I remember when I was first learning how to drive, how often I would make that really common mistake that has caused countless accidents by new drivers. You see something on the side of the road, maybe an accident even, and it catches your attention, so you turn your head to see what’s going on. As your eyes turn so does your head. But as your eyes turn so does your car, you don’t even realizing you’re doing it, but your eyes and hands on the wheel are all going the same direction. Where your eyes go your car almost always follows.
This is very similar to the analogy Jesus uses in our reading tonight from Matthew 6:22-24. “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. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
Part of the analogy here is common sense that we take for granted and don’t always believe to be true. If my eyes spend most of their time looking at something, we won’t name the something right now, but looking at it, measuring it, studying it, thinking about it, imagining it, calculating how I can have it; your heart will surely follow as it becomes the desire of your heart. As this thing becomes the desire of your heart then your eyes will become more and more accustomed to searching after this thing and finding it. If you put good in your more likely to seek after good in your life but if you put bad in your more likely to seek after bad in your life. Garbage in and garbage out as they say. Or being so preoccupied with the car wreck on the side of the road I end up becoming a car wreck myself.
Where you’re eyes go there your heart is as well and where your heart is there your eyes will follow. Now here’s the thing, what your heart chases after is what the Bible calls your god. A god in a person’s life is nothing more than what that heart desires over everything else, whether it be the true God of heaven and earth or not. What your heart seeks after will always become your god. But here is the tougher part to swallow, that whatever your god is will determine how you see the world and which way you turn your car.
If the god is money, which also means possessions, property, business associations and the like all lumped together; you will find that you start to see the people and situations around you in financial terms: bought or sold or given away. How much can I benefit from this relationship, what value do you have? But its not just with someone that has lots of money or possession, not having much and seeking after what I don’t have and sacrificing much to get it is still the same god and we still view people in the same way of what they can do for us. If the god is sex and all that comes with it I start to look at people in terms of potential conquests or undesirable, rated on a scale of my own choosing, what I can get out of it. If the god is control I value people in terms of how weak or strong they are or what potential threat they are to me and how that affects my control over my world. In all of these ways, the way that we see the world changes our heart so that our heart chases after these things and places a value and price tag upon people according to its own selfish scales. Let’s be honest, it’s not always something as crass sex or money, it can be an honest work ethic that has become more than it should, valuing other people by what they can do instead of who they are.
The way the heart sees the world will always direct our cars, turning us this way and that way, chasing after what we value. Asking people the question, “what good are you to me?”
Now we might say to ourselves, that’s not how I work or I don’t do that kind of thing. All right and I’m glad, but I’m guessing not. What your heart chases may not be what is on that list, but there are as many gods in this world as there are things that we can chase after, which is a lot. All of us have something or two like this, the trick in our Christian maturity is to ask ourselves those diagnostic questions of how do I see other people in my mind’s eye and how does that effect the way I treat them? Like Martin Luther said, take a second and pinch yourself, are you still flesh and blood? If we are, then we still have need of repentance and growth and spiritual change.
Now let’s get out of our cars for second, because its always easier to look at these kind of issues from the safety of our cars looking out. But imagine you’re on the outside of your car with your headlights shining on you. With the way that you have become accustomed to looking at the world take a look at yourself. Sometimes we don’t even realize what we’re doing until we look at ourselves in the same way.
What if I was paralyzed and couldn’t move anymore. What if I was ill? What if my mind suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s? What if I am young and still learning or older and my career is far from me? What good am I, if this or that were to occur and my value in the headlights isn’t like it used to be? What good am I?
We live right now in this world that is based on buying and selling and it values people in much the same way. See how it goes with celebrities, most of whom don’t even make it to flavor of the week, now-a-days, it’s like flavor of the day or of the hour because there always 100 more behind them who can be used and tossed just as easily. If we look at ourselves through the glare of those kinds of headlights the answer to the question of “What good am I” will probably be not so much. Or good only as long as you can work. Or good only as long as your handsome or pretty (those definitions are always changing as well). Or good as long as you can produce. Whatever it is, the answer always ends up being, “not so much” in the end.
I really don’t want you and I don’t want me to look at ourselves through the glare of such selfish and self-absorbed headlights, but there is really no earthly alternative for us to use. We need to look beyond this world to the light of the world. See our God does not look at us in terms of what we can do for Him, instead he always look at us through the light of his love shining upon us in Jesus. You don’t even know how much you are worth in the eyes of God but we get just a glimpse when we remember that Jesus Christ died for me.
How much are you worth, this much, as He spreads out his arms and dies. We get this beautiful and wonderful way of seeing ourselves, not through some puny headlights, but bathed in the light of the world, Jesus Christ. In His light we are valued and loved and have worth and meaning that the world, including our own infirmities and weaknesses, can never take away from us.
Look at the light of the world, at first it’ll be a little bit like looking at the sun because we’re not used to such a light but the longer we look at it the more it fills us with God’s light. The more we are filled with God’s light the better we can use our own headlights on our cars, or the eyes on our bodies, to see the people around us how God sees them, as dearly beloved children of God and our cars will start to naturally turn towards where our eyes go, towards what is good and holy and pleasing in His sight. That is something to be thankful for. Amen.