Looking at Worthless Things
Psalm 119:37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways. (ESV)
This section of Psalm 119 contains a series of instructions for those who are to keep God’s word. This verse reminds us of the inner threat to a life of faithfulness. That threat comes from a heart divided which results when the eyes begin to wander. What is seen with the eyes enters into the heart. Therefore we are to stop “looking at worthless things.” The enticement of those worthless things will take us in a direction away from the things of God. New life must be found in the ways of the Lord and for that to happen, we must follow after God.
The world has always been capable of creating worthless things that catch the attention of God’s people. Writing in the fourth century, Cyril of Jerusalem encouraged believers to “avoid an addiction to the theater, with its portrayal of sinful conduct, the lewd and unseemly antics of actors and the frantic dancing of degenerates.” (Mystagogical Lectures 1.6) He went on to talk about the gladiators who spent much time working-out and becoming beautifully fit so that they could fight with animals, and the grief of gambling on the horse races. Doesn’t sound like a lot has changed in this world, does it?
I think of the hours we can spend looking at worthless things. It’s so easy to get drawn into the vortex of social media. Seriously — as I was reading and writing this morning I went to check something on Facebook and before I had this post finished, I was scrolling through someone’s pictures of their home which they have decorated for Christmas. Sounds nice — but I don’t even know these people!!! I thought about the irony of the moment. Here I was, being convicted by a scripture reading about worthless things and I was being enticed to waste time looking at pictures that have no relevance to me or my life. Someone else mentioned the other day about being sucked into the YouTube vortex. Just before going to bed they clicked on a YouTube video, but that one led to another one, which led to another one, and finally they realized that ninety minutes had gone by and they had wasted all that time.
Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking on the phone with Rev. Jerry Dirmann, a pastor in Anaheim, CA. His church is focusing on helping new believers be discipled to follow Christ. He said that they realize how much attention the world is getting and that it’s time to detox ourselves. They encourage new believers to commit to a four week fast from media. During the four-week period people are allowed two hours of internet or television a week, but that is all. (This does not exclude work related internet usage) Think about it — what would happen if we fasted from media. I think that’s what the Psalmist is talking about. It’s time for us to intentionally stop looking at worthless things.
The section from which today’s Psalm comes begins with asking the Lord to be our teacher. If we sincerely desire to know Christ, then we have to be intentional about knowing Christ! It’s time to turn off all of our devices and all the distractions and commit to time with the Lord. Instead of being tempted to surf the internet, spend thirty minutes just reading scripture. Allow God to speak in the quiet moments of life. Learn to hear the still sweet voice that is calling us and leading us to have life in God’s ways.
Lord, may my life be filled with you and not the worthless things of this world. Amen.