by Kathleen Petersen

The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Matthew 6:22-23 NET

In this word picture, Jesus wasn’t addressing our physical eyesight, but the spiritual lens we use to evaluate and interact with God, other people and circumstances. 

The essential contrasts in this passage are health versus disease, and light versus darkness. Both eyes see the same things. But the healthy eye sees clearly, positively, where the diseased eye sees morbidly, negatively. Jesus adds an emphasis to the morbidity — ”how great is the darkness!” This emphasis suggests hell itself is the trajectory of one who fails to cultivate a sound spiritual eye.

Around 6th century B.C. an occult symbol called the “evil eye” appeared in ancient Greece, accelerated throughout the world, and has persistent influence today.  

The evil eye symbolizes envy and malice. Many cultures believe it comes from coveting another person’s position or possessions. From this jealousy comes negative energy that can bring misfortune and injury to others and oneself.

I’m certain Jesus’ audience was familiar with this symbol and its significance. Jesus’ image of the unhealthy eye was also likely to bring to mind the tenth commandment:

Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Exodus 20:17 CSB

“Coveting”  (“envy”) is aggressive and corrosive. A dictionary search pops up this maze of synonyms: 

yearn to possess or have (something), be consumed with desire for, crave, have one’s heart set on, want, wish for, long for, yearn for, dream of, aspire to, hanker for, hanker after, hunger after/for, thirst for, ache for, fancy, burn for, pant for

greedy, avaricious, acquisitive, covetous, rapacious, grasping, venal, cupidinous, materialistic, mercenary, predatory, usurious, possessive, grabbing, hoarding, Scroogelike, money-grubbing, money-grabbing, grabby, pleonectic, Mammonish, Mammonistic, eager, avid, hungry, craving, longing, yearning, hankering, thirsty, pining, enthusiastic, impatient, anxious, desirous of, dying, itching, hot, gagging

What an unsavory list! Encourage yourself to actively cultivate a healthy spiritual and scriptural eye:

… let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 CSB

Look at the life of
prolific hymn writer Fanny Crosby who suffered blindness at an early age. However, her spiritual eye was healthy. She considered the circumstances of her disability to be the avenue God used to enhance her musical gift as well as spurring her on to serve the underprivileged. 

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