Am I really poor, captive (in prison), blind, oppressed?
If not then the extract from the ancient book of Isaiah (circa 720 BC, Jerusalem) that Jesus read in the synagogue in Nazareth (circa 30 AD) is pretty useless to me.
The lawyer recently jailed by Jersey's Royal Court had pleaded "Not Guilty" on all charges...... It seems that when he looked at himself he did not really see what was there.
Am I, myself, in fact, poor? According to many, poverty is relative - we only really see our poverty when we see others wealthier than we.
But what if we are failing to compare ourselves with those who have unseen, undisclosed, even everlasting wealth? A lady in the bush in Madagascar a few years ago wanted to give her only riches - a single live chicken - joyfully to those who came to her tribe from Jersey with good news of a different wealth.
Am I, myself, in fact captive, imprisoned? We live in a free society - yes, within the limits of the law. But the constraint on us is actually in ourselves - I can only achieve and be what I am capable of achieving and being. I am really captive to my own (lack of) abilities, or beauty, or personality, or health.
Am I, myself, in fact blind? Many men have defective colour vision in the reds and greens spectrum - but, by themselves, they cannot see that this is the case and will opine on a tomato's ripeness for eating with total confidence. Maybe, then, I only really see far less that I should see of a glorious, eternal haven of joy - or of an all-consuming black hole.
Am I, myself, in fact oppressed (the Greek word literally means "broken in pieces")? One in four people in the UK will suffer from depression in any year in Britain. Perhaps they are the only ones who realise that they are broken? A dear friend of mind was so oppressed by alcohol that he could not save himself from it. He tells me that this fact enabled him to discover that he really was an enemy to himself.
How great a delusion it would be if my concentration on self actually brought about an inability to perceive: ---my own poverty (having as my only assets myself and the things I own and control); ---my own captivity (to myself, my happiness, my interests); ---my own blindness (to see anything outside my circle, my knowledge and the things that impinge on me); ---my own oppression (because of my unrelenting dedication to self-interest).
One subject that might enable us truly to see ourselves often comes up in our thoughts but is immediately buried. It is that we are, every one of us, captive to a defined period of life. We may be able to postpone the evil day but we can do nothing to escape from the terminal itself. That thought - that fact, really - is the one single inevitable thing that should open our eyes to our condition. I am mortal - my very self is subject to la mort.
Therefore my service of self will end with ..... nothing, self will have gone. But is that reallyso?
The captivating thing about the particular Old Testament Scripture that Jesus decided to read that Saturday morning in Nazareth is that it takes on a new meaning when we assume that he was indeed correct in his underlying assumption.
Especially when we realise that he read this out at the very beginning of his life in the public arena in AD 30 because he did indeed have the answer for those who were captive to themselves but (inevitably) could not see it.