June 6 – Wealth and Heart Attitudes

The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, 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 that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!—Matt. 6:22–23

Expanding on the previous three verses, Jesus uses the eye as an illustration of the heart. The lamp, or lens, of the body is the eye; that’s how we receive light. The heart is the eye of the soul, and it is through our hearts that God’s truth, love, peace, and every spiritual blessing comes to us.

Words closely related to the word for “clear” include liberality and generosity. So the implication is that if our heart is generous (clear), our spiritual life will be flooded with spiritual understanding.

However, if our eye is diseased or damaged, no light can enter, and our “whole body will be full of darkness.” If our hearts are burdened with material concerns, we’ll become “blind” and insensitive to spiritual concerns. The eye is our window—when it’s clear, light shines through; but when it’s corrupt, it prevents light from entering.

The eye that is bad is the heart that is selfishly indulgent. The person who is materialistic and greedy is spiritually blind. Because he has no way of recognizing true light, he thinks he has light when he doesn’t. It’s because he’s self-deceived that Jesus says, “How great is the darkness!”

This principle is both simple and sobering: the way we look at and use our money is a sure barometer of our spiritual condition.

ASK YOURSELF
Blind spots are certainly easy to develop in our hearts, whether about money or any other aspect of belief and practice. How can you safeguard yourself from letting your personal blind spots become ingrained attitudes, poisoning your ability to see clearly what God wants to do in your life?[1]

A Single Vision

The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (6:22–23)

These verses expand on the previous three, and the eye becomes an illustration of the heart. The lamp, or lens, of the body is the eye, through which all light comes to us. It is the only channel of light we possess, and therefore our only means of vision.

The heart is the eye of the soul, through which the illumination of every spiritual experience shines. It is through our hearts that God’s truth, love, peace, and every other spiritual blessing comes to us. When our hearts, our spiritual eyes, are clear, then our whole body will be full of light.

Haplous (clear) can also mean single, as it is translated in the King James Version. An eye that is clear represents a heart that has single-minded devotion. Bishop John Charles Ryle said, “Singleness of purpose is one great secret of spiritual prosperity” (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. Matthew [London: James Clarke, 1965], p. 56).

Words that are closely related to haplous mean “liberality” (Rom. 12:8; 2 Cor. 9:11) and “generously” (James 1:5). The implication in the present verse is that if our heart, represented by the eye, is generous (clear), our whole spiritual life will be flooded with spiritual understanding, or light.

If our eye is bad, however, if it is diseased or damaged, no light can enter, and the whole body will be full of darkness. If our hearts are encumbered with material concerns they become “blind” and insensitive to spiritual concerns. The eye is like a window which, when clear, allows light to shine through, but, when dirty, or bad, prevents light from entering.

Ponēros (bad) usually means evil, as it is translated here in the King James Version. In the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) it is often used in translating the Hebrew expression “evil eye,” a Jewish colloquialism that means grudging, or stingy (see Deut. 15:9, “hostile”; Prov. 23:6, “selfish”). “A man with an evil eye,” for example, is one who “hastens after wealth” (Prov. 28:22).

The eye that is bad is the heart that is selfishly indulgent. The person who is materialistic and greedy is spiritually blind. Because he has no way of recognizing true light, he thinks he has light when he does not. What is thought to be light is therefore really darkness, and because of the self-deception, how great is the darkness!

The principle is simple and sobering: the way we look at and use our money is a sure barometer of our spiritual condition.[2]


22, 23. The eye is the body’s lamp. Therefore, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be illumined. But if your eye is in poor condition, your whole body will be dark. If then the (very) light in you is darkness, how great (is) that darkness. Jesus does not mean that the eye is the source of light for our body, but that it is, as it were, the light-bringer, the guide on which the entire body depends for illumination and direction. It is because of the eye that a man is able to make use of the light. Therefore, in this secondary sense, the eye may itself also be called the body’s light or lantern.

This implies, however that the eye must be single, that is, in this connection, without any speck, hence, sound. It must be able to see clearly. If the eye is diseased, the body will be full of darkness and thus not able to function properly. It is a well-known fact that lack of sufficient light from sun, moon, stars, lamps, etc., makes it difficult to see things. Yet, a sound eye quickly adjusts to the darkness. But if the eye itself, the very organ of light (in the sense already explained), is in poor condition, the darkness will be great indeed. In that case, even if the sun were shining, not much would be gained. At best, everything would be indistinct, a huge blur.

