What does it mean to have good eyes or bad eyes, or to be full of light? What does any of that have to do with treasure and wealth?
Last week we met virtually because of the snow storm and I shared the teaching of storing up treasures in heaven for Jesus’ sermon on the hill.
This week we continue in this section regarding the way we view and use wealth as we pick up in Matthew 6:22-34
Matthew 6:22–34 CSB
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 25 “Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
The next set of verses is a confusing section for sure. It talks about LIGHT. It seems totally disconnected with the previous set of verses and the ones that follow it, yet Matthew sandwiches it right between storing up treasures and serving money. ⚡
Matthew 6:22–23 CSB
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness!
Have you ever come across a passage in the Bible that challenges you? This is one of those crazy passages for me. It is also a great time to talk about the way God’s Word speaks to us as we meditate on it.
ENCOURAGEMENT: There are truths that we can capture on a surface reading of the scriptures, but there are also truths that sometimes do not pop out at us until years later. Don’t get discouraged when this happens, it is MEANT to be this way! The more you read and study God’s word the more you will uncover. I have been a Christian for over 40 years, went to Bible college and have been a pastor since 1990 and I am STILL amazed at things I see for the first time.
When I first read this passage I had one thing that I thought it was saying.
ASK: What are some of the things you think these two verses are teaching?
My initial thoughts was, “Well, the eye lets things into my body, and if I focus on the wrong things, or let the wrong things in, it will make my heart bad”. ⚡
It is true that I need to guard what comes in to my vision and only take in that which promotes godliness, right?
Psalm 101:3 LEB
3 I will not set before my eyes any wicked thing. I hate the work of those who fall away; it will not cling to me.
Continuing with this path of thought, I looked at other passages in the Bible that talked about eyes and darkness. Most often, when the Bible refers to people’s eye’s growing dim, it refers to the fact that they were losing their eyesight. Many modern translations have just substituted the words, “blind” or “could not see”, but the phrase commonly used was that their eye grew dim.
1 Kings 14:4 (ESV)
4 … Now Ahijah could not see, for his eyes were dim because of his age.
This same thing is said about Isaac in Genesis 27:1, and Jacob in Genesis 48:10. About Moses, however, we read something a little different:
Deuteronomy 34:7 ESV
7 Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated.
Viewing the eyes in this sense, when the eyes are bad or unhealthy, the body is dark, right? We cannot see - light cannot get in. Metaphorically speaking, this also makes for a great lesson - if our eyes are bad (focusing on the wrong things) then we will be filled with darkness and cannot see the light.
This is how I first interpreted this passage, and I think it represents a truth that is taught in scripture. While the application my be consistent with the rest of scripture, it is really NOT the primary truth of THIS passage.
Let’s go back and read again: Matthew 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”
ask: What is the purpose of a lamp? TO shine OUT.
The Eye is the LAMP of the body. In other words, the eye shines out from the body what is on the inside. ⚡
This is the opposite of what you and I often think, most likely because of our modern science and medicine. From a science perspective, we understand that light passes through the eye and thus into the body. However, we must be careful not to allow our modern science to change the way we “see” scripture (see what I did there?).
The Bible was not created as a biological reference book. While scientifically it is true that light passes into the body through the eye, Hebrew thought appears to have more than one way of viewing the eyes:
The eye reflects OUT what is on the INSIDE.
The condition of the eyes REFLECTS the condition of the whole body. And IF the eye is healthy it demonstrates that the person is healthy. For instance, when a person is full of grief, their eyes grow dim:
Lamentations 5:15–17 CSB
15 Joy has left our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning. 16 The crown has fallen from our head. Woe to us, for we have sinned. 17 Because of this, our heart is sick; because of these, our eyes grow dim:
Notice that the heart is sick (what is on the inside) and the eyes grow dim. A similar usage is found in Job 17:7
Job 17:7 CSB
7 My eyes have grown dim from grief, and my whole body has become but a shadow.
Grief made his eyes dim and his whole being dark - a shadow. Sound familiar?
Having read those two passages, let’s now re-read our Matthew passage:
Matthew 6:22–23 CSB
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness!
So, a second way we may interpret this is that the eyes reflect what is in the heart - they shine out, like a lamp, what is on the inside of a person. If there is sin, grief, despair (darkness) in us, there is no light shining out.
