Our older child is a nearly-four-year-old named Dani (Danielle). And she is a typical nearly-four-year-old. She can be walking along and suddenly run into something—like a door or a person—and often I find myself telling her, “Dani, focus!” She’s in another world at those moments: a world of her toys, snacks, and friends. My hope is that my call to “look out” will begin to instill the very practical skill of paying attention.
I’ll have to get back to you on if it works.
Just like I try to do this for my child, our heavenly Father fills His “manual for living”—AKA, the Bible—with instructions declaring, “focus!” Sometimes it works…other times we’re too busy in our own little worlds and run into things.
Proverbs 23:17-18 is one such place in the Bible and gives us wise advice:
Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.
The words translated “envy” and “zealous” come from the same root word in Hebrew and could be understood as “jealous.” So the counsel of Scripture here is pretty straightforward: don’t be jealous of sinners but be jealous for the Lord. There’s a future in being jealous for the Lord and that future pays off.
But it’s not in understanding where we struggle with this Proverb, is it? It’s in doing it.
The world is attractive and alluring. It calls to us by appealing to the very desires in us that would destroy our lives. It attempts to press us into the mold of what those without Christ and without hope live in. Logically, it makes no sense but spiritually…we better be paying attention.
We lose focus. We look down. We spend our energy pursuing what the world tells us we’re supposed to have: money, education, security, a house, cars, and stuff we don’t need for problems we don’t really have. The desire is real. The greed is real. The danger is real.
And we as Christians can sometimes only see it after we’ve run aground and we’re beginning to capsize.
Because we lose focus. At least, we lose focus on what’s truly (read: eternally!) important and focus on things that are only valuable because humans have determined that they are.
The spiritual advice provided in this Proverb also forms a “how-to” for it as well: look up (verse 17) and look ahead (verse 18). Let me paraphrase a C.S. Lewis quote: the most effective Christians in this life are the ones focused on the next.
Friends in Christ, we need to cultivate our uplook to improve outlook.
Focus! Focus! Focus!