Perspective: the way we look at things; the position from where we take our view.
The word is derived from the Latin verb perspicere, per meaning ‘through’, and specere meaning ‘to look’. We might also think of it as the lens through which we see. We are familiar with the idea of being on a hill top, surveying the surrounding landscape and getting a better perspective of how different landmarks relate to each other. Similarly, we each have a position, a perspective, from which we view life; that perspective may be defined as our understanding of the relative importance of things.
Jesus referred to the importance of having a healthy perspective. In the famous Sermon on the Mount He challenged His listeners’ understanding, giving them a new way of looking at many aspects of life. He then said, “The eye is the light of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness.” Jesus was teaching that the way you see things isn’t just important, it is critical.
Our perspective will affect how we perceive and respond to the world around us; it will influence our attitudes to relationships, work, money, and life itself. But our perspective is not necessarily fixed. It can be influenced by what we experience, whether through our upbringing, education, work or life events. These can all impact, negatively or positively, on our understanding of who we are, how we live, and how we respond to our circumstances. Depending on how they see themselves and their world, different people can react very differently to the same situation.
But how can we know if our perspective is healthy, as Jesus said? If our perspective can be influenced by individual circumstances, how may we know if the way we see things is correct? King David, who wrote many of the Psalms, spoke of God’s Word as that which gives direction and clarity of vision in our lives: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105), “the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” and “the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:7b,8b).
As we read the Bible, believing it to be the inspired word of God, our perspective will be shaped by God’s truth. Then we can interpret our circumstances and experiences through the lens of God’s unchanging wisdom.