Implication on the basis of verses 19–21: Just as a person has a natural eye (the one eye representing both eyes here) to illumine his physical existence and to bring him into contact with his earthly environment, so he has a spiritual eye, namely, the mind, to brighten his inner life, to guide him morally and spiritually, and to keep him in contact with the heavenly Father. But if the “light” that is in him be darkened—for example, by means of his inordinate yearning for earthly treasure—, then how great must be that darkness, the very organ of light-reception having been obscured by sin. By missing what should have been his goal, namely, the promotion of God’s glory, this person misses everything![3]


The Lamp of the Body (6:22, 23)

Jesus realized that it would be difficult for His followers to see how His unconventional teaching on security for the future could possibly work. So He used an analogy of the human eye to teach a lesson on spiritual sight. He said that the eye is the lamp of the body. It is through the eye that the body receives illumination and can see. If the eye is good, the whole body is flooded with light. But if the eye is bad, then vision is impaired. Instead of light, there is darkness.

The application is this: The good eye belongs to the person whose motives are pure, who has a single desire for God’s interests, and who is willing to accept Christ’s teachings literally. His whole life is flooded with light. He believes Jesus’ words, he forsakes earthly riches, he lays up treasures in heaven, and he knows that this is the only true security. On the other hand, the bad eye belongs to the person who is trying to live for two worlds. He doesn’t want to let go of his earthly treasures, yet he wants treasures in heaven too. The teachings of Jesus seem impractical and impossible to him. He lacks clear guidance since he is full of darkness.

Jesus adds the statement that if therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! In other words, if you know that Christ forbids trusting earthly treasures for security, yet you do it anyway, then the teaching you have failed to obey becomes darkness—a very intense form of spiritual blindness. You cannot see riches in their true perspective.[4]


22–23 “The eye is the lamp of the body” in the sense that through the eye the body finds its way. The eye lets in light, and so the whole body is illuminated. But bad eyes let in no light, and the body is in darkness (v. 23). The “light within you” seems ironic. Those with bad eyes, who walk in darkness, think they have light, but this light is in reality darkness. The darkness is all the more terrible for failure to recognize it for what it is (cf. Jn 9:41).

This fairly straightforward description has metaphorical implications. The “eye” can be equivalent to the “heart.” The heart set on God so as to hold to his commands (Ps 119:10) is equivalent to the eye fastened on God’s law (Ps 119:18, 148; cf. 119:36–37). Similarly Jesus moves from “heart” (v. 21) to “eye” (vv. 22–23). Moreover, the text moves between physical description and metaphor by the words chosen for “good” and “bad.” Haplous (“good,” v. 22, GK 606) and its cognates can mean either “single” (vs. diplous, “double,” 1 Ti 5:17, GK 1487) in the sense of “single, undivided loyalty” (cf. 1 Ch 29:17) or in cognate forms “generous,” “liberal” (cf. Ro 12:8; Jas 1:5). Likewise, ponēros (“bad,” v. 23, GK 4505) can mean “evil” (e.g., Ro 12:9) or in the Jewish idiomatic expression “the evil eye” can refer to miserliness and selfishness (cf. Pr 28:22; see Hagner). Jesus is therefore saying either (1) that the man who “divides his interest and tries to focus on both God and possessions … has no clear vision, and will live without clear orientation or direction” (Filson)—an interpretation nicely compatible with v. 24; or (2) that the man who is stingy and selfish cannot really see where he is going; he is morally and spiritually blind—an interpretation compatible with vv. 19–21. Either way, the early crossover to metaphor may account for the difficult language of v. 22.

At the physical level, the “whole body” is just that, a body, of which the eye is the part that provides “light” (cf. R. Gundry, Soma [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1976], 24–25). At the metaphorical level, it represents the entire person who is plunged into moral darkness. The “light within you” is therefore the vision that the eye with divided loyalties provides, or the attitude characterized by selfishness; in both cases it is darkness indeed. This approach, which depends on the OT and Jewish usage, is much to be preferred to the one that goes to Hellenistic literature and interprets “the light within you” in a Neoplatonic sense (e.g., H. D. Betz, “Matthew 6.22–23 and Ancient Greek Theories of Vision,” in Text and Interpretation [ed. Best and Wilson], 43–56).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 166). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 413–414). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 346–347). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1226). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 212–213). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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