Narcissus of the Mall

I really hate going to the mall. I find them crowded and frantic and full of rude people. On the other hand, I enjoy sitting down with a good cup of coffee and watching the people go by. People watching is great fun and there is no better place than the mall to observe them.

One person in particular intrigues me. You’ve seen him. He walks by the big glass storefronts and stares at his reflection. Perhaps a hair is out of place, or his pants aren’t hanging just right. Narcissus of the Mall quickly makes an adjustment and then grins, self-satisfied. Now comes the fun part. Watch him do exactly the same thing when he walks in front of the next storefront!

In the first century, they didn’t have the fine, silvered glass mirrors that we enjoy today. The best they had were highly polished metal mirrors and mirrors were prized possessions. While I was in Jerusalem a few years ago, I was fascinated with a display of artifacts archaeologists had discovered in a cave in the desert. There was a goatskin bag, stuffed with straw, wrapped around an ancient mirror. As I stared at the mirror, I tried to imagine the owner. Of all the things she could have taken with her as she fled the Roman soldiers, why did she choose her mirror?

We are coming up on fire season in San Diego and it’s important to have a box of essentials packed and ready to go in case you need to evacuate. In that box you might include important papers, perhaps some cash and a few priceless heirlooms but would you include a mirror? I suppose it would depend on how vain you are.

James the brother of Jesus wrote:

1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

The Bible is like a mirror. It is full of stories and as we read them, we identify with the characters and situations. As we see ourselves in the story, the Bible is like a mirror. The important point is: do we use the mirror as a tool, something that allows us to put things in order, or do we, like Narcissus of the Mall, simply see the Bible as a source of endless entertainment?

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