“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money.
(Matthew 6:22-24 ESV)
I often refer to the original language of the Bible – Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) – when I study the Bible and also in this blog. Doing so helps expose deeper meaning that is lost in translation from these languages when the Bible is translated into another language.
It also helps to understand customs and sayings of the time period as, they too, help explain some of the passages. Today’s verses are a prime example of this as Jesus references a Hebrew proverb which when translated literally, as it is in the ESV Bible, makes it hard to understand what He is saying in any other language.
This proverb, translated here as “if your eye is healthy” means to be generous. Likewise, the words “if your eye is bad” means to be stingy. This makes sense because the context of what Jesus talked about over the past few days is giving of our earthly treasures for the sake of creating eternal treasures in heaven. This context is continued in verse 24 (“You cannot serve God and money“). So verses 22 and 23 must also be dealing with the same subject matter.
What Jesus is saying here is that if we are generous (which we should be) our whole body will be full of light. That is, when we are not tied to temporary, earthly possessions our lives will be happier. But when we are greedy and buy into the worldly axiom “whoever dies with the most toys wins” then our lives will be full of darkness – we will not be happy.
Chasing after what the world has to offer and attempting to find contentment in such things can never be fulfilling. Doing so makes life a burden. When once asked “How much money is enough?” billionaire John D. Rockefeller famously responded “Just a little bit more”. Earthly things can never satisfy. This includes money but also power, sex, or fame.
We can try to find meaning in these things but we will always be disappointed. Not only that, but the continual disappointment will only make us a slave to those things as we forever attempt to acquire that which cannot be grasped. We can’t serve God and money. None of us can serve two masters. We will always hate one and love the other. We will love God and hate the world or vice-versa.
Note that the word translated “money” here is μαμμονασ (pronounced: mam-mo-nas’) which means “wealth; possessions”, not simply money. In this passage it is referring to anything we acquire in order to give our lives meaning and/or provide a sense of security for the future.
What God has to offer us is eternal and is infinitely more fulfilling than any worldly enticement which can only leave us empty, wanting for more. Our lives can only be fulfilled in Jesus. This is precisely how God wired us. We live in darkness when we try to live any other way.
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