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The eyes have it…Part 1.

March 21, 2012

 

As we continue on in our look at the Sermon on the Mount, we come to a section that has fostered much speculation and much disagreement. When Jesus states that the eyes are the lamp of the body, what does he mean? How can the body be full of darkness, even though there is some light from the lamp? Below we will begin to look at these questions in several parts. First we will look at the different schools of thought concerning the eyes, we will then look at how this applies to serving two masters in 6:24.

Matthew 6:22-23

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 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!

What does he mean when he says, “the eye is the lamp of the body”?

Generally there are two schools of thought here:

One school says that the eyes are the lamp of the body because it shines out onto what the heart desires. “A lamp emits light”[1] The eyes radiate the light that resides within a person, “the light source is the heart– where a persons treasure is (6:21)”[2] Therefore a good eye would land on things that were pleasing to God and beneficial for the person; a bad eye would focus on displeasing, even idolatrous things, that were bad for the person. If one had lust in the heart, their bad eyes would find objects to lust after and eyes would bear witness to the darkness inside of them; whereas if one is pure of heart one would focus on God, and their eyes would bear witness to God’s light inside them.

The second school of thought says that rather than emitting light onto objects the eyes serve to let light into the body, revealing the condition of the heart, allowing light in and dispelling darkness. “The majority of commentators understand verse 22 to mean that the eye is the instrument by which external light passes into the body.”[3] So what the eye takes in, the body becomes. If one lusts after “things”, and the eyes seek after “things”, then “things, material possessions etc.” begin to fill the body. Whereas if one focuses on God, looks to God alone, then one is filled with His light.

Regardless of which school you subscribe to, it is clear that “Jesus is referring to the universally recognized truth that the eye is the organ that makes sight possible.”[4] “Since the eye is the source of light for the body, the condition of the eye is important.”[5] “God’s Word often uses the eye to represent the attitudes of the mind. If the eye is properly focused on the light, the body can function properly in its movements. But if the eye is out of focus and seeing double, it results in unsteady movements. It is most difficult to make progress while trying to look in two directions at the same time. If our aim in life is to get material gain, it will mean darkness within. But if our outlook is to serve and glorify God, there will be light within. If what should be light is really darkness, then we are being controlled by darkness; and outlook determines the outcome.”[6] The eyes stand between our hearts and the outside world; ready to be directed by the desire of our hearts and taking in everything we place them on. It’s like placing a lamp on a windowsill; the lamp shines out onto the world illuminating what’s outside, but it also shines inward letting light into the dark places of the house. So Jesus’ point here is to focus our attention, not so much on the function of the eyes, but rather the condition of the eyes. Is the light bright? Is it good and illuminating? Or is the light evil, bad and adding to the darkness?


[1] Dockery, Seeking the Kingdom, The Sermon on the mount for today. 90

[2] Dockery, 90

[3] Quarles, The Sermon on the Mount 244

[4] Quarles, 246

[5] Ibid.

[6] Wiersbe, Warren: Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Pub: 1989.

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