The Injudicious Eye


This is the third post in a five-part series on Aesop’s Fables. You can read this post independently from the others or you can read the introduction here for more background on the history and use of Aesop’s Fables and catch up on the first fable I examined here.

THE SNAIL AND THE STATUE

snail

A Statue of the Medicean Venus was erected in a grove sacred to Beauty and the Fine Arts. Its modest attitude, its elegant proportions, assisted by the situation in which it was placed, attracted the regard of every delicate observer. A Snail, who had fixed himself beneath the molding of the pedestal, beheld with an evil eye the admiration it excited. Wherefore, watching his opportunity, he strove, by trailing his filthy slime over every limb and feature, to obliterate those beauties that he could not endure to hear so much applauded. An honest Linnet, however, who observed him at his dirty work, took the freedom to assure him that he would infallibly lose his labor: “For although,” said he, “to an injudicious eye, thou mayest sully the perfections of this finished piece; yet a more accurate and close inspector will admire its beauty, through all the blemishes with which thou hast endeavored to disguise it.”

It is the fate of envy to attack even those characters which are superior to its malice

Many applications could here be drawn but I would like to focus on just three:

(1) the glory of God in essence
(2) the glory of God manifested in Man
(3) the glory of God manifested in the Earth

(1) The Glory of God in Essence

The fable of the Snail and the Statue reminds me of a quote from C. S. Lewis, in his book, The Problem of Pain:

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

This is both a sobering and liberating thought–we can’t mess up the glory of God and neither can anyone else. Yes, we pursue holiness. Yes, we defend the Word of God when it is reviled. Yes, we desire for the glory of God to be manifested in all the earth. But the pressure is off. The fear is gone. We can listen to the blasphemous venom of a man like Richard Dawkins, spewing hatred and slander against Yahweh and walk away with our chins up, knowing that no slime he can manufacture will deface the beautiful image of God and that there will come a time when all the slime shall be scraped away and all shall see Him as He is.

2. The Glory of God Manifested in Man

I have written elsewhere:

It has been said: “To err is human, to forgive divine.

But by what authority do we redefine humanity? When we sin, we do not merely dishonor God in the same way that the stranger at the department store dishonors the woman behind him when he allows the door to slam shut in her face. When we sin, we blaspheme God’s image branded on us, we violate and misrepresent the humanity God created good like an ambassador speaking other than the words given to him to deliver. It is not in human nature to err but in corrupted human nature.

Sin is the ugly slime that sullies the image of God in man but it does not deface it, only obscures it. The “accurate and close inspector” will see beyond the slime, looking to Christ as the spotless representation of of Manhood as God designed it to be and look forward to the day the distortion will be removed.

3. The Glory of God Manifested in the Earth

As again, I’ve written before:

“…by what authority do we declare God’s good creation, the Earth, “evil”? Who are we, forgiven wretches, to declare something irredeemable? Will not the Earth, upon whom we brought a curse by our own transgression, also be finally liberated from corruption?

{Romans 8:19-22} For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

There is much confusion among Christians as to what “worldliness” is. Many mistake physicality and pleasure for worldliness. But worldliness does not reside in things or places but in affections. “You lust and do not have”, James tells us, “so you bite and devour one another”.

The problem is not with “the world” as in “the physical Earth”, but what depraved human beings do in it.

Dr. Bob Gonzales makes the following point:

“John describes “the world” and “all that is in the world” not primarily in terms of “things” or even “deeds” but in terms of heart affections and attitudes.

This is seen in at least two ways. First, John’s prohibition is directed toward the heart, not toward a particular object or activity. He doesn’t say, “Don’t touch such and such” or “Don’t drink such and such” or “Don’t listen to such and such.” The Greek word translated “love” refers to an attitude, affection, or inclination of the heart. Second, John’s description of “all that is in the world” does not refer to material objects or to human activities per se but to the way in which we view such objects or activities. Movie theaters, electric guitars, sports cars, dancing, drinking beer, smoking cigars and card playing are not the real problem.

The real culprit is the human heart: “For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world” (emphasis added). This is not to deny that worldliness manifests itself in “worldly” behavior. Verse 17 implies that behavior is a component of loving the world. But John zeros in on the essence of worldliness and defines it primarily as a matter of the heart.”

So “loving the world” is about loving the sinful-world system: its measure of success, its value-structure, its aspirations of self-glory–not a list of physical activities.

It’s a subtle form of Gnosticism (the belief that matter is evil and anything spiritual is holy) that urges for separation from external manifestations or associations of evil as the sum of godliness.

The Devil has no power to create–only to pervert, no power to design anew only to misappropriate the old. To an “injudicious eye” the image of many of God’s gifts are sullied. But the Devil didn’t create sex–God did. The Devil didn’t create alcohol–God did. The Devil didn’t create music–God did. Don’t give the Devil more credit than he deserves. His chief power lies in making good things ultimate things and in offering good things in wrong ways and wrong places. “A more accurate and close inspector will admire its beauty, through all the blemishes with which [the Devil] hast endeavored to disguise it.”

The material earth is not something we must flee in order to be godly.

We should look forward to the day when at the passing of this present earth, a New Heavens and Earth are created, the Earth and its gifts living once more in harmony with the dwelling place and character of God, a living portrait of what God first created the natural world to be. It will be a day when the Earth too, and all her gifts, shall have the slime wiped away from her name.

What other applications do you draw from this fable?

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7 thoughts on “The Injudicious Eye

  1. Thanks, Em! I needed the reminder that God gave us so many good things to enjoy–and “loving not the world” does not mean that pleasure is bad. I enjoyed your reflections on this fable–and the fact that even snails have something to say about eschatology!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Ari! It was fun to reuse material from my eschatology essays in a fresh, more concise format. Yes, who knew there were so many insights to be had from a story about a snail!

      Like

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