There is an old saying from the early days of computing: garbage in/garbage out. The gist of it was that if you entered incorrect data, then the results produced would be in error, perhaps extraordinarily so.
As we continue our look at the Beatitudes that Jesus used to introduce his Sermon on the Mount, we look today at, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Unfortunately, today purity is often solely understood in the terms of virginity. Although not as popular as they once were, many high schoolers have made vows to remain sexually pure and often wear rings symbolizing their vows. If you were to ask someone what it meant to be pure, it is likely they would associate it with sex.
However, I think Jesus had a broader definition of purity. We get a hint from the Apostle Paul when he writes to the Philippian believers, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (4:8) Paul’s command likely comes from what Jesus proclaimed in his Sermon, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23) In Judaism, the eye was how one viewed the world. A healthy eye was one that viewed things in a positive light. This person might best be described as a “glass half-full” type of person. The one with an unhealthy eye viewed things through a negative lens, and, thus, would be a “glass half-empty type of person. The eyes were the windows into who a person truly was.
I spent much of my life with unhealthy eyes. I could find the negative in almost any situation. My mother was very much the same, and I attribute my struggles to her own. I can attest that my eyes are now much healthier, but as with any part of our body, I must take steps to protect their health. The main way is to steer away from people and media that see things negatively, that promote anger and vitriol toward others, that focus on the worst about people, institutions or life.
In the 1990’s, I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh and watch Fox News. In my mind then, they made a lot of sense when speaking about the President or our government. But something interesting happened after my divorce in 2003, which led me to draw nearer to God. I became weary of their angry tone, and their almost constant bashing of so-called liberals. I just stopped listening and watching. Without realizing it at the time, I was becoming a bit more pure in heart.
My loathing of vitriolic commentary has only increased over time. And it doesn’t matter to me whether it is coming from so-called conservatives or so-called progressives. I just want to see others and treat others like Jesus. Of course, I fail often. I don’t want to imply I am totally successful in this, but the longing is there. I want to be pure in heart so I will have the bliss of seeing God.
What I realize is that the world is contributing knowingly or unknowingly to believers increasingly having unhealthy eyes. We take so much in that is not of God or from him that it is creating much darkness within us. We spend enormous amounts of time thinking, reading, watching, talking, and posting about things that are dark, instead of spending that time focusing on, as Paul puts it, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Is it any wonder that the unbelieving world does not see the light of God in us? Because of our own darkness, we are failing to see God! What we often see, rather, are caricatures of him, imagined in our own minds.
If we are to cure our unhealthy eyes, it begins with upon what we focus them. How many of us spend far less time (a tenth, less?) considering the things of God than we do on things of the world? How many of us have as our primary source of truth and guidance something other than the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit?
The truth is, when we take in much of the garbage the world offers up to us, the certain outcome is an impure mind and heart, leading to an impure life and an inability to see the Lord. We will not be poor in spirit; we will not mourn for our own sin or that of others; we will not be self-controlled; we will not hunger and thirst for righteousness; and we will not be merciful toward others.
My fervent desire is to see God. I hope it is yours as well. Let’s fix our unhealthy eyes by focusing on what can make our hearts pure. Then, instead of being purveyors of darkness to those around us, we will spread the Lord’s glorious light!
© Jim Musser 2021 All Scripture references are from the New International Version, 2011.