IQ tests aren’t always reliable predictors of an individual’s success in life. IQ (intelligence quotient) is a measure of intellectual capability, the ability to comprehend, conceptualize, and reason. IQ test results provide some measure of a person’s capacity to know and learn things. But performing a given task sometimes proves to be hit-or-miss at best for the very people who can explain the intricacies of whatever it is that they can’t actually do.
A corollary to cognitive intelligence measured by IQ gained prominence in the 1980s and into the present. Psychologists now note the vital importance of what has been called “emotional intelligence” for perceiving, understanding, and managing emotional factors essential for accomplishing tasks. Tests and inventories have been developed to access a person’s EQ (emotional quotient) attempting to predict successful job performance. Broad agreement currently holds that both IQ and EQ contribute to one’s general intelligence. Further, both elements can be heightened through training and programming.
But high IQ and EQ scores don’t guarantee that a person will get the job done in every field. Innate ability or capacity for doing something does not necessarily equate with performance. Skill testing may find that a person with exceptionally high IQ and EQ scores might perform at only average levels – or even less. Some people with high scores may require remedial help or special attention to bring their performance up to the level of their ability. Conversely, someone with moderate scores, but who possesses determination and a concerted work ethic, might perform well beyond expectations based on their test scores alone.
But adding assessment of EQ to IQ testing doesn’t tell the whole story, either. For some people a wide gulf exists between knowing and doing. And just what are the standards for “successful living” anyway? I have known people whose cognitive abilities are off the charts, whose capacities for traversing emotional rapids are impressive, but whose lives are in shambles. The missing element might be called “spiritual intelligence,” but it is more than knowledge of spiritual subjects. A person’s SQ (spiritual quotient) may be difficult to measure. In my observation it is formed by the intensity of personal relationship with God, practice of justice in all of life, and service to others. Like IQ and EQ, SQ seems amenable to enhancement through training and repetition – also known among followers of Jesus as discipleship. I know lots of people in the church who would knock the top out of any tests for knowledge of the Bible, spiritual understanding, and capabilities for ministry based on God’s grace gifts. But are we performing at levels commensurate with the abilities God has given us? Do we need remedial work in some areas of service to Christ? Do we have the determination and commitment to Christ to make up for the areas in which we may not have an abundance of apparent resources, but where we have concerted aspirations to get God’s work done?
The apostle Paul, in a very familiar New Testament passage, displays keen insight into the discrepancy between our God-given abilities and the practice of Christian living: “I may speak in the languages of humans and of angels.. I may have the gift to speak what God has revealed, and I may understand all mysteries and have all knowledge. I may even have enough faith to move mountains.. I may even give away all that I have and give up my body to be burned [as a martyr]. But if I don’t have love, none of these things will help me.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 GWT) Of course, the love he mentions as the decisive catalyst between any SQ or ability or capacity we might possess and the performance of practical living for Christ is God’s active, determined, hard-working love that never gives up. Paul catalogs an extraordinary range of gifts and abilities. If someone scored near the top of the scale in these categories, their SQ certainly would be off the charts. But Paul indicates that being a “Brainiac,” even in theology, ethics, and other spiritual disciplines does not get God’s daily tasks done. The essential factor is the active practice of God’s defining characteristic, love. The rest of 1 Corinthians 13 spells out the pragmatic evidence of God’s kind of love in action in our lives. The good news is that God gives us both the gifts and abilities for Christian living and the power and determination to put it into practice. As Paul says in another letter, “Yes, God is working in you to help you want to do what pleases him. Then he gives you the power to do it.” (Philippians 2:13 ICB)
The pressing question for followers of Jesus us is, will we be persistent under-achievers in the life God has called us to live, or will we commit ourselves to achievements above our abilities by the action of God’s love through us? Make an assessment of your SQ. Has God given you opportunities to study the Bible, understanding of spiritual matters, and gifts that equip you for ministering in Jesus’ name? Now, evaluate your performance as a follower of Jesus. How well do you translate your knowledge and gifts into actually loving another person, or telling someone about God’s love and grace? Do you have areas or subjects in your Christian life that could use some remedial work or tutoring, or where you just need to apply yourself more in order for your SQ to be matched by your daily practice of Christian faith? God gives every one of us abilities and gifts in ample measure to get his work done, but if we don’t connect our knowledge of the Bible and our capabilities for ministry with practical involvement as the hands of Christ, then we will never reach our god-given potential in terms of IQ, EQ, or SQ.
Start expanding your SQ through consistent training and repetition (discipleship). A good place to begin is by genuinely, actively loving someone – as God loves them – today.
J. Edward Culpepper
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