March 19, 2023
“If something sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is.” So goes a very well-known and well-followed saying that many of us know, and one that I have heard since forever. On the face of it, it’s a pretty good piece of advice. If something sounds too good to be true, someone might be trying to pull the wool over your eyes. You might be dealing with a scammer. It’s good to do your due diligence about things, and not just accept something at face value. But this helpful piece of advice, as I see it, has really gotten out of its lane.
Far from sticking to too-good-to-be-true purchases, this phrase is often used in any situation where something good has happened. If you’ve been having a really good week, this saying is conjured up as a reminder that you shouldn’t trust your good luck too long. If you meet someone, a friend or colleague or date, and they are just really great—just wait and see. It’s a phrase that spills out of its lane and demands that we be cynical and pessimistic, assuming the worst of everything and everyone. If something really good happens, so many of us have been trained to wait for the other shoe to drop. If something truly amazing happens, we’ve been trained to look for who’s lying or pulling the strings to take advantage of the situation.
It seems to me that this is precisely the kind of mentality that the man born blind met the day he was healed by Jesus.
It all started when the disciples saw this blind beggar, and casually brought it up with Jesus by asking whose fault it was—did he sin, or did his parents sin, that God would punish him with blindness? Jesus rightly throws that assumption out the window—blindness isn’t punishment for sin, any more than poverty, addiction, or depression are punishments for some genetic sinfulness. Sometimes bad things just happen to people. But that assumption is central to the reaction the crowds have to the man when he receives his sight. It heightens the tension. Why would God heal a sinner? It’s simply too good to be true, so in their minds, it isn’t.
And that’s why their questions to the man are so frustratingly circular. First the Pharisees, then the wider crowd, are convinced that good things simply do not happen to sinners, and the man’s blindness was proof to them that he was a sinner. They weren’t asking him how it was done, how he was healed, because they wanted to understand. They were asking because they wanted him to admit that he was lying. He was never blind to begin with, they want him to say, because the blind do not receive the miracle of sight. His story was too good to be true. It was a miracle too wonderful to believe.
And maybe we get stuck in that trap too. Do we believe it when we hear about amazing things happening? Or do we quickly turn to the cynicism of thinking if it’s too good to be true, then it is? When people are truly selfless, helping others out of the goodness of their hearts, how quickly do we move from awe to suspicion that there has to be an ulterior motive? When miraculous events happen—the sick are healed, those in danger are rescued, the hearts of cruel people are changed—how easily do we accept the ways those events are explained away as coincidences or misunderstood natural events? When something seems too wonderful to believe, how hard is it to resist the urge to fall back on “too good to be true?”
Because if the wonderful things that happen are true, then that means God is far closer to us than we might think is comfortable. If goodness is something that really happens, then that means we’re wrong to assume the miraculous is too good to be true. If the man born blind has been given his sight by a miracle from God, then that means we have to question the simple, orderly way we label people as worthy or unworthy of God’s love and acceptance. And what would that world look like, if we stepped into God’s reality and believed the wonderful things?
We could embrace the wonderfulness that creation is filled with God’s presence. Everything from the miracle of refracted light giving us the unnecessary beauty of a sunrise to the miracle of spiders knowing which webs they can step on and which webs catch flies would be opened up to us in all their wonder. We could see the entire world as a miracle that is breathtaking on every level.
We could embrace the wonderfulness of joy that comes with embracing the good that happens to us. Far from the crushing weight of pessimism, we could look at a declaration of remission with the joy of a new lease on life rather than a waiting game for when it comes back. We could see the miracles of friendship and healed relationships, the wonder of healed bodies and healed souls, and the ways that God is at work in the hands and minds of doctors who perform modern miracles of healing.
We could embrace the wonderfulness that humanity is innately geared toward goodness, as the crowd at the San Antonio Zoo showed when rushing to lift a fallen tree from a tour group trapped underneath, or the ongoing work of the White Helmets who persistently heal the wounded on all sides in the ongoing civil war in Syria, or the Sunday school kids who just last week tied blankets for the needy and this congregation who donated $400 to provide meals for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. We could see goodness not as an aberration but as an inherent part of who God has made us to be.
The miracle that Jesus gave the man born blind was to open his eyes so that he could see the world. Perhaps the miracle we can receive is sight as well: eyes to see the miracles that God is performing all around us, eyes to see the goodness that God works in everyone so much of the time that we hardly notice, eyes to see the kingdom at work when forgiveness changes lives, when healing brings wholeness, when hope brings new life, and when the wonderful is truly believed. Let’s embrace that miracle, and believe the thing that should be too wonderful to believe, because we worship a God who does amazing things, who heals the ones who too many think shouldn’t be healed, who inspires goodness beyond measure, and who gives us new life in the kingdom that the Son is bringing into the world.
Thanks be to God. Amen.