Monday, August 04, 2008

Where your treasure is, hey, what's this about eyes?

One of the pitfalls of memorizing Scriptures in bits of just 1-2 verses is the temptation to look at those 1-2 verses without understanding their context. I memorized Matthew 6:22, and on a different occasion memorized Matthew 6:19-21. I memorized them separately, thought about them separately, reviewed them separately, and until recently didn't connect them. To figure out how they were connected, though, I needed most of the chapter, i.e., verses 1-25. Here's how it happened.

In a recent sermon, we read a passage of Scripture together. Matthew chapter 6 verse 19, verse 20, 21, 24... hey, what happened to 22-23? Here's the passage as I remember it:
19Do not store up treasures for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where no thief comes near. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22The eye is the lamp of the body. If therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Matthew 6:19-24
The passage is sensible as shown here, but if you want to see the blacked-out text, you can "select" it with the mouse, or type ctrl-A (or Apple-A on your Mac).

What's that about? It wasn't obvious to me, so I looked a little bit before and after this passage. Verse 25 begins: "Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life". H'm... as Ray Stedman used to say, "When you see a therefore, find out what it's there for."

What is that "therefore" doing there? Look at verses 24-25:
No one can serve two masters... you cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore do not worry about your life.

But verses 17-18 are more helpful; they talk about getting a reward from our heavenly father. Actually, if we go back to the beginning of chapter 6, things start to make more sense. Here's my take on it:
  • (1) Don't do your 'acts of righteousness' to be seen by men, or you'll have no reward from your father in heaven
    • (4) if you give to the needy in secret and get no praise from men, your father in heaven will reward you
    • (6) your father will reward prayer done in secret
    • (8) Your father knows what you need before you ask
    • (14-15) your father will forgive as you forgive others
    • (18) your father will reward fasting done without theatrics
  • (19-21) Treasures on earth (the praise/esteem of men, and material things) will dissipate; they'll dilute your attention.
  • (22-24) Be careful of where your focus is! It's impossible to have your focus on multiple goals
  • (25) Therefore, because your father will reward you for all these things, do not worry
As you can see, I think verses 19-21 are a sort of wrapup to verses 1-18; they're not exclusively about money as such, but as one of many "treasures" that might distract us and obscure our focus.

What then do we do? We have to put feet on our faith -- we have to walk, move, whatever, in a direction consistent with faith. That's how we keep our eyes clear. So when we pray, we do it alone; when we give to the poor, we don't announce it; when someone wrongs us, we forgive. And we do all this with confidence that God has a reward for us in heaven -- where our true treasure awaits.
... our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly await a savior, Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power he has even to subject all things to himself.
Philippians 3:20-21, approximately


Michael F. Martin said...

I knew from a while back that historically some philsophers/scientists believed that light emanates from the eye rather than being received by it:

(Plato thought the eye emanated light; Aristotle thought it received light)

But what I didn't know is that this passage (along with a few others) have been interpreted to refer to the "third eye," which Descartes, among others, has associated with the Pineal gland.

The reasoning connecting the pineal gland to any mystical functions is of course rather shaky. But it's an interesting historical note. The pineal gland secretes the hormone melatonin, which is what gives your body sensitivity to light and dark, thereby establishing circadian rhythms. So not exactly an eye; but sensitive to light and dark!

Chris James said...

Collin! How interesting that you've been reflecting on the same curiosity as I have! What I've noted in this passage is that the eye talk is between two pieces that talk about $$ and in a larger context about possessions and provision in general. My tentative conclusion is that Jesus is highlighting the importance of perspective. Our eyes are that through which we view the world. More specifically, it is our eyes that perceive the material goods of the world and how we look at them (or think about them) makes all the difference. Our perception and conception of the world around us is incredibly powerful. When we see an ipod, do we see the path to joy, or a commodity? You might say that where the eye perceives value there the heart will be also. What we see determines who we will worship -- and we can only worship one. What do you think?

collin said...

Indeed. "Turn your eyes upon Jesus..." like the song says, and in 1 John 3, we have that "we shall be like him **for** we shall see him as he is"