In my very first blog on this site I talked about the sermon on the mount in Matthew 6 and said I hoped to revisit it in the future, especially verses 22 and 23:-
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
So I went away and looked into it, and found some really helpful stuff. You can read William Barclay’s take on it, or John Piper’s. If listening is more your thing, check out Tim Keller on Treasure vs Money and Jay Pathak from Mile High Vineyard (similar to Keller). If you’ve only got time to do one, it’s definitely the Keller podcast. I love that within just a few minutes of his talk, he jumps straight into the above verse with ‘Well what it means is very simple…’ ! Here’s what he says:
One of the curious things for interpreters, or anybody who’s reading and trying to understand the passage, is this illustration, this little saying about the eye… Now what that means is very simple. We’re in this room and there’s light in this room. And if your eye works, if it takes the light in, you will by the light be able to move your body through the room. You know, you’ll see where the aisle is, you’ll move that way and you know, you won’t stumble, you won’t fall. And all this saying is basically pointing out is if your eye isn’t working, even though there’s light all around the rest of your body, your whole body in a sense is in the darkness. If your eye’s not working, there’s no other part of your body that can see or take light in. So if your eye’s not working, your whole body’s in darkness, whether or not the whole room’s flooded with light, see?
So, you say “…and?” When you’re reading this you say ‘what’s that got to do with anything?!’ You look and you say, ok, well verses 19-21 is all about money. And then verses 24 and following is about money. What’s this saying doing in here?
It’s a little easier to understand his point if you go to Luke 11 and 12. In Luke 11 and 12, Jesus uses the same illustration – the eye is the lamp of the body etc – and he also talks about money. Again, it’s connected. When you get into Luke 12, you see after he talks about the eye and the lamp he says “so watch out for greed! Watch out for all kinds of greed.”
Now, what is he saying? Very interesting. He’s saying that greed and materialism – materialism is an inordinate desire or dependence on money and material things – has the peculiar effect of blinding you spiritually, of distorting the way you see things. It has a power over the way you see everything. Now what do I mean by that? Let me give you some examples.
First of all, materialism has the power to blind you to materialism. So what Jesus is saying is very interesting. Let me cast it in this light:
Some years ago my wife Kathy noticed that I was doing a series of monthly men’s breakfasts. Once a month I was speaking on the seven deadly sins. And you know the seven deadly sins have lust, they have pride, they have envy, anger and so forth. And of course one of the seven deadly sins is greed. And Kathy says ‘now are they advertising these, are they saying here’s the subject, and people are bringing their friends’ I said ‘yeah’. She says ‘so they’ll know the month you’re speaking on greed?’ I said ‘right’. She said ‘watch – the attendance is going to drop. They’re not going to come out to hear about greed.’ And she was right! She was right. It was the worst attended of all of them.
And I thought about that – why? Well I’ll tell you why. It’s not that they were hostile, it’s not that people said ‘oh, that’s a terrible idea. I don’t want to talk about greed, I don’t want to hear about greed.’ No. Everybody was just so absolutely sure it’s not true of them! See this is different than any other kind of sin, this is why Jesus says this is an ‘eye’ sin. This darkens your eye spiritually. You don’t have to say to anybody – Jesus didn’t say to anybody – ‘Watch out! You might be committing adultery.’ I mean if you’re committing adultery, you know you’re committing adultery. You don’t say ‘oh! you’re not my wife!’ It doesn’t happen! But Jesus has to say watch out you might be greedy! You see, because greed hides itself. It blinds you, in a way that adultery doesn’t really. I mean you know if you’re committing adultery.
Over the years as a pastor I’ve had people come in and talk to me about sin, to confess sins. … They come in and they’ll talk about anger, they’ll talk about bitterness and lust, they’ll talk about pride and everything, but I don’t think I ever remember anyone ever coming to me to confess the sin of greed. I don’t think anyone ever came to me and said ‘pastor, I’m materialistic’. Never done it.
What this means is, Jesus is saying ‘you don’t ask’. You don’t consider the possibility that you’re greedy. You just don’t think you are. ‘Me? greedy?’. You think of rich people! The trouble is you’ve all got friends, in fact most of you even have a relative, who’s much more extravagant with money than you are. And that’s all it takes! All you’ve got to do is know somebody who’s really greedy and you don’t even think that you’re greedy. You wouldn’t even consider the possibility that you’re materialistic. That’s the reason why they didn’t come. They were bored! They figured ‘this doesn’t apply to me’.
If you’re there tonight and you say ‘well this is not a problem of mine’ that’s a very bad sign. This is one of the sins that has the sign, a symptom is that i’m sure it’s just not true of me. And therefore Jesus is saying watch out, it’s a sin of your eye, it darkens your eye.
That’s ’til 8 minutes in. You can download the whole podcast (36 mins) on iTunes. I really recommend it, it’s fantastic and I’d transcribe it all if I had the time.
What do you think?