By Michael E. Brooks
“Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21-22 NKJV).
The movie “Slumdog Millionaire” which is based in India depicts the lives of three children who grow up in the slums and garbage dumps of one of that nation’s large cities. Much of its portrayal of the life of the poor is realistic, reflecting conditions that the visitor can easily observe.
One especially graphic and upsetting scene is the deliberate blinding of a child by adults who use him as a source of revenue, sending him to beg and then seizing the proceeds for themselves.
Many outside of India have heard of such practices, but do not know whether to believe them or to classify such rumors as urban legends. I have traveled to a limited extent in India, but much more frequently and broadly in some of its South Asian neighbors.
Contacts there assure me that these stories are all too often true. My own experience is that I have seen many beggars suffering from deformities and conditions that defy any natural explanation such as illness or birth defect. Many of these injuries appear to have been caused by trauma, but whether as a result of accident or malicious greed, one may only guess.
If there are indeed people blinding and maiming children for profit, that is a horrifying and repulsive practice that all people of conscience should oppose.
As offensive as such things are however, are they worse than the spiritual blindness and crippling that humans subject themselves to regularly? Paul described the decision to reject the true God in favor of idols and self-worship as deliberate self-mutilation (Romans 1:18-32).
Many refuse to see or acknowledge truth, therefore blinding themselves. Further, they adopt unnatural and perverted practices changing their nature from the image of God to one of shame and dishonor.
I find it difficult to look at some of the horrifying mutilations borne by Asian beggars. Yet it is just as difficult to examine the seared consciences, materialistic spirits, and hateful characters of those who refuse obedience to the will of God. Paul describes such as “. . . foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).
These spiritual deformities are even more crippling than the broken limbs and blinded eyes of beggars. They limit the sufferer in the ability to form meaningful relationships on this earth and deny him all hope of eternal life. Their effect is not limited to a few years or decades, but will always exist, throughout endless ages.
How does such self-mutilation occur? In Romans 1, Paul lists several causes, including ingratitude (V. 21), selfishness (V. 22), love of pleasure (Vv. 24, 26), and undisciplined passion (V. 29). The key is that such injury is always self-inflicted and always a consequence of choice.
The victims of malicious exploiters may have no opportunity to avoid blindness or crippling. Such is not the case with regard to spiritual deformity. We can live our lives out with whole, undefiled spirits if we accept the truth of God, and reject the lie.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:18-19).
By Michael E. Brooks