The Corners of our Eyes

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“All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living? Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 6:7-9 (esv)

I don’t like to shop. I just go ahead and drop before I shop so I don’t have to go. Every day is black Friday for me –lots of sales I don’t care about and don’t want to be within a hundred miles of. Conjure up a mental image of me shaking my cane at the world. “Ya’ Dang kids,” he shouts. But I am not really glum; I just don’t like shopping at stores. (Note: The Rabbit Room store is on-line and stocked with great gifting items. Buy, Buy, Love. In that order.)

I love to shop from the convenience of my domestic paradise. I’d rather be mauled than go to the mall –because that’s what going to the mall feels like to me. But this is very unpatriotic. After all, our economic success is based on how much people are willing to spend. Therefore –newsflash– advertising is basic in our culture. We are overwhelmed with appeals to have what others have, to be stylish and look unique and special, just like this or that celebrity.

It’s the old adage again: “Does a fish know it’s wet?” We don’t even realize to what extent our hearts have been affected by this prevailing culture of spending and spending more.  We are basically being programmed for envy. The political arguments are often made between those who benefit from success and selfishness and those benefiting from the institutionalization of envy. It’s an ugly scene. And we can barely see it for all the billboards blocking our view.

This is another good reason to take the advice of C.S. Lewis about reading old books and not just ones from our own century. Because it helps us see our blind spots. And our blind spots are behind cash registers and whatever Star ‘o the Month is wearing.

So we have wisdom from Ecclesiastes. Better is the sight of the eyes than the roaming of the appetite. Look in front of you, not to the left, or right (where all your neighbor’s stuff is). This goes down deep, to the level of idolatry. If we are unhappy with our Father’s provision, and we long to have what he has provided for another man, it is a short step to wanting another Father.  Another god. This is a treacherous road, but it is the highway of our culture, the route of our trade.

Gifts are grand; I love the tradition of giving and receiving we have in this season. But thankfulness for God’s provision (including future grace) is the most fundamental mark of the Christian. Likewise coveting essentially identifies the unbeliever –he rejects the provision of God. The gospel is about the provision of God for our deepest need. The Christian life is a continual leaning on that provision and loving the Father who is its loving and gracious source. Why do we covet when we have all we could ever need? Why are we thirsty when living water is in us? Flesh wars with spirit and Advent is a central front in the conflict. Here the principle combatants are clearly identified on the field and the battle is joined. Why does the periphery call to us with such potency?

The corners of our eyes are a paradise of lies. The feast is before us.

We have a Father. He is good.


6 Comments

  1. Brad Griffith

    This is all so true. I saw a video on something like this from Advent Conspiracy (www.adventconspiracy.com). Why does our economy have to depend on our compulsions and unhappiness? There has to be a better way. Makes me long for the kingdom all the more. I try to follow this advice (it’s difficult): want what you have, and you’ll have what you want.

  2. Nathan Bubna

    Three cheers for Advent Conspiracy. I’m part of one of those first four churches. It has really improved the mood and spirit of Christmas for me and my family the last two years. It’s even spread to my extended family now.

    Buy less. Give more. Defy the empire.

    See also, http://rethinkingchristmas.com

  3. Stacy Grubb

    I think there must also be flip side of that coin where you learn to be appreciative that God has chosen to bless you differently than He blesses others. It’s nothing I’ve ever talked about, but have really struggled with it. My husband and I laid out a plan when we were dating and have largely stuck to the plan. We are starting to reap the benefits of it. His business is growing well and, financially, we’re doing better than we could’ve ever hoped for. As I said, it took a lot of planning, a lot of discipline to stick to the plan, etc. Still, I feel like the road should’ve been harder to get us here. I feel like we’re getting what we don’t deserve. It’s especially difficult when our family is struggling and we think of how frivolous the two of us can often be. I try to make myself feel better by reminding myself of how and why we got here and what we had to give up to be here. Anyway…I don’t think I’m making myself entirely clear. Your post just reminded me of how I often look from the corners of my eyes and feel guilty for what I have, which then makes me feel like I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth. And I’m convinced that I was born to make mountains out of mole hills and create inner turmoil where there should be none. I should’ve been emo.

    Stacy

  4. Mike

    I am becoming one of those people that the Season depresses. Not for the usual reasons but because I see so many who don’t have what I have and I don’t give like I should give. I am trying my best to work up the courage to go see an old friend that I haven’t seen in a few years tomorrow. He lost his only daughter, 19, in a car wreck about two months ago. I can’t imagine what he and his wife must be going through this week and I’ve got five pounds to lose. I so want Jesus to come get us so I don’t have to deal with me anymore.

  5. Tony Heringer

    S.D.

    Great picture! Thanks for the post my brother. Its been more hectic this year in the Heringer home, nothing dramatic, but just seems more rushed than in years past and not so much the shopping as just all the other activity that the season brings.

    Brad/Nathan,

    http://www.adventconspiracy.org/ – cool site dudes. Thanks for bringing that into the discussion. There are a lot of numbers flying around the media these days, but the two in the video are compelling and it would be great for this to go viral.

    Stacy/Mike,

    Therein lies the tension of the Scriptures. All we have, He’s given us. So, we have to hold it all with an open hand. If you live in America, you are rich even if you are homeless because even the homeless have access to clean drinking water, food of some kind and healthcare (contrary to what politicians may tell us). Outside our borders in developing countries that is not the case.

    Our constant question is how do we best steward our resources for the Kingdom? This is connected with Ron’s most recent post. Our purpose is to glorify God in all we do and that includes how we use our wealth. Its not that we can’t enjoy it as our Father gives us good things (Matthew 7:11ff). The question is are we running after these things or content He will provide them while we run after treasure that doesn’t require a money-back guarantee or service plan of any kind (Matthew 6).

    And Mike, I prayed for you just now, that you’d be a dispenser of grace to your friend and his family. I too can’t imagine what level of pain and hurt these folks are going through. Thanks for being there for them, I know God will bless you.

    Merry Christmas and Maranatha!

  6. Stacy Grubb

    Mike,

    It’s been my experience when trying to comfort a friend going through the unfathomable that the best (and sometimes only) thing to say is, “I really have no idea what to say. Please ask for whatever you need.” I have a friend who experienced the unthinkable twice and I just came right out and asked her what she wanted. Some people don’t like to talk about what’s going on. Some do. Some people want to be left alone. Some want friends to comfort them. I don’t think our friends expect us to have all the answers or even to be their pillars of strength. They just want to know what we *would* do if we *could.*

    Tony,

    I completely agree that the only way to be happy with what we’ve got is to know that we’re using however much or little to glorify God and take rest in His promise to supply all our needs. As you said, even the poor and homeless in America are richly blessed compared to the way many people of this world live.

    Stacy

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