Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments
The eyes are the window to the soul…sounds like something straight out of a Shakespeare sonnet. While this is a phrase that was around even before the time of Christ, many believe that it is from Matthew 6:22-23.
This saying is often a misapplication of what Jesus said while preaching the Sermon on the Mount. To understand it better we need to understand the purpose of Matthew chapters 5-7. Jesus is speaking about righteousness. I’m fact, this section in chapter 6 is one of the five areas of righteousness that Jesus talks about by way of practical application. In verses 19-24, Jesus is talking about money. Using exegetical principles we can better understand Matthew 6:22-23.
Verses 19-21 say, “”Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”” Now notice verse 24, “”No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” If verses 19-21 is talking about money, and vs. 24 is talking about money, what is he talking about in verses 22-23?
Money! He says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Jesus is talking about our view of money. The eye is the lamp of the body. Basically the way we view money effects our way of living. If we have a healthy view of money, our priorities will be in line with Gods. If we have an unhealthy eye, and view money as more important, our whole body will be full of darkness because we have chosen money over God.
The problem with the saying “the eye is the window to the soul” is that it has often offered people permission to judge the state of a person’s soul. It gives permission to judge others solely because of what they perceived a person was looking at or thinking. Biblically, we can’t know the state of a person’s soul simply by looking at their eyes. Only God has the ability to see the intentions of the heart. As humans we don’t have the power to condemn someone, only God has this power.
That being said, it is our job to be attentive to people. Our duty to one another in the church is to look out for the souls of everyone. Our view of money can either corrupt our priorities, or help us grow the kingdom.
Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments
I was 16 years old and I remember thinking, I’ll be happy when I get a new phone. I was 17 years old and I told myself, I’ll be happy when I get my own vehicle. I was 18 and I remember thinking, I’ll be happy when I get a newer phone. I was 19 and I thought, I’ll be happy when I get a newer truck.
At 16 I got a new phone and I was happy, until I dropped it in a hotel toilet a month later. I was 17 and I got my own truck and I was happy, until the transmission went out on the way to school. I was 18 and I got a newer phone, and I was happy until I left it on the roof of my dads car as we drove home from church. I was 19 and I got a truck that was nicer than anything I could ever want. I was happy, until it broke down on an Indian reservation in Arizona.
I thought I knew what would make me happy. I chased after the physical possessions that I thought would bring me joy. The problem that I failed to see was that phones break and trucks aren’t always reliable. My happiness would run out when my stuff would break.
People are constantly searching for happiness. Why? Because they don’t know what will make them truly happy. It’s a daily experiment that never gives them the result they are looking for. There are millions of books, movies, articles, and lessons geared toward helping us find true happiness.
“How to be happy” is one of the most searched phrases on Google, second only to “how to lose weight.” We ask this question because we can’t find the answer. Solomon asked this question in Ecclesiastes. “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity says the preacher.” The wisest man in the world wanted happiness and looked at every possible solution. He looked to money, drinking, and women. Every time Solomon placed his happiness in these things, he was left feeling empty. He finally found the secret to life: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc. 12:13).
Every earthly option was tried, and none of them seemed to work. The bottom line is to fear God and keep His commandments. Why? Because God knows His creation. Do you struggle with finding happiness? Do you want nothing more than to be content? The answer isn’t found in the world. You won’t find true, lasting happiness in anything on this earth.
Happiness is found in our purpose as God’s chosen (1 Peter 2:9), in loving God (Deut. 6:5, Matt. 22:37-39), and in showing gratitude (Psa. 118:1; 136:1; 147:7).
On May 7, Bill McGee wrote in a USA Today article about the crashed Aeroflot plane that killed 41 of the passengers onboard: “Reports from people on the plane indicate the evacuation may have been slowed by passengers grabbing their bags. Videos show passengers taking their carry-on bags with them as they exited the plane,” the AFA said in a statement. “We will never know if more lives could have been saved if the bags were left behind” (online edition, “Were lives lost at the cost of carry-ons in Aeroflot plane crash that killed 41?”). It’s outrageous and unbelievable that people would care more for their luggage than human lives, but that appears to be the case.
In Luke 12:15, Jesus taught, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” The NASB translates the first part of the verse, saying, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed….” Watching video footage of those passengers making an emergency exit with carry-ons in hand is a rather graphic, unmistakeable illustration of Jesus’ point. Unfortunately, we can have a harder time seeing ourselves doing the same thing in the prioritization of our lives. We may be aghast at the thought that their seemingly greedy decision came at the expense of some people behind them being able to escape the flames, but Scripture teaches the devastating effect greed can have on our own lives and the lives of those we influence.
