Most of us have heard the old expression, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” Jesus made reference to eyes and ears and hearts in a similar way to make an important point about the inner man:
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them (Matt. 13:15).
Jesus followed this assessment of the people of His day with a comment to His disciples,
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear (Matt 13:16).
Being able to see is a good thing, but there are hindrances to seeing.
Paul identifies one of the hindrances in Romans 1. He begins by telling us that “that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them.” He did so by means of the creation (Rom. 1:18-20). He emphasizes this by affirming that the “invisible things” are “clearly seen.”
Notice the consequences that accompany the rejection of the “clearly seen: they
…became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things (1:21-23).
So, one’s attitude toward God’s and His existence affects the intellect. It should not surprise us that when someone denies the very grounds for the existence of every contingent thing, it will affect the way we think.
Another hinderance to seeing clearly is related to how we address our own problems. The context in which we find this next text is the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7. Jesus is addressing the issue of hypocrisy, and says,
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the long in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matt. 6:3-5).
The hypocrite is in Jesus’ cross-hairs, and the hypocrite is oblivious to the log that is in his own eye. The “speck” or “log” in Jesus’ statement are sins, or offenses. So, what He is saying is that the hypocrite tends not to see his own sin or offense.
Again, let me emphasize that it is the hypocrite being addressed in this text. It is the hypocrite who attempts to navigate around his ignorance of his own trouble to perform the necessary extraction of the speck in someone else’s eye, or to correct whatever may be amiss in a brother with a smaller problem.
The hypocrite is blind to his own contribution to the world’s woes. The remedy?
You hypocrite, first take the long out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (7:5).
I began this article with the oft quoted statement, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” Notice the role of the “will” in that statement, and in Paul’s discussion in Romans 1. They knew God. They could clearly see the invisible things of him—things manifested since the creation of the world. The evidence leaves them “without excuse” (1:20). And add to this 1:28: “And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up…” Again, notice the role of the will. When you tie these statement together, Paul is saying that “knowing God” they “refused to have God in their knowledge.”
Hypocrisy involves the will as well. The hypocrite is the pretender, the actor. He pretends to be someone he never intend to become, and he is blind.
There are remedies for atheism and hypocrisy, but the heart of a person must seek what is true and good. The mind pursues truth; the will pursues the good.