What Are You Looking At? A Letter to West Franklin

What Are You Looking At? A Letter to West Franklin May 14, 2022
West Franklin Family,
I read this week that sports betting is a $120 billion business. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of online gambling in 2018 and, well, the floodgates burst. According to the article, “Before the legalization of online gambling, the great majority of Americans would go their entire life without being tempted to seek out a bookie or fly to the handful of jurisdictions in which in-person sports betting was permitted.” Things are different now. “What millions face now are endless deceptive advertisements aired during the most-watched television broadcasts in America, inviting them to risk their money on platforms funded by venture capitalists rather than by organized crime.” Wow. In other words, gambling was a problem prior to 2018 – but a much smaller and more contained problem. Now? It’s everywhere and is constantly tempting us at every turn.
Before the legalization of on-line gambling, making a wager wasn’t in our faces. Now, however, it is before our eyes everywhere we look. I dare you to watch an hour long show or scroll through a social media feed and not come across some sort of betting advertisement. I’ll bet you can’t (see what I did there?).
This is troubling to me. Millions of Americans weren’t tempted to gamble until it was made easy and in front of them all the time. Something that wasn’t much of an issue just five years ago is now a multi-billion dollar business.
What you and I look at matters.
This begs a question: What are YOU looking at? What are you putting in front of your face on a continual basis? What are you allowing your eyes to see? Your ears to hear? Your mind to focus on? Something that may have never been a problem for you might now be “front and center” merely because of the prevalence it now has with your eyeballs. Like it or not, what we put (and keep putting) in front of us matters. It will impact our lives. Chances are, someone reading this right now owes an on-line gambling agency money. Something that was nowhere on your radar just a few short years ago. What we feed our eyeballs matters.
To be sure, this isn’t a “all media is bad” letter. It’s not a “shut social media down now!” plea (thought that is probably not a bad idea). It’s not even a “all ads you come across will destroy you!” declaration. But it is a gentle push to urge you to pay attention to what you look at day in and day out. Pay attention to what you are drawn to. Pay attention to what makes you anxious. Pay attention to what makes you jealous or bitter or angry or frustrated. Pay attention to the images and commercials that tempt you toward something you wouldn’t otherwise be tempted with. Television and social media is not all bad. But if you don’t pay attention, they can blindly lead toward destructive behaviors. What you look at impacts your mental state. It just does. Go here and here for two insightful articles on such findings.
But let’s forget about the destructive things for a moment. What about the things that enhance your mental health? What about the things that make you whole? What about the things that bring joy and life to you? What about God? What about the Gospel? What about the truths of Scripture that are there for our well-being? What about the presence of God amidst a conversation with another human? What about a walk with nothing in your ears? What about silence? What about the sound of children playing on a playground? What about hearing birds sing? What about answering a child’s question with your full attention? How often are you looking at (for) these things? What you and I look at matters.
The apostle Paul said, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy – dwell on these things. . . and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9) In other words, use your God-given imagination to intentionally dwell on His reality and beauty in the world. Soul peace results. Jesus said to consider the majesty and provision going on in the world. Reduced anxiety results. King David sang that creation and the Scriptures explode our minds with transformative vitality.
What you and I look at matters.
West Franklin, let’s pay attention to what we put in front of our eyeballs. Listen to what you see and hear does to your mind and heart. Lean into those things intended to make you whole. Back away from those things intended to harm. I’ll bet, over time, the odds are in your favor that a God-with-you-peace will emerge (see what I did there?).
If the Lord wills, I will see you in the morning with my Bible open to 1 John 3:16-18. And I would LOVE to spend time with you tomorrow night at our Family Gathering.
Longing to Look at God with You,
Pastor Matt

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