Jesus is preaching His Sermon on the Mount, addressed to both His disciples and the crowd gathered there. As such, and in consideration of their relatively simple lives, He often speaks using metaphors and analogy. Such tools allow that deep truths and complex ideas can be articulated succinctly without the need for prior education, big words or a lengthy introduction. Now teaching about the use of money, He once again expresses a most profound truth using simple imagery, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
We know that the eye is simply a lens and gatherer of light, but the people of His day believed that the eye was an actual source of light. So His metaphor has a more solid landing in their thinking then ours, even though what He said more accurately lines up with modern science – light does enter the eye and ‘illumine’ the body (if we take the body as the mind). But the imagery Jesus uses actually transcends a modern human understanding of physics. He uses a metaphor for a metaphor to explain something that would otherwise take many days to explain, and the result is that we can innately grasp what He is saying, “As the lamp is an image for the eye, so the eye in turn is an image for the human capacity to absorb from what is available externally.”
In other words, what Jesus is teaching is only grasp-able by those who can think straight – those who “have light coming into their bodies,” so to speak. Others, who have “bad eyes” – and so cannot grasp Jesus’ profound truth – are left completely in the dark as to what He is saying and completely unable to apply that truth in any capacity whatsoever. One must therefore understand that Jesus is not just hinting at something. He is raising the stakes on the value of what He is teaching. In fact, He is raising a huge red flag over it. He is telling us that we will completely miss the point if we are not very careful, and our lostness on that point will be severe.
Certainly that can apply to the entire Sermon. But if so, how much more so His teaching on money? For immediately prior to talking about lamps, eyes and light, Jesus was saying, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Immediately after talking about lamps, eyes and light, Jesus says, “You cannot serve both God and Money.” The metaphor within a metaphor He uses cannot therefore be understood merely as a tool to communicate an erudite thought. It is a flag. It is a flare. A spotlight even, to tell us that our love of money will cloud our thinking and greatly diminish our spiritual insight.
That is because while we sit and listen to Jesus preaching, our minds are illuminated and clear. But if we do not park our thoughts on what He has just told us, the moment we turn back to normal daily life the pressures and concerns of that daily life will completely overshadow what He just taught. Therefore let us be wise. Let us be of sound mind. Let us think clearly. And let us remember that the economy of God is not built on fiat currency, or on stocks and bonds, or on derivatives and debt, or on real estate or on private equity, or on silver and gold. It is built on gift and sacrifice for His glory.
And that idea we can take to the bank. Amen.
The undivided eye is singularly focused on eternal things; storing up treasures in heaven. The person with a good eye serves only God, not money. Since they are undivided in their commitment to God, they are also generous with their money in responding to the needs of the kingdom.Alan P. Stanley
What will you do today to ensure your eyes are good?