Thursday, March 26, 2009

OnFire #182 Squinting to See

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #182 Squinting to See
Hi Folks:
My oh my, what a week. Tuesday was what I call a "low motivation" day. Today wasn’t so bad, but I was definitely draggy again, and to top it all, I’ve misplaced my cell-phone somewhere today. I hope it will show up tomorrow.
Today did have its highlights, however. Mark got his report card and had an average of 91. Both boys had parent teacher interviews tonight, and are doing well. So that was a highlight. And we were given tickets to a local go-kart place, which we’ll use tomorrow because the boys don’t have school.
Mark is counting down the days before they leave for Denver on April 16. The concert went well last week. The group was a men’s quartet called "For the Cross." I really enjoyed them and can get booking info for them if you wish. Easy to work with. Good music and great gospel message.
I hope your week is going well.
I’ve worn glasses since I was in grade seven and, like all glasses-wearers, I occasionally need an updated prescription. There have been times, however, when I’ve stretched the time between new lenses. After we were married and off our parents’ health plans, I once went a little too long.
As the ophthalmologist adjusted dials and flipped lenses, he said to me, "Have you been having trouble seeing things like road signs?"
"Yeah, I guess so - now that you mention it, I have."
"You’re only barely legal to drive the way you are right now."
I knew my glasses might need a little adjustment, but I had no idea it was that bad. On the way home I tested myself and sure enough, I had to get very close to signs in order to read them. It was a good thing we didn’t have a car then.
Poor vision is like that. Its hard to know what we can’t see because, well, we can’t see it. And because the changes are so slow, we don’t even notice them. For about a year before I first got glasses, people had been saying to me, "Are you having trouble seeing?" They had seen me squinting to see the tv and the blackboard, but I myself couldn’t tell. Finally someone mentioned it to my mother, who took matters into hand and made the appointment to have my eyes tested.
It took someone else to tell me what I couldn’t see. I find this true in other areas of my life. I often don’t see my own shortcomings and failings until someone else points them out to me.
The same was true for the people James wrote to. Beginning in chapter 2, he showed them how their favouritism was hypocritical and went against the "royal law" of loving one’s neighbour as oneself (v. 8). Here’s the scenario he set up for them. It may have been hypothetical, but perhaps not far from reality. Two men entered the worship service, one showing signs of wealth, and the other showing signs of deep poverty. The rich man was shown to a good seat, while the poor man was made to sit, "under my footstool." (v. 3)
James exposed the nearsightedness of their thinking. Not only does God have a special place in his heart for the poor (v.5), but they insulted the poor by exalting the same people who were exploiting them and dragging them into court (v.6). And it was the same people who were also slandering Jesus (v.7).
Evidently, the people James wrote to were themselves poor, perhaps labourers who depended on what little work they could find despite being poorly treated. This was why it was surprising to James that they did not see the issue of favouritism. Of all people, we would think they should see it, but this is the exactly the problem of nearsightedness. There are some things that we can’t see even if they are close to us. When it comes to spotting problems in our character we often have trouble.
And so there are two lessons for us in the opening verses of James 2. The lesson about favouritism is obvious. It is all too easy to judge and treat someone according to outward appearances. There is something about wealth, power and success which draws us, while poverty often repels us. We hope one will rub off while we fear the other is contagious. The "royal law" ought always to be our guide. "How would I want to be treated?"
And then there is the lesson about nearsightedness. How are we going to respond when we discover our shortcomings? Scripture is good at doing this. Sometimes other people point them out to us. We often become defensive because we don’t want it to be true. We looked better in our own eyes when things were out of focus.
Or, we could see it as an opportunity to remove the harmful bits of our character so that they can be replaced with positive traits.
I hope this helps. Be on fire.

OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published March 26, 2009. *Bible references taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

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