However, there is a phrase in this passage that has troubled me, and I think it helps our understanding of this teaching on light: “If the light in you is darkness”.
Again, when we first read this passage it is easy to just think we get it. But do we really get it? How can light BE darkness? By definition, darkness is the absence of light.
Do any of you own a “flashdark”? You know, something you turn on that will make an area dark when there is too much light? Of course not! But I bet most of you own a “flashlight”.
Darkness exists, light is projected or reflected. Light dispels darkness - which was the first creative act of Genesis: darkness covered the deep and God made light to dispel the darkness.
We were created to project light -> to reflect God is one way that we have put it. While we cannot project darkness into a bright area, the implication here is that if you have darkness in you (if you have no light in you), you cannot dispel the darkness so you are in utter darkness.
Luke seems to give us a little more detail - that we are meant to be lamps that shine light out to others.
Luke 11:33–36 CSB
33 “No one lights a lamp and puts it in the cellar or under a basket, but on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see its light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of the body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is also full of light. But when it is bad, your body is also full of darkness. 35 Take care, then, that the light in you is not darkness. 36 If, therefore, your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be entirely illuminated, as when a lamp shines its light on you.”
What is in your heart is what shines out of your eyes.
Depending on the translation you have, you might come away with one, or both, of these interpretations on this passage:
That what you allow in your eyes can affect your heart.
The eyes reflect the heart - what is in your heart is reflected out to others.
And if you came away with either of those, BRAVO! You are certainly not wrong.
But there is another puzzle in this teaching.
For us to be lights, to reflect light, we have to have light within us. What is that? What does THAT mean? Is it just being a good person? Is it being at peace with ourselves? Is it pure science or knowledge? What does it mean to have light within? ⚡
There is a phrase in Matthew 6:22, “full of light”. It is used in this teaching and only one other place in our New Testament. However, it has some pretty awesome connections to make.
The only other place this word (φωτεινός - phōteinos) occurs is in Matthew 17.
As a side note, if you want to do this in YOUR studies, I strongly recommend a Bible app like Logos!
I want us to read 17:1-6 and see if you can tell me where this word shows up: ⚡
Matthew 17:1–6 CSB
1 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2 He was transfigured in front of them, and his face shone like the sun; his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good for us to be here. If you want, I will set up three shelters here: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased. Listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown and were terrified.
So, where in this passage is the phrase “full of light” found?
It is NOT “shone like the sun” in verse 3, or “white as light” in verse 3. It is in verse 5, “bright cloud”. ⚡While a “bright cloud” seems like a paradox, it is something that has appeared before, in the Hebrew scriptures.
Who is on the mountain with Jesus?
Jesus is on the high mountain with Moses and Elijah. He becomes bright like the sun and white as the light. BUT THEN, there was a bright cloud that covered them and the mountain. From that cloud we hear the voice of the Father, or Yahweh.
Now, let’s reflect on this: Moses, a cloud that has a light in it, and the presence of God. Ring any bells? God appeared to Moses is a cloud in Exodus 24, and in Exodus 34 Moses came away from his encounter with God glowing to the point where he had to cover his face because of his radiance.
Perhaps we should hyperlink this to Exodus 40 and the tabernacle?
Exodus 40:34–38 CSB
34 The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses was unable to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud rested on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36 The Israelites set out whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle throughout all the stages of their journey. 37 If the cloud was not taken up, they did not set out until the day it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and there was a fire inside the cloud by night, visible to the entire house of Israel throughout all the stages of their journey.
There was a cloud with a fire inside it - a light inside it that was visible to Israel. This was the very presence of God. When the cloud of light covered the mountain Jesus was on, the Father spoke. The very presence of God was among them on that mountain, just like it was among Israel in the wilderness.
Going back to our passage in Matthew, if we see this hyperlink of “full of light” and “cloud of light” - the only two uses of this phrase in the NT, we might gain yet another level of understanding on this passage.
Matthew 6:22 CSB
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.
The eye is the lamp/projector of the entire person, of the heart. If your eye is healthy, your whole being is full of the presence of God. OR, when you are being filled with and controlled by the presence of God, you are full of light and you reflect God (project light) to those around you.
Do you see the connection?
To truly have light within us, we would need to have God within us, right? Because God is light - as defined in Exodus and in Matthew 17 and in 1 John: ⚡
1 John 1:5 CSB
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him.
