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Does what you see determine who you are? Or does the light within you determine what you see?
"The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" Matthew 6:22-23 NKJV
Light Which Is Really Darkness
In this section Jesus is talking about how we use our money and whether money dominates our living. These two verses about the good eye and the bad eye are tucked in between "Don't stockpile your treasures on earth; put them in heaven instead" and "You cannot serve two masters . . . . God and mammon."
The eye is the lamp of the body. Think of that imagery in relation to your attitude toward money. If your attitude is wholesome, your whole body will be full of healthy light and generosity. If your attitude is harmful, you will be full of selfishness, envy, corruption, lies, greed, and Scrooge-like stinginess. You will be like those who grab for themselves without regard for anyone else. Then all possibility for light within you is blocked by a very great darkness.
Jesus was on a subject that is very sensitive to us. We all want to think that we are not guilty. We control our desires in regards to money. We handle it OK. It doesn't interfere with our religious faith. Money is certainly not our idol. Yet Jesus treats the subject of money as though to love having money is to disobey the very first Old Testament commandment: "You shall have no other gods before Me."
To clarify things, or to add intrigue to what he was saying, Jesus used an illustration. Some have called these verses a metaphor or a parable. I heard recently that a parable has 3 elements; it contains something familiar, it weaves in a surprise, and leaves us with the question, "What was that all about?" So let's look at these verses as a parable. Light enters the body through the familiar images of lamp and eye. A healthy eye allows light to fill the body. A bad eye has no light passing through it and therefore the body is dark. And worst of all--here is the surprise--is light which is not light but is actually great darkness!
Most explanations of this passage place people of faith, like you and me, in the "good eye, full of light" category, and puts unbelievers in the "bad eye, full of darkness" category. But having gotten this far in our studies of the Gospel, we know to look for the shocker and we know it's going to hit us hard and demand big changes. The greatest darkness, Jesus said in this parable, is in the lives of those who think they are full of light! Yikes, that's us! We have deceived ourselves into thinking we live in the light when in reality our Christian growth is stunted by a very great darkness!
So where do we go from here? Are we going to sugarcoat the words of Jesus or hear him out? Can we stand to hear what we do not want to know? As I type these words, I'm searching high and low, trying to find a comfortable exit. Some alterative, some nice way to rephrase what Jesus said. I cannot find it.
At another point in time Jesus told his listeners it was harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than it was for a camel to go through an eye of a needle. Jesus may have used a little exaggeration to make sure we got the message, but he meant what he said. Could it be that we, both average and properous, stand outside God's kingdom looking in because we carry so much with us and can't get it all through that "eye of the needle"?
What is it that makes us search out the most lucrative job we can find as though money were an end in itself? We pride ourselves on finding bargains, not stopping to consider that bargains come mostly at the expense of workers who are not fairly paid. We delight in our profits without pausing to think whether our gains resulted from a loss that came out of someone else's pocket. The greatest darkness is reserved for those who think they live in the light but are deceiving themselves.
Jesus started this section by telling us to store our treasure in heaven, not on earth. He will continue by charging us to decide where our loyalty and faith resides--in God or in our finances. And he concludes with words about worry, trust, and the priority of God's kingdom.
A good eye sees these words of Jesus as they are. A call to make some big decisions. An invitation to follow the inner voice of our true Master. A challenge to put our faith in God's generosity. A summons to go out and love the poor and share with the needy in all walks of life.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: How do you feel about the Salvation Army bell-ringers? Have you ever been one? Do you contribute? Why or why not?
How did Jesus support himself? It seems he traveled by foot throughout the land, accepting whatever hospitality was offered or living off the grain in the fields and the fish in the sea. Who else, throughout history or in our own time, lived this way? What does it mean for you to live in faith, and trust your needs to God?
Faith ventures always require enablers, those dependable people back home or along the way who provide financial support and hospitality. What are some "faith ventures" to which you contribute? If you would rather give hospitality than receive it, you could get some direction from Matthew 25:34-36.
The Message (Bible) paraphrases the passage this way: "Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!" What does it mean to "pull the blinds"?
Why might Jesus have used the image of the eye in his discussion of money? How do your eyes affect your spending and giving habits?We are told in the Ten Commandments that we are not to covet. Covet means to have an eye on something which we are hankering after. For many of us, that means material possessions. How serious is the sin of covetousness?
I have been taught to believe that God always gives more than God takes. If Jesus wants to take away our dependence upon money, what does he offer us in return? Are there things in your life which just have to go, and you need to give them up, in order to enter the kingdom of heaven?
Did you ever study or seriously discuss what Jesus said about money? When we think about our attitudes and actions regarding financial matters, are they consistent with the beatitudes and other teachings of Jesus? Or are they the opposite?
When you are generous in giving to those in need, are you left poorer or richer?Is love a magic penny - the more you spend, the more you have?