Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Eye: The Lamp of the Body

Biblegems # 284
Watercolor Close-up of a blue eye ‪500 × 282: Free Stock Photo

Question: What did Jesus mean by, “The eye is the lamp of the body”?

Matt. 6:22  The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”

The most obvious meaning of Jesus’ statement is that the eyes function like headlights on a car, illuminating a path to direct the body where we want it to go. In typical fashion, however, Jesus is not speaking of the obvious. Instead, He speaks of the eyes as illuminating the body itself rather than the path in front of the body.  He goes on to say in verse 23: “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!” 

Not only does Jesus reverse the typical use of what the eye accomplishes but He also speaks of some forms of light as being darkness. Either way, the eyes floods the body with light or darkness.

In the context of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus has been drawing a contrast between earthly values and heavenly values, between a finite, material perspective and an eternal perspective. After teaching us to pray for the coming Kingdom of God and His will to be realized on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:9-10) Jesus gives specific examples of what Kingdom behavior looks like: (vv.12-15) forgive those who offend us, (v. 13) steer clear of temptation, (vv.16-17) avoid “people-pleasing” and seek God’s approval, and (vv. 19-21) invest everything in His Kingdom in heaven because, as He taught us to pray, that Kingdom will take over this planet one day soon.

It is within this context that Jesus warns us to filter what we allow into our bodies through our eyes. Our eyes are more than windows; they are “lamps.” The eyes flood the body with visual input that is transferred to the brain, and from the brain to the soul. It’s no secret that what we see visually can quickly affect our emotions, our behavior and what comes out of our mouths. That’s why Jesus taught elsewhere:
         Matt. 12:35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 

What enters your body through your eyes gets permanently stored, good or bad, light or darkness.

This is also why Job declared:
         Job 31:1  “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.”

Your eyelids are not just for protection against dust and shades to help you sleep; they are the “on” and “off” switch for controlling visual stimuli. That’s why David says in the Psalms:
         Ps. 101:3  I will not look with approval on anything that is vile.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.”[i]

[i] “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” Helen H. Lemmel, 1922. Public Domain

Thursday, October 6, 2016

To Tithe Or Not To Tithe

Bible Gems #283

Question: Can you point me in the right direction biblically about tithing? How much do we tithe; how do we know that we are supposed to tithe money; what if I can’t afford to tithe; and was the purpose of tithing to support the church or to provide a sacrifice for God?

Let’s take these questions one at a time, but mix up the order a little.

How Do We Know That We Are Supposed To Tithe Money?
The Scripture says:
         Prov. 3:9            Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce

“Produce” refers to the material return we get for our labor, whether money or anything else:
         2Chr. 31:5-6  As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, olive oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything. The people of Israel and Judah who lived in the towns of Judah also brought a tithe of their herds and flocks and a tithe of the holy things dedicated to the LORD their God, and they piled them in heaps.

How Much Do We Tithe?
The English word “tithe” means “the tenth.” It translates the Old Testament Hebrew word “ma’aser” and the New Testament Greek word “dekate’,” both of which mean “the tenth.”[i] Tithe and tenth are interchangeable.

Tithing is giving God the first 10% (“firstfruits”) of our income, not the leftovers. Of course, where there is no income (“produce”) there is nothing to tithe.

Was The Purpose Of Tithing To Support The Church Or To Provide A Sacrifice For God?
Actually, both are true. Tithing is God’s plan for how His ministers get paid:
Num. 18:21  I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting.

In fact, tithing is God’s plan for supporting not only the priests & Levites (pastors and paid ministers), but also the ministries (worship and spiritual instruction), and the place where these ministries are centralized (Temple / Church facility):
         Deut. 12:11 Then to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the LORD.

In tithing according to God’s Word, we actually become those who receive the blessing in the end:
Mal. 3:10  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

Above all, tithing is a sacrifice to God that reminds us that, “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Ps. 24:1). We own nothing because God owns it all; we are simply managers or stewards of what belongs to Him. Yet, even though that’s true, God entrusts to us 90% of what belongs to Him and asks only 10% in return!

[i] J. D. Douglas, Merrill C. Tenney, The New International Dictionary Of The Bible (Grand Rapids, 1987)