Diagnosis: Perspectiv-opia

I do a sneaky lesson with my high school Sunday school class.

It’s direct, simple, and perspective altering. (Well, it is for me, anyway.)

First, I spread out a slew of photos taken from magazines or newspapers. They depict mansions, cool cars, hot male and female models, celebrities, travel destinations, boats, and other visual images of “the good life.”

I ask my students to look at these pictures and write several sentences regarding how they feel about the life God has given them.

Not surprisingly, the theme of the sentences follows along the lines that they could have been dealt a better hand from the Almighty.

Then, I clear those photos away and set out a new spread, these also taken from newspapers or magazines but with a different slant. These are photos of the poor of the world, the hungry, the broken, the disabled. The homes are grafittied or dilapidated, destroyed by flood, tornado, hurricane, or non-existent – people living in cardboard boxes pushing shopping carts. The cars are broken down, bombed out, or replaced by mules.

Now, I ask my students to look these pictures over and write several sentences regarding how they feel about the life God has given them.

Usually, no one writes much. Or says much. But we all think a lot and I believe there is some repentance that happens (I know it happens on my part every time.)

Jesus said, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.” Luke 11:34-35

What you look at on a regular basis affects your perspective. Whatever fills your vision has a profound effect on your attitude, your emotional life, your mental state, and your actions.

We know that color affects us. We know that visual images are powerful enough for advertisers to spend millions of dollars finding just the right one. There have been studies proving that people burn more calories just sitting than when they sit and watch television! Another study showed that women who read fitness magazines while they work out don’t get the endorphin benefit of the workout! That’s how powerful the eye to brain to body connection is!

So then, why do so many of us spend our days (and nights) looking at movies, TV shows, catalogs, magazines or websites that glamorize physical beauty, wealth and worldly success above all and NOT expect to wrestle with discontent?

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” I John 2:15-17

These are tough words and some have taken them to extremes but most of us American Christians could use a daily reminder to “be careful little eyes what we see.”

I don’t think we should torture ourselves by continually watching footage of people in more desperate straits than we are, but it’s another type of torture to constantly subject ourselves to images of people who are better off financially, physically or successfully.

We let our eyes become walls instead of windows, we let the world spray paint messages on those walls and then we wonder why we are worried, anxious, bitter, weary, and unable to access God’s promised peace.

So, today, never mind who’s watching you – what are you watching? What’s filling up your vision?

I know I need to check what’s filling mine. The writer of Hebrews had a suggestion for all of us:

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1a-3

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