the mindset of “I don’t care anymore” as a way to relieve oneself of the battles that come with being a servant of God. To get a full glimpse of why spiritual apathy is an undercurrent problem amongst believers, it is important to define what spiritual apathy is from a biblical perspective and how it negatively affects one’s relationship with God.
Defining Spiritual Apathy
What exactly does the term apathy mean? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term apathy can be defined as “the lack of feeling or emotion; lack of interest and concern.” It is simply an ‘I don’t care’ attitude that reflects how one responds to things mentally and emotionally.
More specifically, spiritual apathy is “a feeling of indifference or even coldness to the things of God.” In this sense, a person has either lost interest or zeal for serving the LORD or never really had an emotional attachment to having a relationship with God. Many times, spiritual apathy appears when a person is dealing with great bouts of adversity. Some areas of adversity may include:
- Physical or mental burnout
- Death of loved one (s) or relationship(s)
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Persistent spiritual attacks, which can be manifested as:
- Financial problems/ lack of job opportunities
- Loss or the breakdown of material possessions
- Health problems
- Hostile/toxic relationships and/or encounters
One feeling powerless in these situations can lead to a state of apathy—where the “I don’t care anymore” notion becomes an easy defense mechanism to cope with the pain of hard times. Generally, this way of defending one’s pain comes from a place of bitterness or resentment resulting from difficult and/or unexpected events.
Biblical Examples of Spiritual Apathy
What is spiritual apathy according to the word of God? What happens when the believer falls into spiritual apathy? The LORD Jesus Christ depicts spiritual apathy throughout the Book of Revelations, specifically in chapter 2, verses 4-5 and chapter 3, verses 1-3 and 15-16. In Revelation 2: 4-5, Jesus states:
This scripture is basically calling out those who have lost their zeal for serving the LORD. It is those who outwardly confess with their mouths that Jesus Christ is LORD, but in their hearts, they are indifferent to the matters of Christ. They are going through the motions as a way to stay in good graces with God, although their hearts have been turned from Him. It’s like saying: ‘I’m here so I won’t go to hell.’
But what people don’t realize is that God knows the secret areas of heart posture that no one else can see. You can hide the truth from others, but you can’t hide the truth from God. He knows when your heart is no longer with Him. Moreover, Revelation 3:1-3 go on to say that:
This scripture is for those who are indifferent to fulfilling their duties in serving God with the body of Christ. This can be modeled by the attitude of, ‘things are going to be what they are going to be anyway, so why does it matter?’ With this, one is relenting the ‘fight’ for the kingdom of God because their efforts may seem fruitless when having to stand against great opposition. But Jesus warns us that allowing ourselves to be ‘dead’ in the spirit and forsaking our responsibilities as believers will cause us to be unprepared for His return. In verses 15-16, the LORD demonstrates further the dangers of spiritual apathy by emphasizing the issue of ‘lukewarmness’ amongst believers who don’t really have a defined relationship with Him.
This scripture is about straddling the fence between righteousness and being of the world. This concerns those who are so neutral when it comes to the things of God that you can’t really tell if they are truly a believer. You may see this a lot in spaces such as Hollywood. It is often a great shock to see some celebrities admit that they are Christians because they never really mention it nor do they show it through their actions. Likewise, some people may find themselves falling into lukewarmness on their jobs, at school, amongst friends, etc. in which they hide their affinity with being a believer to fit in with the world.
Overall, with these scriptures, the LORD is exposing the hearts of believers, getting us to examine whether or not we have fallen off the righteousness path due to apathy, laziness or vain desires. He expects for us to truly repentant from these issues of apathy and to continue serving Him with the zeal we once had.
What can spiritual apathy do to the believer?
Spiritual apathy can bring forth changes to the mind and heart of the believer. Let’s examine this based on Ephesians, chapter 4 verses 17- 19, which say:
What stands out the most in this scripture is the phrase “because of the blindness of their heart” which indicates that the heart has been closed or hardened towards God. I mentioned earlier that apathy is the fruit of bitterness or resentment, and many times allowing this to take root in one’s heart causes one to become cold-hearted, ‘unfeeling,’ or having lack of empathy —hence the phrase “being past feeling” in verse 19.
Having ‘no feelings,’ which is what our generation often wears as a badge of honor, leads us to fall away from God and into a spectrum of extremes. On one end of the spectrum is ‘anything goes’ where there is no moral compass. With this, a person will do anything their hearts desires, even if it means harming themselves or others. Then there is the other end of the spectrum where a person completely removes themselves from participating in life. They become isolated, aloof and nothing motivates them to continue to live. In their mind, there is no purpose of living. These extremes are both dangerous and destructive, especially to one who considers themselves to be a believer. The enemy gets a kick out of convincing believers of God to lose faith and walk away from their purpose, only to later succumb to extremities. This is why it is important to stay connected to God through prayer, fasting and consecration, so that issues such as spiritual apathy doesn’t become a strong hold on one’s mind and heart.
Additionally, there is also Proverbs chapter 18, verse 9 which says:
“One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.”
Someone who is dealing with spiritual apathy may also be dealing with laziness in believing that serving God, whether that be through a ministry, evangelism, community service, etc. is mundane. This allows the enemy to creep in one’s mind and heart, where one becomes a hinderance to others who are more passionate in their servitude to God. Does it take all that? Do you have to work that hard to achieve that? Why do things this way? are some common questions that the enemy plants in the mind of a person struggling with apathy—keeping them and maybe others from wanting to put forth their best effort to serve God.
What happens when a Believer falls into spiritual apathy?
There is a major consequence to the believer who falls into spiritual apathy with no regard for repentance. Spiritual apathy is seen as a form of rejection in having a relationship with Christ, causing the believer to forfeit his or her place in God’s kingdom. Take Matthew chapter 21, verses 42-44, which state:
Having a strong foundation in Christ is the ‘cornerstone’ to receiving the abundance of the kingdom of God, which is eternal life. Spiritual apathy robs you of this, as it hinders your will to be actively obedient to the LORD’s commands.
Expectations of the Believer
As believers, we are expected to give God our all, especially in respect to what He has done for us. He gave his only begotten son to die on the cross for our sins so that we can have eternal life. That alone should be enough to praise, worship and serve our LORD. But being in a state of spiritual apathy keeps us from authentically showing God the love that He deserves from us. There are moments in life where we will experience tough times, in which it is tempting to blame God for our troubles and turn from Him. But doing this leads to our detriment in the end. We must continue to seek God’s presence in times of trouble so that we remain connected to Him. As it states in Ephesians 5:14 “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you,” God expects us to stay alert and ‘keep hope alive’—maintaining momentum in fulfilling our callings and abstaining from wavering due to life’s circumstances. In other words, favor is given to those who can continue to see God’s goodness while enduring life challenges. In fact, Galatians 6:9 greatly illustrates this perspective, stating that:
It is the weariness of adversity that makes us vulnerable to spiritual apathy. But to combat that, we must seek God’s presence more rather than to turn from it. Turning from God breaks that connection with Him—a sacred bond needed for us to receive favor and overcome hard times. So, in that regard, we must keep our hearts open to receiving God’s goodness and His word so that the tendency to have an “I don’t care anymore” attitude doesn’t keep us in bondage. Let us not allow spiritual apathy to overcome us and burn out the fire within us used to glorify and serve our LORD.