Paul teaches that such can be a “snare,” “harmful desires,” plunging men into “ruin and destruction” that pierces them “with many griefs” (1 Tim. 6:9-10). It’s interesting that Paul’s inspired counsel is to “flee from these things” (11). We should consider that an inordinate desire and pursuit of material things may hurt not only ourselves, but the people that come along behind us. That includes our children, grandchildren, and the other people who are guided by our influence and example. They are watching what we value most and what has our greatest attention and affection. We may not be caught on camera, but God sees it with perfect, all-seeing eyes.
Let’s be careful not to allow this world to cloud our judgment, making the things of this world more important than souls or the will of the Lord. The stakes are higher than whether we exit an airplane alive. It’s about how we leave this world and enter the next one.
A few years ago, the American Psychological Association named Denver the city with the most stressed out people in America. 75% of Denver residents are too stressed out about job and money, with half of Denverites saying their stress had significantly increased over the past year. Doctors and researchers have long connected a variety of health problems to stress, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The Harris Interactive polling group conducted this survey on behalf of the APA. Maybe the high stress levels are why so many Denver-area folks have such high octane workout routines, to counteract all of this.
In response, the Colorado Psychological Association provided some tips for coping with stress: (1) Set limits, (2) Tap into your support system, (3) Make one health-related commitment (cut back on caffeine, exercise, get more sleep, etc), (4) Strive for a positive outlook, and (5) Seek additional help. These tips are wise and useful, and especially is this true when we consider a “spiritual twist” on them. While I have found living in this area to be peaceful and enjoyable, I also know that life in America in general is stressful. There are so many uncertainties and that alone is a stressor.
Christians are best-equipped to deal with stress. Matthew 6:33 helps us properly prioritize so that we have a spiritual basis to determine what needs to be eliminated and what is more valuable. Further, we have the greatest support system possible through the church (cf. Rom. 12:15; 1 Thess. 5:11; Eph. 4:13-16; Heb. 13:1; etc.). Living the Christian life properly is a prime way to a healthier lifestyle, so long as we remember such principles as are found in 1 Timothy 4:8, Proverbs 23:2, and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (I’d recommend your reading those). Who has a more positive outlook than one who can say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21-24). That is essentially saying, “I’ve got it great, and it will only get better.” Finally, there is no better help than that which we have available in Christ. Having the help of heaven to cope with life’s uncertainties is the greatest stress-buster there is.
Whether you live in Denver or even Small Town U.S.A., you are not immune from potential stress. Yet, wherever you live, if you are a Christian you have the best coping tools imaginable. Being in Christ eliminates many of the worries so many face. May we not take this for granted. Even more, let us not neglect to take advantage of the peace found only in Jesus (cf. John 14:27).
Well, according to a London survey, it takes–for the average person–about 1.5 million dollars to make one happy. One NBC analyst says that by knowing you make more than the Joneses next door, you are likely to be quite happy. As usual, we give our thanks to the experts.
Are they better informed than the Lord and the inspired writers? Jesus taught, “Beware, and be on guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Your life does not consist of your possessions. Jesus warns us to ward off such thinking and the selfish, covetous behavior it spawns. He is saying, “You cannot measure who you are and what you are about by checking your bank balance.”
King David says, “Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked” (Psalm 37:16). One might conclude from this that one, financially modest Christian is wealthier than all the worldly, howbeit financially richer neighbors. That runs contrary to NBC’s money guru, doesn’t it? What could be “better” than being financially set? Solomon says “the fear of the Lord” (Prov. 15:16). He says “righteousness” is better (Prov. 16:8; i.e., upright character and moral living). He says “peace and quiet” are better (Prov. 17:1). He says “integrity” is better (Prov. 19:1). He says “love is” better (Song 4:10).
Heavenly standards are superior to those of earth’s sagest experts. Jesus identifies an extremely poor widow as one having more (in the ways that count to heaven) than the wealthiest citizens of Jerusalem in her day (cf. Mark 12:42-44). The world has its values turned upside down, and it seeks to sway the Christian’s thinking on the matter, too. Believe this. Having more than your neighbor will not bring you lasting happiness, in and of itself. Seeing $1.5 million or more on your bank statement will not supply you the peace that passes understanding. Don’t trust me. What do I know? Believe the Lord!
