There is a car commercial that comes on every winter that I always find oddly appealing. It is a car commercial that is repeated each December. In this commercial, a car cruises along a snow-covered mountain road on its way to a lovely and warm home, or into a welcoming village. The ad always makes me want more than the car; I want the whole package. I want the mountain house, the snow, the trees, the car, all of it. For whatever reason, this particular commercial feels as if it speaks directly to me and this, in turn, leads to a moment of dissatisfaction for the circumstances of my life as they truly are, despite the fact that those circumstances are truly wonderful.
Why do I bring this up to you? Well, our focus this Lenten season is the Gospel of Luke and so I thought it would be appropriate to consider a more obscure passage from that Gospel today in our e-votional. Here we find Jesus talking about light and, more specifically, the eye. Jesus’ contention here is quite simple, what we let into our body via the eye affects the health of the whole. In this passage the lamp is a metaphor for the eye, either bringing light into the entire home and welcoming others or being hidden and buried, creating a hostile and dark space. Such is the import of what we see.
We do not, however, want to be too literal here. This was written in an era long before TV or movies or the usual sorts of things that we associate with tainting us through sight. It is likely that Jesus was talking about greed and lust in this passage; that if we focus on looking at that which we long for, rather than seeing the world in a more spiritual way, then we will be tainted. This is where I would like I us to consider, for just a moment, something we rarely consider in our moral calculations in modern America, and which I described out the outset; commercials.
Now, is this to say commercials are inherently immoral? Of course not. Do people who advertise do something wrong? By no means. Rather, it is important that we recognize something fundamental about our existence here in America. We are constantly bombarded with compelling images of things we do not have and sometimes can never possess (I’m looking at you Roger Federer and your NetJets ads!). It would be naïve to believe that our immersion in the fantastic world of commercials, which is nearly constant, does not affect our spiritual lives.
It is very difficult for our lives to reflect an inner peace and connection to God if we are constantly dissatisfied with them. If we are not careful, and do not constantly remind ourselves that we do not need things to be happy, that what we have is enough, that the purpose of our lives is to follow Jesus not collect stuff, then we will inevitably allow this immersion to take the lamp of Christ which burns inside of us and bury it in our figurative cellar. This would be a tragedy.
So let’s try something. From now on, when we see a compelling advertisement for a product, let us not think “I really want that,” but instead think, “I am truly grateful for what I have.” Can we do that? Can we make certain that in this way the eye is illuminating rather than darkening our body? I believe we can. As for me, I covenant to stop fantasizing about a beautiful mountain home perched on a pristine snow-covered hillside with a sleek car parked outside.
Prayer: Holy God, today we are grateful for what we have. We thank you for the many gifts you have given us, and we ask that we would use these gifts to glorify you. We thank you for all that you have done for us, and we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.