“For the word of God is living and full of power, and is sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting through and making a division even of the soul and the spirit, the bones and the muscles, and quick to see the thoughts and purposes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 Bible in Basic English [BBE]*, 1941).

Watchman Nee: Courtesy of Wikipedia

Watchman Nee is correct that religion does not teach that soul and spirit are two different things, but it should. The soul is the essence of what makes us, each one, a unique being. It has talents and gifts and tendencies. On the other hand, our spirit is the part of us which is attuned to the world of the divine. It is what longs for God.

If our soul dominates we are merely human, the creature that chooses to act like a god rather than serve God. Even people who choose Jesus can be dominated by the soul, thinking the talent and busy-ness in God’s name is spiritual activity, a spiritual life. However, the alarm needs to be sounded, “For we have all become like an unclean person, and all our good acts are like a dirty robe: and we have all become old like a dead leaf, and our sins, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6 BBE, 1949). Human actions are centered in self, feed, and depend on, our feelings and want recognition rather than glorify God.

If we crucify our soul and its sinfulness then our spirit becomes predominant. In that case God is the reason for our work, and we let God lead in that work, and it is fruitful, not busy.

Do we need any example better than Martha and Mary: Now, while they were on their way, he came to a certain town; and a woman named Martha took him into her house. And she had a sister, by name Mary, who took her seat at the Lord’s feet and gave attention to his words. But Martha had her hands full of the work of the house, and she came to him and said, Lord, is it nothing to you that my sister has let me do all the work? Say to her that she is to give me some help. But the Lord, answering, said to her, Martha, Martha, you are full of care and troubled about such a number of things: Little is needed, or even one thing only: for Mary has taken that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42 BBE, 1941).

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Martha was engaged in one of the highest social demands – hospitality. Yet she was not doing it for the love of service, but mere obligation. Mary was prepared to let the guests grab what they wanted from the pantry because she was learning and being fortified and in close communion with Jesus. This Martha saw as lazy and irresponsible.

Jesus made it clear that activity, even good activity, outside submission to God, is just like “a dirty robe.”

The soul feeds on compliments. The spirit feeds on God alone.

We are called to lie down on the altar, as Watchman Nee puts it in “The Spiritual Man”, and let the sharp knife wielded by Jesus free our spirit to pre-eminence to rule our soul. As some put it, put God on the throne.

Let us become servant souls instead of self-serving souls.
* The Bible in Basic English was translated by scholar S. H. Hooke. The New Testament was published in 1941. The Old Testament was published in 1949.