The Gaze of the Eyes & Philippians 3

As humans, God created us in community-- to watch, learn from, interact with, and love one another. And that's a beautiful thing. 

 But often, even if we're surrounded by other Christians, our gaze can shift from where it ought to be to focus on things that are at odds with faith in Jesus. We can focus in on beauty, that elusive thing called "happiness", money, fashion, getting prize-winning photos of our children, having an amazingly decorated home, or more...

I've been reading through Philippians over the past few days, and yesterday I came upon the last portion of chapter 3:
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

At times that I've read it before, I got hung up on Paul's admonition to the believers to watch him. I would think, "man, would I ever be in a position to say such a thing?" I've heard others attack him for pride on this point. But really, that's not the point of this passage. What I noticed this time was the contrast he presents here-- it's about where our focus is.

He's saying-- don't get caught up being jealous of and making idols of those who are walking in opposition to Christ! They may eat amazing food, they may have lives that seem "enviable", they may seem to have the Pottery Barn life... but he points out: the final stop of their lives will be destruction. They bow down and worship their human appetites and desires. They are focused on earthly things. They revel and delight in things that are shameful.
Instead, our eyes should be fixed on Christ. And we should take as our mentors those who walk in God's ways. Those whose citizenship is in Heaven. Those who eagerly await Christ the Lord, their Savior. Those who recognize the transformation Christ offers now and await the change He'll bring about later. Those who value eternity more than they value the here and now.
Our eyes should gaze in the direction of eternity. It's not wrong to want to learn skills, to work to take care of the home and people God gives you, or to befriend sinners. In fact, those things are good and right and natural for us to learn, and Jesus was and is the ultimate Friend of Sinners. But (I also have to be careful of these things) we have to be careful not to get caught up in fancy photos or (partial) descriptions of someone else's life.

Not only should we not BE the person whose god is our appetite... but we need to keep our gaze from focusing in on the person who lives that way.

We must guard our hearts-- and not let our hearts lust after the life of those who don't know about eternal joy in Christ. OR those who claim Christ's eternal joy but live like they don't really believe it. This passage is saying to us: our priorities need to reflect eternity... and we need to hold fast. That won't happen if our gaze is focused in on those who live like this life on earth is all there is. We have to find people ahead of us-- people worthy of emulation... people who recognize the treasure of Christ and live life in light of eternity. Definitely something to think about.

What say you?
Do you have people like Paul describes in your life that you watch?
Do you struggle with jealousy of those who seem to have a perfect life here on earth?
Do you find yourself leaning towards making a god of your belly or focusing on earthly things?
Let's talk about it.

23 comments:

Anna said...

Such a good reminder!

Sometimes, I would like to have a nice airy, beautifully decorated house. (One that someone else cleans and maintains, of course.)

And from time to time, I am slightly jealous of the famous people who seem to be always youthful and beautiful. But I know that is so artificial, and I don't really want to be like them.

My problem isn't as much focusing on material possessions other people have, as much as their talents and abilities. I have to remember that God has created me, with just the right talents, or lack thereof!

I also have to remember that we don't see all the details about each person. We envy certain people, wishing we could be more like them, not realizing they are completely unhappy.

Catherine R. said...

Do you have people like Paul describes in your life that you watch?

I'd say yes, although not as up close and personal as I'd like sometimes. I feel like I need a 24 hour consultant. I have questions and confusions much of the time about biblical living since, though I'm not a "baby Christian" anymore, I'm still a pre-schooler Christian.

Do you struggle with jealousy of those who seem to have a perfect life here on earth?

Oh, yes. Big time. Christians and non-Christians alike. I get jealous of Christians who seem to have all these effective solutions for every area of life. Everything seems tied up in a neat little bow while my world often seems like an out-of-control mess comparatively. Then I look at people who can afford to do things that I can't, like using money to do enjoyable things or lead a cushier lifestyle, which seems like most people since I live in the US and we are "low income". I also look at people who come from nice in-tact Christian homes and have had many advantages in life that I missed out, and continue to miss out on and I struggle with almost hating these people.

Do you find yourself leaning towards making a god of your belly or focusing on earthly things?

Yup. I get overwhelmed with thinking about how much better everything would be if we had more money to the point that I cannot see straight or be thankful for anything. I start hating it when people give me the "gratefulness" speech or the "I used to struggle with that" speech, and think that it's easy for them to say. I go through cycles lately. I pray and cry out to God and my good attitude blooms but it's easy to slip. It's a constant struggle.

Anonymous said...

I try my best to keep me, and my little family, away from the things of this world. I fail often, but I still try. What I find happens though, is that I have pressures from family and outsiders to conform that is really discouraging. I don't want a worldly life, but more often than resisting temptation I find myself resisting well meaning individuals as they try and FORCE these values on us.

