“What would you look like
if you saw yourself through the eyes of God?”
Compared to what?
I believe that that is a powerful question. A powerful question that each of us needs to ask ourselves whenever we get into one of those moods in which we are feeling down about ourselves, about our station in life, about the way that we perceive ourselves . . . when we are down and depressed . . . when we feel as if the world is judging us. It is a powerful question that we need to ask ourselves when we are weighing our self-worth. Compared to what?
As the followers of Jesus we find our value in the eyes of God. We find our value in the eyes of God who created us in the image of God . . . we find our value in the God who loves us for who we are . . . we find our value in the God who loves us and forgives us and desires an intimate relationship with each and every one of us. In the eyes of God we are all loved and desired . . . just the way we were created. Because of this, I pondered, why do we get so hung up in what the rest of the world thinks?
In our scripture reading this morning we have a situation in which Jesus tells a parable to a group of individuals who were pretty confident that they were among the faithful and that others were far less worthy. The scene is the temple. There are two individuals who have come to pray. The first is is a Pharisee . . . a person of position within the community because of his membership in a group. He prays. In his prayer he points out to God that he is not like other people . . . he is worthy of God’s love because he follows the rules . . . he follows the rules and regulations of the faith . . . he practices the dogma . . . he follows the rituals . . . he does everything that is viewed as being righteous . . . he fasts, he tithes . . . he does it all. This is the prayer that he offers God. In the eyes of others, he is a righteous person. And, just to emphasis the point, he points to the other person gathered to pray. He tells God that he is not like that sinner. He prayed about himself and only himself.
The other person gathered to pray is a tax collector. In the Jewish culture a tax collector is a despised person. A tax collector is one of their own who has shifted alliance to side with the enemy . . . to profit off the enemy . . . a traitor to the people of God. Yet, this individual takes a different approach to prayer . . . he did not posture himself in a cloak of importance. No, he stood there and beat his breast . . . he would not allow his eyes to gaze towards heaven, to the place of God . . . and, he moaned a prayer of mercy and forgiveness as he admitted to God that he was a sinner. A sinner unworthy of God’s grace and forgiveness.
The scene was a picture of contrast. Two different ways of praying to God. One the way of the righteous of pointing out to God how much better they were than those around them; the other, a way of letting God know it was just privilege to even have the opportunity to offer a prayer . . . a prayer asking for forgiveness. All of this was done in the presence of those who were confident in their own righteousness.
Imagine their shock when Jesus affirmed the tax collector over the Pharisee . . . proclaiming the tax collector as being more faithful than the practicing and self-appreciating Pharisee. In the eyes of God, the tax collector was the more worthy in the eyes of God.
There is a phenomena that surprisingly guides our lives whether we are aware of it or not. That phenomena is based upon a simple premise. In our lives we have many personas that dictate the way that we see the world around us. These phenomenons are based upon the many aspects of our lives that we are. For example, I have a lot of different aspects in my life . . . I have been educated to look at life as one who deals with people with disabilities thanks to my college degrees in special education and speech pathology. I also have the view that comes from the fact that I got a degree in counseling. I also have the fact that I was raised under the guidance of a father who was in the military. I am a parent . . . a spouse . . . an individual. Then, to top it all off, I have a religious degree that casts it shadow over the whole of my life. These are lenses in which I see the whole world on a daily basis. Through these lenses I see life. Through these experiences of life I judge myself and the world I live.
Sadly, these are the lenses of experience that really do not matter. What matters is how God sees it.
Oprah Winfrey, who needs no description, asks a poignant question: “What would you look like if you saw yourself through the eyes of God?” She poses a wonderful question. In her question she does not want to know what other people think . . . what the world thinks . . what the family thinks . . . not our best friend . . . not the minister . . . no one. The question is posed to ask us what we would look like if we could see ourselves through the eyes of God. She wants to know, in our own words . . . in our own thoughts . . . how we think that God views us as individuals. Who are we through the eyes of God?
Are we the self-righteous who only care about how we weigh in compared to what society deems as worthy . . . or do we see ourselves through the eyes of God? Through the eyes of God who sees us for who we are created to be . . . people with faults . . . people with fears . . . sinners as the tax collector proclaimed himself to be? That is the question. Compared to what?
In our scripture lesson the crux of the argument is in within whose eyes each of us finds our value. Is it in the world’s view . . . or is it through the eyes of God?
Earlier I stated that we see the world and ourselves through the lenses we have accumulated through a lifetime of experience. Those lenses dictate the way that we see ourselves and the world around us. Everyone does it . . . that is the way that we live. Yet, as the followers of Jesus, we are not asked to view the world through the lenses of our experience . . . we are asked to view the world and our lives through the eyes of God. In everything we are asked to view it all through the eyes of God.
Jesus tells the crowd gathered around him that the individual who is willing to lay the truth out there for God to hear is more worthy than the individual who just is going through the motions of what society expects. God wants an honest heart, not a dogmatic heart.
Compared to what?
Isn’t that the question? When we take the time to pause and take stock of our lives . . . whose eyes are we judging that life by? The world in which we live, or through the eyes of God? More often than not, it is through the eyes of the world in which we live. In the end, it is through the eyes of God that matters.
Jesus said it plainly.
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Thus comes the blessing. A blessing that comes from those who are willing to allow themselves to be seen through the eyes of God. It is through the eyes of God that we find value as human beings. Good or bad, it is what God thinks that matters. Think about it. Amen.