If you are truly concerned about COVID-19 and/or live in a region where face masks are required, I am sure that by now you own and wear one when in public. Within a few weeks, the company I work for gave out 5 different kinds of masks. All in an effort to help people stay safe while working and comply with the state’s face-covering mandate. Since then, I have been spotting some of the most sophisticated, seemingly safest, coolest, funniest, and even scariest, masks out in the streets.
Are you familiar with the Japanese maxim of the Three Wise Monkeys, “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil?” Although there is disagreement about the origin of the phrase, there are differing explanations of its meaning.
- In the Buddhist tradition, the tenets of the proverb are about not dwelling on evil thoughts.
- The proverb and the image are often used to refer to a lack of moral responsibility on the part of people who refuse to acknowledge impropriety, looking the other way or feigning ignorance.
- It may also signify a code of silence in gangs or organized crime.¹
I would like to suggest yet another explanation. This one has a biblical connotation and some spiritual implications to it as well. But for that, we need to turn to God’s Word and see what it says concerning those things that can cause us to downplay Paul’s advice to the Roman church and to us:
(S)ee no evil
Jesus said that “The eye is the lamp of the body.” (Matthew 6:22). Of all the 5 senses, our sight is the one that compromises our faith the most. That’s because we can seldom control what our eyes see and whatever enters our soul through them can either edify or destroy us. We may be well disciplined to avoid compromising situations, but we cannot escape the inevitable eye candies of the world. They are conspicuously displayed everywhere; on billboards, tv commercials, merchandise, online ads, and even by the people around us.
But yes, we can train our eyes to quickly refocus and exercise our spiritual authority over Satan’s luring baits by quoting Scripture, calling upon the Holy Spirit, and purposing in our hearts to honor God above self, especially in our choices of visual entertainment. Of course, this is only possible if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), are watchful in prayer (Matthew 26:41), and regularly meditate on godly and not earthly things (Col. 3:2). Here are a few more verses that attest to the importance of the eyes and a good reason to frequently sing, “Oh, be careful little eyes what you see…”
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. – Matthew 5:29 ESV
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. – Psalm 119:37 ESV
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. – 1 John 2:16 ESV
(H)ear no evil
On several occasions, Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Unless one is born with a rare deformity, ears are a body part shared by all humanity. When Jesus spoke to those who have ears, He meant that all who were given His words no matter their sex, age, ethnicity, or social status, were to pay careful heed. Our spiritual well-being can also be compromised by what we give an ear to. Even when we are not listening attentively, our brain can still capture sounds/voices (music for example) and process them subliminally.
What we audibly entertain is very important. Not only because it can help us develop intellectually, but because it also affects us spiritually (Rom. 10:17). In today’s world, it’s inevitable for us not to pick up unedifying and profane verbal activities. But we can greatly minimize their effect by listening to more worship songs and godly programming and by not entertaining gossip and immoral conversations. Here are a few more verses that attest to the importance of choosing what to listen to and a good reason to frequently sing, “Oh, be careful little ears what you hear…”
The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. – Proverbs 15:31 ESV
Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding. – Proverbs 2:2 ESV
Does not the ear test words as the palate tastes food? – Job 12:11 ESV
(S)peak no evil
From Psalms to Revelation there are over 100 verses regarding the tongue (mouth). In fact, there is an entire chapter dedicated to it (James 3). That’s because of all our body parts this one is the most difficult to control. Consuming sustenance and communicating are the primary functions of the mouth and both can be detrimental to our physical and spiritual health. Not much is needed to encourage the mouth to spew words that either build or destroy.
And yes, we can also learn to “tame the tongue” and even “shut the food trap” when leaving it uncontrolled proves to be regrettable. It requires a lot of discipline and will power to accomplish this, but we can find encouragement in knowing that God has given us a spirit of power and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). It would also help if we actually learn from our past mistakes when we have neglected to think before we spoke. Here are a few more verses that attest to the importance of watching our mouth and a good reason to frequently sing, “Oh be careful little tongue what you speak…”
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. – Proverbs 18:21 ESV
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29 ESV
Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. – Proverbs 21:23 ESV
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. – Psalm 19:14 ESV
COVID-19, along with the many other active pathogens, will most likely remain with us forever. Until they find a vaccine and an approved treatment, it seems like face masks will also be part of our public attire. And while we are busy taking care of our personal hygiene, as we should have been all along, we should not neglect to protect our spiritual health as well. Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from the Three Wise Monkeys. After all, the See no evil, Hear no evil, and Speak no evil (SHS) mask seems to be the best protection against the virus of sin and self. Perhaps the below image can inspire us to practice good spiritual hygiene!
And maybe this childhood song will also help us during the inevitable times of temptation and sin. It includes advice for the hands and feet!
Pray that the Lord would guard your eyes, ears, mouth, hands, and feet from succumbing to the luring traps of this world. Commit to strengthening your spiritual life by keeping your eyes on Jesus, listening to godly inspirations, using your mouth to bless, working as unto the Lord, and walking the path of righteousness. All with the help of the Holy Spirit who encourages, teaches, and guides us as we surrender to him on a daily basis.
1- Three wise monkeys (Wikipedia)