My 2 cents!

Melissa

Courtney said...

Interestingly, I have found that most of the people I admire for their walk with the Lord are on the Internet. It can be quite tricky IRL to be with believers who are still lured by the shiny sparkly things in this world. These things can seem so harmless, until priorities get pushed and pushed further down the list. I am in my second year of reading the Bible through (well, trying to), and hope that that time in the Bible will keep my mind focused on God.

Tara said...

I struggle mostly with "going with the flow" instead of analyzing whether or not I have an eternal perspective. It's not so much emmulating someone else, it's just complacency I battle. Very few Christians that I know IRL seem to actually be "take up your cross" kind of disciples. Very few people (here in the US, anyway) seem to live like Jesus did.

I have been so jaded by American safe thinking, that I've allowed my passion, love, and heart for others to fade. I am guilty of getting caught up in my own little world and completely missing the world around me.

Beth@Not a Bow in Sight said...

Thanks (as always) for your thought provoking post! I think everyone looks at other people and thinks that the other people have it all together, while they themselves are struggling. That is a lie. Everyone is struggling. And that keeps me from being envious of other people. I just keep pressing on and find contentment with what I do have.

Catherine said...

Yes, thank you for the timely reminder.

Do you have people like Paul describes in your life that you watch?

Yes, Thankfully there are some amazing women in my life who I can ask questions of and receive sound biblical advice. I just have to be humble enough to ask questions and ask for help.

Do you struggle with jealousy of those who seem to have a perfect life here on earth?

Yes... who doesn't. I am currently struggling to lose weight after my 2nd baby was born. She is 7 months old and I'm nursing her. I am gaining weight though I exercise and eat responsibly. I am jealous of those "skinny" Moms and those that seem to be able to lose weight without a problem. I am also jealous with those who seem to have "perfect lives." This is all just ugly sin. God is sovereign over all. He give us what is best for us and for our sanctification and His glory. No one's life is perfect.

Do you find yourself leaning towards making a god of your belly or focusing on earthly things?
YES! I am disgusted with my obsession with desiring to lose weight and how will I am to commit sins in my thought life over something so temporary and non-eternal. This body will not last. My children's soul will last forever. My focus needs to be on loving and serving the Lord with all I have and being a parent that pleases Him.

Debbie said...

Yes, I do find myself jealous of those who "seem to have it all together" and I need to constantly be reminded to keep my focus on Christ and build my treasures in heaven.

Becky Stark said...

It is interesting that so many of us have the idea that our online friends have it together, while our "real life" friends are so inadequate. While this may be true to a certain extent, I think we need to be aware that what we know about our online friends is only what they choose to tell us, while often we see our friends' faults up close and personal on a daily basis. But if we can't see each other's faults and shortcomings, it is very difficult to encourage one another in our weakness. I strive to spend time with people on a regular basis that I would like to be like, that exemplify Christ's character. This is extremely important. However, we should at the same time not overlook those who look to us as an example. While I often feel immature in my faith and lacking much, there are times I have become aware of others who look to me for guidance and a godly example. Which I suppose makes it all the more important that I am looking to more mature Christians for my example.

Michele said...

What excellent guidelines for our daily living and our daily struggle with self as we navigate this world all the while trying to remember to keep our eyes on the prize. So simple, but not always easy to do. We can get so distracted by all the "things" in this world. This was a timely devotional for me personally. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

We are part of an affluent private school community, although we are on the low end of incomes within this school. Therefore, most of our friends make much more than we do. I would like to have people over more - nothing fancy - just get friends together. My husband, however, feels like our furniture, TV's, etc. are not nice enough to have people over. I feel like that inadequacy he feels b/c we don't have as many things is just what your post is talking about. He then makes me feel bad and a little embarrassed that we don't have great big giant TV's with surround sound and theater rooms, etc. etc. What do you say to a spouse that feels so inadequate about how he provides for his family?

Jess said...

Anonymous,
That's tough, and many people are intimidated out of offering hospitality because they don't have as much "stuff" (or as fancy stuff, or as expensive stuff, or as stylish stuff, or as impressive stuff) as the people around them.

That said, the Bible says we're to offer hospitality, both to the saints (fellow believers) around us and to those who don't know Christ. I do think it's an important part of life for the believing family. And maybe, just maybe, those people who have all those "things" might be surprised at how happy and pleasant an evening can pass without all the toys and distractions.

As for what to say to your spouse, encourage him, pray for him, and talk with him (but don't nag!)... and see how God might change his heart. I think, too, as wives, we often set the tone of the home, and if we can display real contentment and joy with whatever God has given us, our husbands are often much more likely to have that same contentment. At least they'll know that we're not sitting around secretly harboring resentment towards them because we don't have the latest HD_____, or mp_____, or Mac_________, etc. Of course we can't control how they feel or how they act... but we can control ourselves but not contributing to a sense of dissatisfaction/inferiority about our home and their provision.

