JUNE 27, 2023
I recently heard a comedian say that our greatest addiction in America isn’t to a substance and isn’t to habit.
“America’s greatest addiction is to attention.” Sadly, he’s right. For many of us we won’t stop until we get enough and we will never get enough to stop. But attention isn’t bad in and of itself. In fact, it’s built into our DNA. We are wired for attention, to be seen and to be known. I see this in my 4-year-old son every single day. He desperately wants to get and keep my attention. He wants me to see him, engage with him, care for him, encourage him, and celebrate him. Sometimes this desire manifests itself in healthy ways and sometimes really unhealthy ways. So, here’s the question, how do we go from a good desire to a dangerous addiction?
The week before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus has a really interesting interaction with two men on the side of the road.
And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”(Matthew 20:29-31 ESV)
Jesus has developed a large following, some out of faith, some looking to profit, some simply out of curiosity. As Jesus and His disciples and this large crowd start to make their way toward Jerusalem these two blind men sitting by the road start to hear the noise and the crowd approaching. Two men who lived incredibly lonely, dependent lives, seated in a societal position of shame. Their dignity was stolen, and they would be regularly taken advantage of as they were marginalized and completely reliant on the kindness of others. They were seen as a burden and treated as much. To this point in their lives there has been no earthly hope for things to get better for these men…but that’s about to change. Clearly, they’ve heard through whispers and conversations about this one called Jesus, saying things no one else has said, healing the sick, taking time for the poor and neglected. So, what do they do? They shoot their shot! They have to get Jesus’ attention. They don’t just yell, they cry out Krazo, this deep-seated cry of anguish. The same word used to describe a woman giving birth.
Even when the crowd tries to quiet them, essentially communicating what these men have been told all their lives, “You’re not worth it, you’re less than, you’re better forgotten, you’re not lovable” they cry out even louder. We can do the same but often in the wrong direction, doubling down on attention seeking, because it feels great to be seen, to be known, to be loved. So, when does it go bad? When we start to worship the attention we receive. When this attention becomes our end-all and be-all. When it becomes our drug of choice and something we can’t live without. It becomes a dangerous addiction when it starts to affect the way we see ourselves, our true identity, the way we see others, and when it starts to re-orient our values. All of this manifesting in unhealthy, unholy, destructive actions and behaviors. This can take on many different forms, for many different reasons. This is so easy to fall into because you and I live in a cycle of attention seeking. Everyone and everything in society, on social media, other media outlets is vying for your attention, celebrities, athletes, influencers, leaders, and companies. It’s become normative and even expected that we would do the same. I want you to see me and validate me and, in the process, trade being loved for getting likes. But, there’s always deeper to the attention we seek. Maybe it’s insecurities, unfulfilled longings, unmet desires.
If you noticed in the passage above, these two men don’t cry out for healing, they cry out for mercy. They have nothing to offer Jesus and they know it. The undignified men are not just looking for attention, they are looking for someone to give them back their dignity. Every day they have been fighting for the attention of others just to sustain them. Now they’re fighting for the attention of the One that can finally offer more than a temporary fix. Ready for the beauty?
And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.”And Jesus in pity (moved with compassion) touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and they followed him.(Matthew 20:32-34 ESV)
He saw them and He had “compassion!” We see what Jesus says and what He does but it’s just as important we notice what He doesn’t do and doesn’t say. He didn’t reject them, He didn’t ignore them, He didn’t say ”What do you have to offer me? Why should I help you? Go get cleaned up first. You’re past the point of help. You aren’t important enough, you aren’t worth my time.” No, He saw them, He knew them, He embraced them, because He loved them. He gave them back far more than just their sight, He gave them back their dignity. He is not moved because of who they were or what they had done, He is moved by compassion because of Who He is and what He can do!
Don’t miss this. In Jesus we get more than the attention we’re looking for, we get the acceptance we’re longing for. Acceptance that’s not dependent about what you bring to the table or your measuring up…but because Christ says, “I see you, I know you, I love you, and through me, you are accepted!”
These blind men are not the main point of this encounter, but they are a picture, a picture of you and me. We were the blind, we were the helpless and hopeless, but in our case, it was because of our sin. Yet, Jesus saw us on the side of the road, and moved by compassion, has embraced us, removing the blinders of our hearts by His love and has given us back our sight, has given us a new identity, has restored our dignity. Jesus says, “You once were lost but I have found you. You once were hopeless but I’ve restored your hope, you once were the outcast, the forgotten, the rejected, the shamed, but I see you, know you, forgive you, and love you. You once were dead and I’ve given you life!” Little did the men know that the hands that touched their eyes that day to bring physical healing would be the hands that just days later would be pierced and nailed to a cross for their sake.
In Jesus, attention addicts like you and me can finally experience what we’ve really wanted and needed all along, healing and acceptance from a lifelong friend who sees all of us and loves us just the same.