So to be FULL of light, like the cloud of light, is to have the presence of God within us. Now, this is jumping ahead of the story of the sermon on the hill! Since we know the rest of the story, we have the privilege of pointing back and making implications.
Jesus teaches in the sermon on the hill that you and I are to be lights to the nations:
Matthew 5:14–16 CSB
14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Jesus introduces himself as the light that penetrates the darkness. Later, Jesus says this:
John 12:44–46 CSB
44 Jesus cried out, “The one who believes in me believes not in me, but in him who sent me. 45 And the one who sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me would not remain in darkness.
That teaching comes later in Jesus ministry. Remember, we mentioned that the sermon on the hill also acts as an outline of future teachings Jesus will have? I think that is possible here.
The light within does NOT come from science or good works, but from God alone. To be able to reflect God we must be filled with Christ. The Apostle Paul understood this and make this statement: ⚡
Romans 8:9–10 NLT
9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God.
So, a third possible understanding of these verses is that when the spirit of Christ fills us and controls us, we are full of light and act as lights to dispel the darkness around us.
BUT there is more to discover.
I really believe that Matthew is an intentional, details guy. While Luke has scattered these three teachings throughout his narrative, Matthew has put them all together, on purpose. Remember, even the structure of the book is unique: narrative, teachings, narrative, teachings, etc. And Matthew, under the guidance of the Spirit of God, has this sandwiched between these two other teachings:
Don’t store treasures on earth, store them up in heaven
Your eye is a lamp
You cannot serve God and wealth
So WHY is this teaching here and HOW does it apply to the other teachings. To understand that, I think we have to think on this passage some more… see if there is another layer of depth to it.
While the three interpretations we have looked at have certainly connected the HEART to this passage, none of them have addressed the elephant in the room: what does this have to do with wealth? And how does THIS passage relate to the rest of the sermon on the hill, especially this section that is talking about wealth?
To answer that, we need to talk about good eyes and bad eyes.
What is a good eye? Why do some translations use “healthy” instead of good? What is an evil eye or a bad eye? Different translations present this passage in different ways. Apparently, this is a very challenging passage to translate from the original language.
I struggled with this and had to spend some extra time unpacking these words. While the word “evil/bad” that is used int his passage is consistent with the majority of the NT, there is something unique about the word “good” in this passage.
The typical word for “good” in the Greek is not the same as the normal word for “healthy”. ⚡
The typical word for “good” is ἀγαθός (agathos) like later in Matthew 7:11 where Jesus talks about us giving “good gifts to our children”.
The typical word for “healthy” is ὑγιαίνω (hygiainō) from which we get our English word “hygiene”. We read in Luke 5:31 “Jesus replied to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick.” This is the normal word for healthy
Look in your bibles and tell me what word you have in verse 22: “If your eye is _________”
The word in Matthew 6:22 might be healthy or good. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”
HOWEVER, the Greek word used here is NOT the same as agathos (good) or hygiaino (healthy). It is a different word altogether. It is found in other places in the New Testament, but ONLY IN THIS TEACHING (Matthew & Luke) has it been translated healthy! The word is:
ἁπλοῦς (haplous) - sincere, generous
Let me show you a few places “haplous” shows up:
James 1:5 CSB
5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.
God gives wisdom generously - same Greek word. ⚡
Romans 12:6–8 CSB
6 According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; 7 if service, use it in service; if teaching, in teaching; 8 if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.
Giving is to be done with generosity - it is the same root word in Greek as “healthy” in our Matthew passage.
When we understand that Jesus’ listeners would have heard, “if the eye is generous” we can see the wordplay that Jesus is doing here to connect this teaching with the one before it and after it. A “healthy” eye is a “generous” eye. See the connection?
When it comes to this passage in Matthew, I really like the way the Complete Jewish Bible [CJB] translates it. I think it is actually the most consistent with the original language and I like that they add notations to show us how this idiom is understood: ⚡
Matthew 6:22–23 CJB
22 ‘The eye is the lamp of the body.’ So if you have a ‘good eye’ [that is, if you are generous] your whole body will be full of light; 23 but if you have an ‘evil eye’ [if you are stingy] your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
They use good and bad, as do most of our translations. However, since the original word meant generous they add it as an explanation. Then then used that foundation to interpret what a bad or evil eye is - that which is NOT GENEROUS or stingy.
