Grace Words

A Daily Bible Reader's Blog

Presented by Mike Tune and Amazing Grace International, Inc.

What Are You Looking At?

Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness (Luke 11:34).

In the previous verse, Jesus says the purpose of light is to illumine the path – so you don’t stumble around in darkness. I would guess we have all had that latter experience. In that sense, the Psalmist says, God’s word is the light to illumine our way to God (Psalm 119:105).

But here, Jesus changes the metaphor. The eye no longer follows the light. The eye is the light, and the body follows it. Jesus’ point is that your life tends in the direction of where you are looking. If you are looking at the wrong things (ie. have an unhealthy eye), you’ll head in the wrong direction – toward darkness.

Eve found the fruit of the forbidden tree “pleasing to the eye.” If I might paraphrase: “she couldn’t keep her eyes off it” and she just kept circling back. The solution of course was easy, but hard. Look at something else. But she didn’t, and before long, she couldn’t. The light that was her eye went bad. It led to discontent and ultimately, sin.

In her essay “My Year of No Shopping” Ann Patchett writes of the year she decided not to buy anything. The decision was born out of two realizations: First, that her shopping had become a (poor) way of handling anxiety and second, she already had far more than she needed. She writes: “The trick of no-shopping wasn’t just to stop buying things. The trick was to stop shopping.” Stop looking – advice that would have saved King David a lot of heartache.

But “stop looking” isn’t only what Jesus has in mind. He calls us to something deeper. Realize what you are looking at, what you are focusing on. Is it  necessary? Is it good? Will it make you a better you? Will it contribute to holiness? No? Then turn away and focus elsewhere. In time (unless you keep circling back), you’ll find its hold lessening, the attraction fading and your life will take a turn toward the light and healthiness God always intended.

Sunday, October 26. Luke 8 – 11

Luke mentions prayer more than any of the other gospel writers. While Jesus’ “model prayer” in Luke 11 is also found in Matthew 6, the Luke account is more detailed.

I’ve wondered why the disciples didn’t know how to pray. Jewish people had set prayers that they prayed as a part of their worship liturgy, but perhaps personal prayer was less common. It is noteworthy in this regard that the story of Esther, chronicling one of the most perilous times in Jewish history, does not mention prayer. Perhaps the feeling was that God did not listen to prayer – or perhaps did not respond to it. That would explain Jesus’ focus in Luke’s account.

In the story of the man who went looking for bread at midnight, his friend gives it to him because of the “boldness” or “shameless audacity” (NIV 2011) in his request. The Greek word translated like this occurs only here in the New Testament. It occurs some 258 times in all of Greek literature and in every case (except when Christians have changed the meaning), it has a negative connotation. It refers to someone who “has no proper sense of shame and willingly engage in improper conduct.”

Jesus wants his disciples to pray. He wants them to pray for the kingdom, for the necessities of life, for forgiveness and guidance. But just as important is the relationship of the praying person with God. As believers, we are God’s children. That special relationship allows us the privilege of shameless audacity in God’s presence. It also should cultivate within us a bold confidence that God hears and will give us what we need (though not, necessarily, what we ask).

However, Luke’s account has a strange twist. It’s not just that God will give us what we ask, but that He will give us His Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of God that assures of God’s presence, guidance and protection, and that, really, should be an important part of our prayer. It’s not the indwelling of the Spirit we should pray for. As Christians, we have that. More importantly, it is the abiding presence of God.

One final point about the prayer. Note that it is not “give me,” or “forgive me,” or “lead me,” but “us.” The privilege of prayer is not granted because we have a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” – a wholly unbiblical concept by the way – but because we are a part of the community of faith, and because we are a part of the community, our prayers should include the community.