At least three winning tickets were sold for last night’s $1.5 billion Powerball drawing. If one of them wasn’t yours, don’t be surprised—the odds were not in your favor.
You are 1071 times more likely to be struck by lightening; 428 times more likely to be crushed by a meteor; fifty times more likely to be killed by a shark; and fifteen times more likely to be canonized as a saint (though being elected pope helps greatly).
What would you do with $1.5 billion? Most people think immediately of what they would buy. But most of what they would buy is more than they need: a gigantic mansion, a new Lamborghini, a personal jet. Why do we want more than we need?
Consider Donald “Chip” Pugh of Lima, Ohio. After he allegedly failed to appear in court, city police posted his mug shot on Facebook. Mr. Pugh didn’t like his picture, so he took a selfie of himself in a suit and sunglasses which he forwarded with the explanation, “Here is a better photo that one is terrible.” He remains at large this morning.
How people see us is important to us. According to a recent survey, twenty-one percent of women take longer than thirty minutes to get ready each morning. Before you make gender judgments, note that twenty-five percent of men do the same. The cosmetics industry takes in over $55 billion each year. Americans annually spend $12 billion on cosmetic surgery.
Why do we care so intensely about our external appearance? Apart from functional issues (long hair around machinery, etc.), I can’t think of practical reasons for this fixation. Why does it matter if my belt and shoes match, or if my tie goes with my suit? It only matters to me if it matters to you, and if what matters to you matters to me.
Here’s the problem: We can ignore the eternal when we’re comfortable with the temporal. Other people cannot see our souls or read our thoughts. All they can judge is how we look and what they see us do or hear us say. If we gain their approval, we can think all is well. But there’s more to the story.
In 1 Samuel 16, the Lord led Samuel to select Israel’s next king from among Jesse’s sons. When Samuel was impressed with Jesse’s firstborn, the Lord said to him, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (v. 7).
God sees past what we do to who we are. He knows if our prayer time in the morning was motivated by a genuine desire for intimacy with our Father, or if we were checking the “God box” by performing our religious routine so he would bless us. He knows if we attend worship to see God or to be seen by people. He knows if I am writing this Cultural Commentary because I have a genuine word from the Lord I am honored to share with you, or if I am merely doing my job.
What if the decaying spiritual climate of our culture is the consequence of transactional, routine-driven, appearance-centered religiosity on the part of God’s people? If so, here’s the good news: a transformational, passion-driven, intimacy-centered relationship with our Father would change not only our lives but also our nation.
Do you agree?