“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
How often does a path into temptation and sin begin with our eyes? The other night we had to run some errands together as a family. As a part of the errand, we gave our boys the chance to spend some birthday money they had been saving up for a while. They knew ahead of time that this was going to happen.
We started the evening at Cracker Barrel for dinner. As we were getting ready to leave, one of them asked if he could buy something from the store there because he had seen something he “really” wanted. When this request was turned down, he started to press a bit harder to get what he wanted. I told him no a second time and observed that he was suffering from “I-see-I-want-itis.”
It’s pretty easy to recognize when little kids have this. They walk into the store and almost immediately start asking for everything. Can I have this? Can I have that? What about that? Oh! this is the thing I’ve always wanted! It’s a pain in the neck to start with, but it also represents a longer-term effort on our part to teach them self-discipline. We know that buying something just because we’ve seen it and had that little flash of desire flare up is almost never wise.
Or do we? You see, the root of “I-see-I-want-itis” is a much larger tendency to let our eyes lead us into sin. And as adults, we are still very much afflicted by it. I don’t know about you, but I experience it in the small when I go to the grocery store without a list (and sometimes even with a list!). We see commercials and are affected just like kids are. The items are different, but the heart is the same. We see television shows or movies and want what those people have relationally. We want what they have economically. We want what they have physically. We let our eyes pass to even less worthwhile things and the descent happens all the more rapidly.
We see, we want, and we pursue it to get that itch scratched. And it feels good because scratching an itch always feels good. But, scratching an itch can become a habit. We can fall into the pattern of scratching every single itch we get. Then we scratch more because it keeps feeling good. Eventually, though, we get a sore. Sores get infected. Infections can kill us if left unchecked.
Just like the psalmist asked for here, we need to learn the discipline of turning our eyes away from worthless things. We can’t go through life with blinders on, but we can learn to assess value quickly and turn away from things that are worthless. We can turn instead to the ways of the Lord. We can turn to His Word and let that be our guide into the ways and patterns that bring life.
The truth about all people is that we tend to let whatever it is that most fills our field of vision determine the direction and quality of our lives. Let us make sure that our field is not filled with things that are worthless, but things that are of eternal value. That is where we will find life.