I hope you find a way to offer hospitality, but even if it takes years or decades for that to come about as a couple/family, perhaps you can still offer hospitality in the day times with lady friends, groups of moms, etc... to build up your own skills of being a blessing to others but also to offer a quiet testimony to the fact that others can have a great time in a home that lacks all the fancy gadgets. (Our home lacks all those things too!)

Blessings to you... we all have to fight for contentment, and I hope that you and me and anyone else reading will continue to press on and fight for joy right where we are.

~Jess

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply to my post! I will try to keep those things in mind and take you up on some of your suggestions. I enjoy your blog - keep up the great writing!

Amy said...

As silly as it sounds, the point that struck me the most was wanting to have the perfect picture of the kiddos. I can explain away the lack of "stuff", yet I want that perfect picture and I want to look thin in it! Until reading this, I didn't even see how I've made an idol of how I present myself and my family over the past few weeks. It was like every day was a new attempt at the perfect Christmas picture-as if Christmas was about me instead of the truth that it is about Jesus! Thank you for even this little note in your blog-God has really convicted me through this today and I needed it! Ah, biblical perspective- it always shapes, molds, and kicks my behind! thank you!

Jess said...

Amy,
The reason I included that point is because I've heard of more and more women comparing their kids with the cute kids on ________ blog, or comparing their home decor with the amazing shots taken on ________ blog. Discontentment comes all too easily when comparisons are made. (And the truth is that it's not a real comparison-- we're seeing the top tier cuts of someone else's photography and comparing it to our every day humdrum shots with crumbs on the face or hair stickin out funny or whatever.)

Anyway, it's a struggle for many. Perspective is necessary for all of us.

~Jess

OurCrazyFarm said...

Thank you again, Jess, for the Godly encouragement. At such a time as this, God used you to speak directly to what He has been trying to teach me. I needed the reminder today~ Thanks!

Tara Barthel said...

Amen!

Anonymous said...

Dear Jess,
I've read your blog off and on and am always encouraged. I do struggle with not "having it all together" whatever that's supposed to mean! If God says His strength is made perfect in my (our) weakness, what am I afraid of? The opinion of others, of course! My big struggle is the blog struggle. Those pictures are so GORGEOUS! Oftentimes my husband will walk by when one of the children is intently crafting or I'm knitting or the light is gently flowing into the living room and say "Hey, it's the perfect blog moment!" Of course the back ground contains a trail of raisins, cracker crumbs, paper bits, the crying toddler, the unfolded laundry, strewn books...you get the picture! My "blog moment" is just that...one small fraction of a day filled with REAL living and loving and messing and cleaning.
I also relate to the weight struggle. After years of thinking about every single morsel that went in my mouth and how many miles I'd have to run to work it off I finally just said "Forget it." Now, with six kids and homeschooling, I don't think about food/body as much but it is still a battle to look at all the skinny women in my church and not be jealous. But the Lord has shown me that if I am jealous, I don't really SEE them in that loving way that allows me to draw near to THEIR struggles. Love to all you precious ladies.

Jennifer Grand Rapids, MI

Katie @ making this home said...

Jess, I like to come read through your blog every so often. It only seems naturally.... my blog is called "Making This Home". Interestingly, we're both expats, too. I live in Germany.

Congrats with your expected baby. What a beautiful gift.
Katie

Amber said...

I'm so excited, something that I am learning (still) is that I am going to miss this! Some of the things that stretch me the most right now with my kids are going to be the things that I miss later on.

darci said...

Jess,
I have not been around for awhile, and reading this made me realize that I really havemissed reading your blog. I am always inspired and blessed and very often convicted-thanks for being a faithful light to point back to our beautiful Lord.
"Not only should we not BE the person whose god is our appetite... but we need to keep our gaze from focusing in on the person who lives that way."
I love that line of your post--it is so so easy, I find, to turn from full-out focus on Christ, and the things of Christ, and start looking around at everything around me. I struggle not so much with wanting material 'things' but with wanting to be HAPPY--translate to cherished, nurtured, taken care of, time for myself, yada yada. God is (painfully at times) continuing to teach me to be a servant, at all times, regardless of 'payback'.
Thanks again. God bless, and a huge congrats again on expecting your new little one. darci :)

Kim said...

I've thought of you a lot today and hope you're having an amazing Easter. You are such an encouragement to me and I am thankful for a mentor like you, even though you're far away! Love you friend!

Jess said...

Aw, thanks Kim! :) We did have a great Easter. Thanks for your sweet encouragement-- I wish we could hang out and chat over coffee. :)

~Jess