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]