Living Without Chests

C.S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia series, wrote many other books. One of his other books, published in 1944 during WWII, was actually a series of three lectures that he delivered to a college in Great Britain. That book, called The Abolition of Man, was about Lewis’ concerns with the modern British education and the direction of the British culture in the mid-1940s. One of the main points in this book is that CS Lewis looked at modern society and said what was happening is that we were creating men without chests. Today we are going to pause from our usual progress through the ten commandments and at the beginning of this new year, reflect on, what in the world did CS Lewis mean by “men without chests” and how that applies to us here at ACA.

The ancient world viewed people as having three parts. I am talking about the ancient Greeks and Romans that 1st and 5th grades will be studying about soon. Like I said, the ancient world viewed people as having three parts, those three parts were the head, the chest, and the stomach.

What is in the head? Brains, right? So to the ancient world, the head represented your intellect. What you think. Knowing stuff. What about your stomach? What do you put into your stomach? Food and drink. Things you need for your body but also things you want to eat and drink. To the ancients, the stomach represented your desires and emotions. Your gut feelings and instincts. So what do you think the chest represented? What is the main organ in your chest? Your heart! The chest represented your moral compass. Knowing right and wrong. Your character. Your virtue. These were all represented by your heart and chest. Of all the three parts, it is the chest that makes us uniquely human. Here is what I mean by that.

Over Christmas break, I went home to Nebraska. We were reminded why we enjoy south Texas so much in the winter when we were greeted with 30-40mph snow blowing sideways, below zero temperatures and icy roads. Let’s just say there was nothing Hallmark about our white Christmas. As many of you know I grew up on a farm and while we were in Nebraska, we visited the farm briefly. One of the animals that I grew up with was horses. Beautiful creatures. They are strong and have their own personalities but they are merely animals and just live on instincts. They just do things to fill their own appetites, like eating and sleeping. If we as people were just made up of our stomach, so to speak, we would be no different than animals. And if we were just brains filled with knowledge, we would be like some kind of heavenly being, like some sort of angel, but we would not be a person because what makes us different from heavenly beings is that we have a heart. I don’t mean the organ that pumps blood, but we have the capacity to love, to be courageous, to choose the right thing to do, to work on something until it becomes excellent, which is what we call virtue. This is what makes us truly human. Our heart also binds our head and stomach together so that we can enjoy beauty but with self-control, we can know lots of stuff but be humble and kind, and we can love others without using and hurting them.

We have talked about how these three parts come together to make us human. There is a second, very important part of this to talk about. We talked about the three parts, head, chest, stomach. Which part is the most important? Which part should come first? Second? Or third? Who should decide that order? What would happen if our stomach was first? What kind of person would you be? You would be driven by your wants and desires. Your emotions would be your guide. I get that way when I get around Christmas goodies. Especially sugar cookies. I get the gimmies. Gimmie this, gimmie that. I think we can admit, that really is not a nice person to spend a lot of time with. What if your head came first? Be a know it all. Looking down on people and mocking people who didn’t know as much as you. I don’t think we really like people like that as well. Even our chest and heart end up loving ourselves so that isn’t good either.

We must have someone outside of ourselves ordering our lives, ordering our loves so that we can live the way we were meant to live. Who could do that? Who has the power to change our lives and our loves so that we can put our parts in the right order and to love the things that we are supposed to love and to do the things that we are supposed to do? Our friends? Our teachers? Our parents? Certainly not! Only God has the power to change our hearts and order our lives so that we can live the way we were meant to live. To love God and love our neighbor.

Here is our problem. Because of sin, we do want to serve the true God. We want to serve ourselves and make ourselves a god. We want our stomach to be our god. And we live in a culture that tells us, whatever you want, you should have it. They are telling you, your stomach is your god. Or we hear that if you know all the answers, you will be successful and you will have a lot of power. Or look to really smart people and just let them tell you what to think and how to live your life. Or let technology run your life. This is making your head your god. As you can see, when your stomach or your head becomes your god, you become a person with no chest. Exactly what CS Lewis warned us against.

There are a lot of people walking around, a lot of people writing books, a lot of people on TV, on Youtube, on facebook, instragram and snapchat, who are men and women without chests. And they are telling you and me to listen to them. Be like them. Think like them. Live like them. But just like a person who has no heart, they are empty and foolish. So, at the beginning of this new year, how are we to strive to live like young men and young women who have chests and hearts? Who live like warriors.

First, obey, right away, all the way, with a happy heart. Second, fear God, and keep His commands. Third, honor others, above yourself. Fourth, do your work, as unto the Lord. Last, do everything, without complaining or grumbling. You may be thinking, Mr. Lockyer, you tricked us, these are our school rules. Yes, but listen very closely to what I am about to say, these are more than just school rules, they are life rules. These order your life so that God is first in your life and all the other parts of your life will be in the right order. You will love what you should love and hate what you should hate. This year, everyone’s new year resolution, including myself, should be to obey God and all those in authority over me right away, all the way with a happy and joyful heart. Fear God, reading the Bible so I can know Him more and then out of a deep love and respect for God, keep His commandments. If He says it, that settles it. I’ll do it. Honor others above myself. Resolve this year to truly love your neighbor, starting with the ones closest to you at home, at church, and at school. Resolve to do you work, every day, all day, when you feel like it and even when you are tired and don’t feel like it, as unto the Lord. Last, do everything without sighing, slouching, eye-rolling, foot-dragging, arguing, talking back, I’ll do it later, grumbling, and complaining.

Imagine if everyone in this room genuinely resolved and actually lived their lives by following these simple rules, if you did this, you would have a wonderful new year, and you would feel what it means to live as a person with a chest, to live with heart, you would feel what it means to be fully human.