One of the most recent lottery winners, Jesus Davila, Jr., has an interesting backstory. He once spent 12 years behind bars for the manufacturing and selling of cocaine, a felony. This week, he claimed $127 million after taxes. Sounds like a rags to riches kind of story, doesn’t it? It is interesting, and not a little sad, to read about some past winners of the lottery:
- Ibi Roncaioli was murdered by her husband after giving $2 million of her $5 million dollar prize to a secret child she’d had with another man (businessinsider.com).
- Evelyn Adams won twice, in 1985 and 1986, winning a total of $5.4 million. She gambled it away in Atlantic City and lives in a trailer park today (ibid.).
- Willie Hurt won $3.1 million in 1989, but spent it all on a horrible crack addiction, divorced his wife, lost custody of his children, and was charged with attempted murder (ibid.).
- Victoria Zell won $11 million in 2001, but went to prison convicted of a drug and alcohol-induced car collision that killed one and paralyzed another (theatlantic.com).
- Abraham Shakespeare won $31 million in 2006. He disappeared in 2009, after having spent most of his fortune. He was found under a concrete slab in 2010, a woman accused of fleecing him for nearly $2 million charged with his murder (ibid.).
- Jack Whittaker, already wealthy when he won $314 million in 2002, suffered too many calamities to mention here, but they include the death of his granddaughter and daughter and being sued for writing bounced checks to casinos. He was quoted as saying, “I wish I’d torn that ticket up” (ibid.).
- Bud Post won $16.2 million, but squandered it. His brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to try and kill him. He died of respiratory failure in 2006, living on $450 a month and food stamps. He once said, “I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare” (cleveland.com).
- Jeffrey Dampier won $20 million in 1996. In 2005, he was kidnapped, robbed and murdered by his sister-in-law and her boyfriend (ibid.).
To say there are mountains of additional, equally pitiful stories is to understate the matter. Certainly, not every one who wins the lottery winds up on skid row or in the morgue because of it. Yet, neither is it the panacea one might believe it to be. How many others, who can ill afford to play, squander money on a regular basis in the hopes of striking it rich? The overwhelming majority will never achieve that, but even many that do wind up worse than before they won.
In the ever-elusive search for happiness and satisfaction, mankind will come up empty when looking to material things for the answer. Jesus taught that it’s a hollow pursuit (Mat. 6:19). Paul says not “to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). Jesus warned that your life does not consist of your possessions, even if you have an abundance of them (Lk. 12:15). The good news is that there is a true treasure, one that never disappoints, that never depletes, and will never go away. Peter calls it “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…” (1 Pet. 1:4). Strive to “win” that!
Being a Rockies’ fan has its ups and downs—historically, there have been more downs than ups, I’m afraid. Being no-hit last night by Dodger’s pitcher Clayton Kershaw was pretty low! While it was only the third time in franchise history that no Rockies’ hitter got a hit in an official baseball game, there was a particular pain to the “no no” last night. Kershaw was picked by the Dodgers with the seventh overall pick in the 2006 Major League Draft. That means he was available when the Rockies used the second overall pick to take right-hander Greg Reynolds out of Stanford University (via http://www.baseball-reference.com). While Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher baseball has seen this generation, Reynolds is duking it out in Japan’s professional baseball league with the Saitama Seibu Lions. So far, he’s notched a very mortal 6-11 record in America’s professional baseball league. He’s 0-5 with a 5.52 ERA with the Lions (bis.npb.org.jp).
This is not intended to be a rip on Greg Reynolds or even Colorado’s front office, though the local fan base may like to see it. Nor is it simply an opportunity to vent frustration against our local diamond dwellers. It is, however, a great illustration of something that can happen elsewhere in life. Reynolds was selected so high in the draft because of potential, a record of achievement he had compiled to that point, and certain tools and traits that seemed to scouts and organizational brass like a “can’t miss” opportunity.
How often are we reminded that superior intellect, physical strength, charisma and charm, and abundant material resources alone are insufficient? Whole nations like Edom, Canaan, Egypt, and even Israel learned this in the Old Testament. Individuals with such potential, whether Samson or Saul or the Rich Young Ruler, prove that performance is the ultimate measurement over potential. “Almost” is an unsatisfactory and incomplete idea, as is nearly, close, and “could have been.” The graveyard is littered with stories of those who did not parlay potential into performance. History’s pages portray so many figures who flirted with greatness without getting there.
The stakes are different for us. It’s not millions of dollars, All-Star status, or the Hall of Fame (or even being able to stick on a Major League roster). Intentions are insufficient. Action is all-important. When we are thinking about God’s commands and considering that eternity is at stake, we must have more than tools and talents. We must, simply, do (Mat. 7:21; Luke 6:46).