In 2009, the Harvard Business School did a study regarding the influence that exposure to luxury items has on decision-making. Useful items (watches, shoes, cars, clothing) were shown to two groups of people, at which point they were asked to make some large business decisions, as if they were the CEO. The first group was shown very functional and unspectacular versions of the items – watches you might find at Wal-Mart or shoes from Target. The second group was shown the same items, only on the very high end – a $5,000 watch, a Rolls Royce, etc. They found that those who had just seen the luxurious items were more likely to make self-serving choices, often at the expense of others.
This got me thinking. If focusing on luxury items can impact the way we think about ourselves and others, then what am I doing to counteract this subtle influence? Wherever I go I see luxury items. Things I don’t need. Products to make my life easier, more comfortable, more self-serving. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating a poverty mentality or a run-away-from-everything-convenient-in-the-world posture, but instead asking, “What has my attention?” Do I go about my life like everyone else, living according to the standards set by the culture? Or does the Way of Jesus permeate what I am doing? If walking in the Way of Jesus is the goal, what am I doing to ensure that the Way of Jesus is the major influence on (and shaper of) my imagination?
We all have an imagination. I’m not talking about the fantasy wonderlands that my kids dream up, but what we think about (imagine) when an idea is put before us. Let me give you an example. What do you think about when I say, “Church?” Or, what about “prayer?”
And what about…Holy Spirit?
Whatever came to your mind has to do with the data or stimuli that have shaped your imagination on that particular subject. I wonder if the responses are more shaped by our cultural surrounding than by the truth of God. Maybe it is because of this that Paul so frequently urges us to address what happens in our minds.
Take for instance Colossians 3:1-2: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
I love how the Message states this idea in Romans 12:2. “Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
Left to ourselves we will lean toward our cultural norms, selfish desires and personal preferences. So let’s not allow our imagination to be formed by our self-serving culture since we follow a self-sacrificing God. Let’s allow the Spirit to awaken our minds and recast our imaginations in a biblical and prayerful way.