“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23)
Some Bibles print the words of Jesus in red letters. I’m studying the â€˜red letters’ now. I started in Matthew – seemed to make sense – it’s the first book of the New Testament and it looks like it has the most red letters.
The first big chunk of red letters I came across in Matthew is in chapters 5, 6 and 7. Jesus’ words are pretty straight forward, but I got stumped in the last half of chapter 6.
“The eye is the lamp of the body.” Okay … I get that. Light comes into my eyes and makes the world around me visible. I’m tracking so far.
“If your eyes are good your whole body will be full of light.” This is where I started to lose the track. What does â€˜good’ mean?
The next verse presents the converse; “But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (6:23)
Now I’m totally lost. I’d better start taking this whole thing apart.
What do I see that would make my eyes â€˜good’; that would make my body â€˜full of light’? What could my eyes see that would make them â€˜bad’ and my whole body â€˜full of darkness’?
Remember the Sunday school song, “Be careful little eyes what you see, be careful little eyes what you see; there’s a Father up above and He’s looking down in love, so be careful little eyes what you see.” (We won’t get into the traumatic images that little ditty conjures up in a six-year-old mind.) But maybe that’s what Jesus meant – I need to be careful about what I read in books and magazines, what kind of movies I watch and the paths Google leads me down.
That’s a plausible explanation for this passage – Jesus is telling me that looking at good things will make me good and looking at bad things will make me bad. Be careful little eyes what you see.
Or maybe, he wasn’t talking about what I see, but how I see. How do I interpret the world around me? Do I see the guy standing at the off-ramp with a cardboard sign as a public nuisance, or do I see him as someone in need; someone Jesus died for, just like me? Maybe that’s what Jesus meant – how I see things makes my whole body full of light or full of darkness.
My friend David Pawson taught me to always look at the context of the passage I’m studying. This may shock you, but Jesus didn’t divide what he said into verses and chapters; neither did Matthew or Mark or John or Moses or any of the other guys who wrote down the words of scripture. The verses and chapters came much later; somebody’s swell idea to make looking things up easier.
So if you’re stuck on what a particular verse means, read the book (or at least the chapter) from the beginning, and then read past the verse to make sure you’ve got the whole picture. I know it takes longer than just looking up a verse, but the Bible is God’s Word, not a fortune cookie. It’s worth the effort.
Anyway, this verse about having â€˜good’ or â€˜bad’ eyes is part of a long lesson Jesus shared with a crowd on the shores of Galilee. Jesus was teaching his listeners how to behave toward one another, how to regard the Law that was passed down from Moses and how to follow a higher law; he was teaching them how to â€˜see’ things from his perspective.
Just before and just after he mentioned the thing about your eyes being â€˜good’ or â€˜bad’ he talked about money and the stuff money buys. So, whether my eyes are good or bad depends on what I think about money and the stuff money buys? That seems to be the context in which Jesus was speaking.
Well I would have never guessed that!
But it’s true. Just before the eye verses Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven …. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (That’s trying to store up enough money and stuff so you don’t worry about tomorrow.)
Right after the eye verses he says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (That’s worrying about not having enough money and stuff for tomorrow.)
Jesus also said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
The gospels record Jesus healing the eyes of blind men; but he really came to heal men of their spiritual blindness. He came to make our eyes â€˜good’; make us see as he sees.
The Law, â€˜eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,’ was made for a dark world full of blind men. Putting on shows of self-righteousness to gain the approval of men is a sign of eyes being darkened. And putting your trust in the treasures of this world and your worries in wants of this world is a sign of a spiritual eye disease. Jesus came to heal that disease and give light to the eyes of men.
I come down hard on people who fall in love with money and the stuff it buys a lot in this letter. For the record, I’ve got no problem with money or the stuff it buys … there’s a place for money and stuff. But, in this culture, we’ve come to equate success in life with money and the stuff it buys. For the most part, those of us who go by the name Christian aren’t any better. We suck up to rich people and envy their stuff. We want more for ourselves and equate our blessedness with our pocketbooks. Don’t do that. That’s what blind men do.
Purpose Weekly is about success. But it’s about a success that far transcends all the garbage we’ve been taught about what success is supposed to look like. True success is way bigger than collecting the goodies this world offers. Not once does the New Testament speak of worldly wealth being a good thing. Measuring our success by all that stuff is the product of a dark world inhabited by blind men. Jesus came to give us light, to heal our blindness so we could see garbage for what it is and recognize treasure that doesn’t crumble into dust.
Besides, our Father in heaven knows what we need. His son promised that if we seek His kingdom and righteousness first – He’d give us all the stuff as well.
Not a bad deal.