Luke 8:16-18; Luke 11:33-36
Have you ever met a person who was so suspicious of other people that they couldn’t accept that anything may be done without an ulterior motive? Maybe someone brings her a cup of coffee as a nice welcome gesture to the new team at work, but she thinks the coffee is trying to buy her favor. Or someone forgets to return a call in the time they said they would call, and she immediately thinks the person has blown her off, never considering there may be another explanation. If you have ever met someone like this, you know that our ability to perceive reality is influenced by the things we carry inside of ourselves: our expectations, grudges and even assumptions about the world. We human beings are prone to see only what we want to see, and we tend to want to accept the world according to our presuppositions, whether good or bad.
What Jesus tries to tell us in Luke 11:33-36 is that this dynamic where we see only what we want to see and we fail to see the world as it is before us can separate us from the truth and the good gifts of God. These words about lamp and eye and light and darkness are words that speak of the perniciousness of bias and how careful we have to be so that we make sure we are not just seeing what we want to see and missing what is right in front of us. You see, when Jesus says that the eye is the lamp of the body he was drawing on an ancient understanding of the eye as the organ that gives sight by allowing the internal light of the body to pass through and illuminate the world. This may seem strange to us, because we know the eye gives sight by taking in light from the world and having the signals processed by the brain, but it would have been very helpful in his time to try to explain to the crowds that they needed to be careful of what they had inside of them, since what they had inside of them could determine whether they were able to see clearly or not. Indeed, when Jesus says that we must make sure that the light inside of us is not darkness he is trying to tell us that we need to make sure we don’t have something negative within us– a prejudice, a fear, a hatred– that is coloring our reality and preventing us from seeing things as they are.
This is why self-examination is such an important spiritual discipline. We must try to see what we carry inside of us, so that if there is anything that does not come from God that is influencing the way we are thinking, we can offer it to God so God can take it from us. We must find out if we have any “filters”, any internal realities that influence how we perceive our world. You can start to do this by paying attention to the thoughts that seem almost automatic within you. Can you try to see yourself from a distance and notice what is there? Pay attention to how you react to the world, whether you tak
e in news with curiosity or if you’ve already made your mind what happened before you hear the whole story. If your first instincts are instincts of judgement or rebuke or if you tend to let everything slide, this will tell you something. If there seems to be an emotion that is so big that all other thoughts seem connected to it, it will tell you something too. What are your filters? Find out and get ready to leave them behind.