I think that is a very cool translation of this passage.
ON A SIDE NOTE: my least favorite translation of these two verses in the NLT. I normally like the NLT, but I think too much is lost and too much is changed on this passage for my liking. But that is just my opinion, and I encourage you to use a variety of versions of the Bible in your primary language so you can see what other translators who have studied the languages have interpreted as the best understanding.
The person who stores up treasure on earth will not be generous. The person controlled by money will not be generous. They will have bad eyes and be filled with darkness. Darkness representing the absence of light, which they obviously do not have within them.
The generous person is the one who uses his wealth to benefit others. This will be compared to being a person filled with light. Here is how John connected the dots on this teaching: ⚡
1 John 2:10–11 CSB
10 The one who loves his brother or sister remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he’s going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
IF we live for ourselves (stingy) we are full of darkness. We are NOT loving others and therefore NOT living for the kingdom and NOT living in light.
IF we live generously we are full of light, and God fills us to the point where we become lamps that reflect him to the world around us.
SO, we have four possible ways discover truth in these two verses - and all of them are amazing. The one I have heard the most and that I was initially drawn to (the eye taking in light) is probably the least accurate translation, though still a solid biblical truth.
This last understanding of our passage connected all the dots by being consistent with the immediate context (wealth), the broader context (caring for the poor), and the larger context (being fill with the spirit and reflecting God to the world around us).
The last section of this group of teachings has a similar message with a different twist: ⚡
Matthew 6:24 CSB
24 “No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Unlike the last two verses that were full of riddles, this one verse seems to be super blunt and very easy to understand. It talks about being a servant or slave to either God or money. It is a pretty absolute statement.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary (Servant)
In the OT ‘servant’ is a frequent translation of the Hebrew ebed, the literal meaning of which is ‘slave.’ In the NT it translates the Greek doulos, which also has the literal meaning ‘slave.’ The English reader, therefore, must bear in mind that the notion of slave often lies behind the translation ‘servant.’
There is a difference between being bi-vocational and having 2 masters. A slave is not the same as an employee. To be a slave is to be the property of someone. They literally own you.
SLAVE: a person who is legally owned by someone else and whose entire livelihood and purpose was determined by their master.
While this word, “slave”, is not popular to use or talk about, we should understand that, though the Bible has been instrumental in helping to end slavery, it was not uncommon for people to have slaves.
Slavery under the Law of the Israelites was a lot different than under Pharaoh, the Persians or the Romans. It was generally either a punishment, a way to pay back a debt or an agreed upon contract.
Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible Slave, Slavery
By Roman times Slavery was so extensive that in the early Christian period one out of every two people was a slave.
If you can imagine that, then the crowd Jesus was speaking to on the hill would have had many slaves in it. Jesus would certainly have been speaking the language of the people!
Jesus said that loyalties would be divided if you had two masters. If both masters were good, then this might not be the case. However, if the two masters seem to contrast each other, then there will be a division.
By making the claim that there will be a divide, Jesus is saying that service to the two masters he is about to reveal is quite different! His claim is this:
AS YOU SERVE ->
you will HATE one and LOVE the other
this is a negative -> positive
you will be DEVOTED to one and DESPISE the other
this is a positive -> negative
The structure is beautiful: ⚡
You cannot serve two masters
You will hate the one
You will love the other
You will be devoted to one
You will despise the other
You cannot serve God and riches
THIS is the one passage that Luke does not give us extra commentary on. Perhaps because it is pretty clear. You must choose which will be your master: God or riches.
Let’s be clear: MONEY is not evil. The LOVE of money, serving riches is what is wrong:
1 Timothy 6:10 CSB
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Why? Because it becomes a god, an idol that we trust above Yahweh.
Hebrews 13:5 CSB
5 Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.
When we live for money we become its slave: working for it and not for God. Trusting in it and not in God. Hording it instead of being generous with it.
So as we wrap up our section on God and riches, let’s do a quick review:
Store up treasures in heaven -> by using your wealth to help others, especially the poor
Be a light to the world -> by being generous with our wealth, especially to the poor
Serve God with your wealth -> by using your wealth the way He says to
So I guess we can reflect on that was some questions:
How am I using my wealth for heavenly gain?
Am I generous to others, especially those that have nothing to give in return?
Am I controlling or serving my wealth?