The gaze of the Godly… Part II

March 22, 2012

We continue looking at the Sermon on the Mount by examining the difference between the two types of eyes that Jesus mentions in the passage of 6:22-24.

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! 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.


What does Jesus mean when he talks about clear eyes and bad eyes?

We often use terminology an idioms involving the eyes to denote how someone is feeling or acting.  They might be “dreamy-eyed” in love, or “bleary-eyed” if they are tired.  Someone may even be “cock-eyed” in how they look at situations.  Here we are coming up against two common Hebrew idioms.  The “clear” eye or “single” eye and the “evil eye.”  Key to understanding the meaning of both of these is to look at the context into which they are placed.  Jesus is in the middle of a discussion of material processions and their effects on the life of the believer.  So the “good” eye and the “evil” eye here is referring to matters pertaining to material possessions and one’s attitude toward them.

The clear eye “Words that are closely related to “haplous” mean “liberality” (Ro 12:8; 2, I 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.”[1]  The single or clear eye is “one that does not allow the allurement of wealth and possessions to distract him from God.”[2] Those who seek to divide their loyalties and focus on both “things” as well as God are blinded by a type of double vision.  In trying to look at two items at the same time, the vision becomes blurry and hence useless.  The “Good” or “Clear” eye is one “whose vision is not blurred by focusing on two objects at the same time, God and possessions.”[3]  It represents “single-minded” devotion to God, with one’s heart set on God alone.[4]

The Bad eye  The Greek word here is “Poneros (bad) usually means evil, as it is translated here in the King James Version. In the Septuagint  (Greek Old Testament LXX) it is often used in translating the Hebrew expression “evil eye” a Jewish colloquialism that means grudging, or stingy (see Deut. 15:9, Pr. 23:6 “Do not eat the bread of a selfish man [literally an “evil eye”]). “A man with an evil eye” for example, is one who “hastens after wealth” (Pr. 28:22 “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth, And does not know that want will come upon him.”).”  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.”[5] “An “evil eye,” conversely, was a stingy, jealous or greedy eye; yet it also signifies here a bad eye (Mt 6:23), one that cannot see properly.”[6]

So let’s tie all this together.  Jesus is instructing His disciples on how to lived the blessed life of one who is called the child of God. What distinguishes the children of God is not that they pray, fast, give and serve; but that they do these things for God alone.  Essential to living this life is having a singular focus on God.  We are to pray only to God. (6:9)  We are to fast and give for God alone. (6:3-4;16-18) We are to Serve God alone . (6:24) And we are to seek only Him and His Kingdom first. (6:33)  So in this passage (6:22-23) Jesus is making the point that those who are full of light have “good” eyes, clear eyes that generously seek and direct their attention on God.  Those who have evil eyes, place their gaze on the things of the world; mammon and treasures on earth.  They shall be full of darkness; unable to serve themselves or God.

[1] MacArthur, John: Matthew 1-7 Macarthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press 1985.

[2] Quarles, Charles. The Sermon on the Mount 249

[3] Ibid.

[4] Keener, The Gospel According to Matthew, IVP. 232.

[5] MacArthur, John: Matthew 1-7 Macarthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press 1985.

[6] Keener, The Gospel According to Matthew. 232

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