The eye is the lamp 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! – Matthew 6:22–23
For years the point of these two verses escaped me. And then, instead of taking time to dig in and prayerfully figure it out. I leave it for later and forget to come back to it. In recent years, however, I’ve noticed that verses or passages that are not easy usually hold profound meaning.
So, what’s going on here? What exactly is Jesus saying, and why is it important? Well, these two verses are tucked into a fantastic section of Scripture – Matt 5, 6, and 7 – where Jesus is telling his disciples what it means to be a disciple.
In the immediate surroundings (Matt 6:19-34) Jesus is talking about money. Right before our two verses, he is telling his disciples that following him means a life that’s focused on the permanent things; the things that count and last forever. So, they must concentrate on building eternal treasure and not the earthly wealth that will vanish.
Right after our verses, Jesus says that it’s impossible to serve both God and money (v24). And he addresses the temptation to be anxious about necessities like food and clothing (vs. 25-34). He says that God knows our needs and will provide for us. So, disciples should focus on following Jesus while depending on God to care for them. And then Jesus finishes this with the familiar, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matt 6:33 (We should probably spend some time on that verse)
So, back to verses 22-23; The eye is the lamp of the body. 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!
Just think of how much information you absorb. From the time you get up until you fall asleep, you are taking it all in. You’re reading books and billboards and news and opinion and hopefully the Bible. And you’re seeing nature and people and lots of entertainment. And mostly we see a lost and sinful humanity and all the tragedy that the sin produces. Day after day after day we flood our core with what we see. And all of this can be seen with clarity, or not.
How we see what we see
The heart of these two verses is concerned about how we see rather than what we see. While what we look at is very important, we don’t always have a choice. The fallen world around us is unfolding right in front of us. But how we see is the focus here. Specifically, Jesus is wondering if we see his words clearly and obey them or if our eyesight is bad. Healthy eyes will see things clearly – from Jesus’ perspective – and the soul will gain light. If we have eyes that are not healthy, we’ll fill up with darkness.
The eye test
So, let’s take an eye test. These two verses are where they are because what Jesus is saying in this section is critically important. See it with healthy eyes and you will grow; see it with bad eyes and you will be missing a fundamental piece of your development.
In this section (Matt 6:19-34) Jesus is addressing money and wealth. And his words are unambiguous:
- Don’t focus on laying up temporary treasures here
- Do focus on laying up everlasting treasure in heaven
- Don’t be anxious about your needs here
- Do put the kingdom first and depend on God to care for you
And in the middle of this Jesus says that seeing this the way we should is light and not seeing it the way we should is darkness.
So, how do you see this passage? Do you acknowledge it as true but live as though it’s not? If we are following Jesus the way we should, our dominating priorities will focus on treasure in heaven and not on accumulating wealth here.
- For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. – Romans 8:13
- And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:24
- But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. – Galatians 5:16–17
- Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. – 1 Peter 2:11
While we should all long to think like this and live like this, thinking about money the way we should will raise questions about our financial planning. Here are some links that might help: