Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Matthew 6:22-23 “What’chu lookin’ at?”

As I wrote on my blog a month of so ago, I had some problems with my right eye. The retina had detached. For the period of about 2 weeks, I really couldn’t see anything out of that eye. It was very frustrating. If you’ve never had problems with your vision it may be hard for you to imagine but just take my word for it—I was terribly frustrated. I had many times taken my vision for granted but I now count it very precious to be able to see my wife, my children, sunrises, flowers, as well as being able to read. Jesus uses the eye in this passage not to refer to what we see physically but rather to describe our priorities with regard to money and possessions.

Jesus uses a metaphor to teach these truths in verse 23 by saying that “The eye is the lamp of the body.” Now, that makes sense because while we have other openings in our body the eye is the only one where we can perceive light coming in and it’s the only one where we can interpret what that light shows us. We should remember of course, as we begin to study this passage, that we control our eyes. I mean, what do we look at? We look at what we want to see. Someone might choose to look at their child, a flower, a TV show, or any number of things but it is very rare that we fix our eyes on something that we don’t want to look at. In fact, it is what we do with our eyes that Jesus uses to make His point in these verses.

Jesus tells us there are two “settings” for our eyes—two ways we can be viewing the world. He tells us in verse 22 that our eye can be “clear” or that our eye can be “bad”. Now, since He uses two words here and He is obviously contrasting them (“But”) we can assume they are intended to be opposite. But the opposite of bad isn’t clear—it’s good. So I’m confused. However, a look at the Greek used here might help us out some.

The word used here for “clear” is the Greek word “haplous” (573) which is the root one term used in genetics to describe a cell that instead of having pairs of chromosomes only has one of the strands of chromosomes. The word means single or simple and it is used here to describe someone who doesn’t have duplicitous or ulterior motives. Therefore, Jesus probably means the word “bad” (Greek poneros [4190]-evil in active opposition to good) to mean someone who has motives that are neither simple nor pure. Further, consider the context in which these verses appear. Jesus talked about someone who viewed money as a thing to be stored for here on earth rather than something to be used for God’s glory. In verse 24, He talks about serving one master rather than trying to serve two. When we allow our possessions to own us rather than acknowledging God’s ownership and therefore our stewardship of the possessions we have, we are no longer looking at life with a clear eye—a single purpose which is to glorify God and serve Him. We begin to have a bad eye, an eye that is trying to look at the myriad of things that our flesh lusts after rather than the only thing that should matter which is God’s glory.

In fact, if we abandon our singleness of purpose in seeking God’s glory and begin to look for the things that will bring us pleasure with a bad eye, we will find that we are no longer able to see spiritually. Jesus says in verse 22 that if our eye is clear our “whole body will be full of light”. However, if we have spiritual double vision because we are trying to look to the things of God and the things of the world we will find that our “whole body is full of darkness”. Now, when I was born I developed cataracts in my eyes. The lens of my eyes clouded up and I wasn’t able to see. I was a baby so I don’t remember much about it. I have a friend, however, that recently had that surgery. He said he could see but his vision wasn’t clear before he had the surgery. After his surgery, he could see much better. For those who have a bad eye and therefore have spiritual cataracts, the little bit of light they have is “darkness” when compared to the light of a clear eye. Therefore, as Jesus says, what should be light to these people is a “great…darkness”. They think they can see but they cannot because their eye does not give them light. Their eye does not give them light, metaphorically speaking, because their priorities are wrong. May we pray that God will help us keep our priorities in line.

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