Sermon on the Mount - Eyes

(Matthew 6:22-23)

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Sermon on the Mount, Sermon on the Mount (Bible Study)

  • After discussing the Lord’s Prayer and the Pharisaical hypocrisies, Jesus continues by talking about the inner life of the disciples.
  • He has already spoken about the heart; next, he moves to the eye.
  • Ancient peoples often thought that light emanated from the eye.
  • This saying has basically two options for interpretation.
  • The first, a physiological approach, simply states, “The eye is the lamp of the body.”
  • Healthy eyes see light; diseased eyes do not. A blind person lives in a world that is dark.
  • But more likely, the meaning is meant to be metaphorical.
  • Jesus is using the eye analogous to the heart.
  • In this case the “eye” reflects the moral qualities of the person and is a conduit to the activities of the body.
  • This section also comes between two pericopes that speak to the issue of wealth.
  • People can either choose worldly treasures/masters or spiritual ones.
  • In this case, Jesus says, “If your eyes are single, your whole body will be full of light.”
  • The word “single” is usually translated as either single, simple, or sound. It is not usually associated with the eye.
  • The Greek word, however, is haplous, typically translated in other settings as “generous or generosity.”
  • The phrasing is very difficult; the words don’t make a lot of sense. But the meaning is pretty clear.
  • A single, simple eye expresses the idea of sincerity, truth, purity in heart.
  • If it’s single, if it’s healthy, it provides light for the person.
  • If it is single and healthy that person will have spiritual insight, spiritual discernment to know the true values of life.
  • That person will be kind, generous, happy to help others.
  • A “single eye” could also describe a person focused on one thing, on doing good.
  • “But if your eyes are evil, your whole body will be full of darkness.”
  • The word for “evil” is ponerous, a word generally translated as “grudging.”
  • The contrast between good eyes and evil ones becomes a reflection of one’s character.
  • “Good eyes” are contrasted with “evil eyes.”
  • Evil eyes reflect stinginess, miserliness, not wanting to share.
  • That person might also be greedy, dishonest.
  • Good-eyed people are the opposite.
  • “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness.”
  • Again, this does not refer to physicality, but to the notion of covetousness, greed, a godless person.
  • But, if it’s not single, if it’s evil, that person allows many masters to dictate his/her life.
  • One’s whole life will be spent in darkness, in confusion, in groping around.
  • This metaphor also has some literal applications.
  • The eye can reveal whether one is serving gladly or halfheartedly.
  • Coldness, superiority, all these things come out through the eye.
  • A look of the eye cannot be manufactured. It’s either there, or it isn’t.
  • We often hear that today in the phrase, “He couldn’t even look me in the eye.”
  • Isn’t it interesting that the eye has one language everywhere?
  • These last two examples by Jesus are best summed up by Psalm 119:36-37: “Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.”

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