How our options trap us
How do our material options and economic liberties complicate our spiritual life? The freedom in Christ lacks the kind of submission to Him that one may think causes our choices to be easier. Our American life of freedom and liberty is full of complicated decisions. In this context, our passion, our heart itself, gets fragmented.
Jesus wants all of us
Jesus is concerned with what we value and what we have passion for. He wants it all.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how terrible that darkness will be! No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
Pay attention to that word “healthy.” Some other translations say “single,” or “whole,” or “perfect” there. Jesus is saying that a healthy eye is single-minded. We can only have one master. In this case, either God or money. Jesus is calling us to a simple, single-minded life. But our minds are often scattered with all of the options we have.
Postmodern resistance to commitment makes sense without faith
Jesus’ language about having only one master was particularly relevant this week as I concluded Master of None, Aziz Ansari’s new show. Postmoderns love experiences and they collect them. I know because I am one. They are afraid of missing out. They don’t want their commitments to crowd their options. So they may never buy a home, sign a long-term contract, get married. All of those things have a kind of permanence that threatens their liberty, or so they think. As the show’s title indicates they do not want to have any masters, including Jesus, perhaps.
Aziz’s character, Dev, is deciding about whether he wants to get married. Check out this deconstruction of the traditional wedding vows (pardon the profanity):
The clip calls marriage an outdated institution and claims that people get married to whomever they happen to be dating at the common time for marriage. It is a violent undoing of marriage, but I show it to you because it so perfectly channels the postmodern understanding of the world. Everything is absurd and arbitrary, nothing has meaning or value. And honestly? Without faith, getting married for life is arbitrary and relatively random. Without Jesus, our meaning and value can be freely distributed to a variety of things, as we choose, so there is no need to commit to something that might crowd that.
Dev realizes that there are limits to this mentality, and with his father’s advice, he reads Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar:
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
Freedom in following Jesus
We live in a time where it is harder to be “single-minded.” One where our options, material and otherwise, crowd our potential single-eyed passion for Jesus. Rather than think that a commitment to Jesus, or to a marriage, is an infringement upon our liberty, I hope that we can find freedom in the claim He has placed on us and in the grounding that he gives us.
For me, I haven’t felt freer to be who I truly am, until I followed Jesus. Every other “master” enslaved me. My loyalty to Jesus frees me. I follow him because I find my true self in him, not because he’s violently imposed himself on me, but because I freely choose to follow him. Being perfectly single-eyed takes a lifetime, but I am thankful I have a goal and I’m following the Great Simplifier of my life.