It’s happened to me a hundred times. Sometime after lunch, a glance in the mirror revealed I’d been walking around the office for hours with something stuck between my front teeth. Usually, it’s green. Possibly spinach, if I ate a healthy meal. And of course, I fished it out immediately.
Like cleaning my teeth when a bit of lunch hangs around too long, most of us work to keep our physical bodies looking presentable. When I see a stray hair, I pluck it. When my gray starts revealing itself again, I color it (or rather my hair dresser does). When I see more flab I cut down on the eating and increase the exercise. And the list goes on.
As a society we are obsessed with our physical appearance. If it’s wrinkled, we smooth it. If it sags, we lift it. If it bulges, we reduce it. According to a Forbes.com article, “there were more than 10 million surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S. in 2008.” These procedures brought in over 12 billion dollars. (See http://tiny.cc/LpvSj for the entire article.) Botox was the most popular at 2.4 million procedures. Liposuction was second at 34 thousand. Nose jobs and breast implants came in third and fourth.
Please don’t think I’m condemning these things. That is not my intent. In fact, I would be less than honest if I said I had never thought about “fixing” a few things about myself. Hang with me a moment and I’ll try to make my point. Almost all of us respond to what we see in the mirror. When we become aware of a problem with our physical appearance, we do what we can to correct it. And all we’re doing is fighting an uphill battle that we will eventually lose.
Unfortunately we aren’t usually so concerned about our spiritual condition. God’s Word is a soul mirror. As we read the Bible, God uses the truths there to point out spiritual flaws in our lives that need attention. But, too often when we see ourselves reflected in Scripture we walk away without doing anything.
For instance, I often sin by the way I use my words. I may say things that hurt someone else, speak boastfully, or talk when I should just be silent. Proverbs 10:19 reads, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” And Proverbs 13:3 reads, “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” God’s Word is full of wisdom and direction for the way I should use my words. When I read these and other Scriptures God holds them up alongside my life and whispers, “I see a few things here that need correction.” Sometimes I obey Him by bringing my life in line with His Word and sometimes I don’t.
Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25.
Sometimes I read God’s Word and think: “That’s not for me. I’m fine. I’m doing better than most people around me.” Sometimes when God uses His Word to reveal a spiritual flaw in my life I respond: “Yes, Lord, You are right. I’ll definitely work on that – later.” James 1:22 says when God’s Word reveals spiritual flaws and we just walk away without doing anything about it we have deceived ourselves. We can talk ourselves into – or out of – almost anything. As sinful humans we talk ourselves out of submitting to God’s Spiritual scalpel too often.
And then there are those times when the mirror of God’s Word reveals ugliness I can’t ignore. When I respond with humility and obedience God faithfully applies His spiritual correction with love. And these procedures, which are much more than skin deep, have eternal effects.
God promises that anyone who looks into His Word and acts on what she hears will be blessed in all she does (James 1:25). So why do we hesitate to act? When you look into the mirror of God’s Word do you respond with action? Or do you walk away immediately forgetting what you’ve seen?