When I realized what was next to me, I flattened myself against the side of the house in shock. I kept telling myself that this couldn’t be real. Things like this don’t happen here.
My cousin and I had started a window-washing service as our summer job between college semesters. We figured we could make easy money with our pails and squeegees catering to the affluent Los Angeles suburbs. I didn’t mind the washing part. But knocking on doors and soliciting potential customers stretched my non-salesman personality.
A particular experience remains my reason for making that the last summer of door-to-door sales for me. In a very nice Southern California neighborhood, a woman invited me to walk around the outside of her house to calculate an estimate. The area surrounding the back patio was cluttered with assorted items, but my focus was on counting windows. I navigated clay pots, garden tools, patio furniture and other debris scattered through the yard. At one point I glanced down at my feet that were almost touching an inflatable pool toy. The life-size “toy” alligator opened its eyes and turned its head toward me.
Positive that my heart stopped beating, I dropped my clipboard and pressed my back against the wall, unable to make a noise. Looking up for help, I saw another long reptilian figure moving across the grass toward me. The scream that finally found its way to my throat was cut short when the woman of the house popped her head out of the patio sliding-glass door and said, “I forgot to tell you about my pets.” Oh really!?
In the end, we got the job. But when it came time to wash the windows, I did the inside and let my cousin brave the outside. We were college students, afterall, and couldn’t pass up the money.
Why do we sometimes not see what is right in front of us? The surface answer is that we’re not paying attention. But in many cases, especially for myself, it has to do with not seeing what I’m not expecting—like seven-foot alligators in the LA suburbs. The adage, “I’ll believe it when I see it” is only true part of the time. For many it’s just as true to say, “I’ll see it when I believe it.” Beliefs and sight are closely tied together. Which one comes first is hard to say for sure.
In Matthew 6:22-23 Jesus made a curious statement about our eyes and what they take in: “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!” (NLT). What are “healthy” and “unhealthy” eyes? I understand Jesus to be talking about a condition in which someone is blind to what’s really in front of him. The danger for this person is that he believes he’s seeing everything as it truly is. But the “light” (or information) he thinks he has is really nothing more than “darkness.” People get lost as well as hurt themselves and others when they walk around in the dark without some kind of light. Another word for this condition is deception.
So, how do I know I’m being deceived? That’s the problem—I don’t. Deception means I believe I’m seeing everything clearly, but my “light” is actually “darkness.” It all feels true and fits what I believe about reality, so I don’t question it, even though there may be things about it that I don’t like. Ultimately, there is only one way to break the grip of deception in my life and gain a “healthy” eye. I have to change what my sight is focused on. And to do that I need information or “light” from outside myself that can direct me where to look. The overall message of the Bible is clear: left to myself I am lost; I need the external Light of a Savior. And I must be willing (i.e. humble enough) to recognize that Jesus Himself is the One who came to illuminate my reality.
Jesus had interesting exchanges with a Jewish political/religious group called the Sadducees. They believed that only the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) were inspired. They also denied pretty much everything supernatural. This blotted out any belief in angels, demons, life after death, resurrection, etc. (which sounds like a few people I’ve rubbed shoulders with). They were also the group that controlled the position of the high priest at that time. And maintaining political power was very important to them.
In Mark 12:18-27, a group of Sadducees approached Jesus with a scenario on which they wanted him to comment. Their real intent was to trap Him into saying something that would discredit his teaching and make Him look ridiculous as He defended belief in an afterlife. But Jesus turned the table on them, and they were the ones who got schooled (read the whole story). Jesus made it clear in verse 24 what He saw as the Sadducees’ problem: “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.” Their beliefs had prohibited and blinded them from seeing what was right in front of them. They had the Scriptures, but they weren’t trusting them or letting them unveil the fullness of the God they claimed to believe in.
Jesus basically was telling them that they needed to open up and receive something from outside their own comfortable belief system. Their eyes were focused on the wrong things, like holding onto power and being proven right. And thus, they were “mistaken” or deceived into living their lives according to the “light” that convinced them that this present world was all that mattered. Their “light” was “darkness.”
Deception is a real problem today on multiple levels. It is so easy to find information (“light”) on the internet that fits what I already believe. Fact-checking by researching multiple sources is so inconvenient that few of us do it. We see and take in only what confirms our presumptions. And then we immediately share it, never considering that we might be thoughtlessly spreading “darkness.” But as bad as social and political misinformation can be, there is something worse.
We may be believing lies about God. Many still cannot see the loving and righteous character of our Maker. And it’s our beliefs about Him that determine how we view Him as well as how we live our lives. Do I see God as the Heavenly Father He has revealed Himself as? Or does it feel true that He’s far away, uninterested, too busy, weak, unjust or simply not good?
And there are also questions about how we view ourselves, others and the world around us. Do what our eyes see line up with what God has revealed in the Scriptures? Like the Sadducees, might Jesus be telling us, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the scriptures or the power of God”? Unfortunately, any wrong perspectives we carry feel true, and that is what gives them their power to deceive. We can never know or see the truth about how God loves us and embraces us as His sons and daughters unless we choose to listen to Him. A source of “light” outside ourselves that can fill our “whole body” is necessary to show us the truth we cannot see on our own. And God has provided this illumination through His Word.
By asking Him to open your eyes, pull back the blinds to see what He sees, your beliefs can change to align with Him. Believe when His word says He is good so you can see His goodness. You don’t have to step on a hungry reptile to wake up to what’s around you. God is calling you to believe what He has said and experience His power so you can know what’s true through His eyes.
Jesus told Thomas, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (John 20:29 NLT). There is a special blessing for us who trust in God’s goodness and power even when at the moment we can’t see either one.
I want that blessing.
(Edited and reposted from May 25, 2020)