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The Lamp of the Body

October 15th, 2006 | 5 min read

By Tex

One unfortunate result of the West's Christian heritage is that those passages of Scripture that the entire culture can claim as part of its intellectual and moral heritage,  often blind the reader from understanding them and the verses surrounding them in their original context. I have found this to be the case during my study and memorization of the Sermon on the Mount recorded in the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Christ's first discourse contains many pithy sayings such as, "You are the salt of the earth," "Love your enemies," and "Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself." Certainly, each of these statements can be taken at face value and understood as they stand, yet our emphasis and common understanding of these statements has the practical result of making the surrounding verses difficult to understand, disjointed, or easily glossed over. So it was this morning as I read Matthew 6:19—23.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear 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 that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" (emphasis mine)

That little phrase "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" jumped to the forefront of mind, being such a common phrase, that I could hardly make sense of what followed. What does the wise teaching about values and priorities found in verses 19—21 have to do with eyesight, light, and darkness? It is easy enough to preach about (if not to practice) the importance of valuing that which is spiritual over that which is material—and most of us stop there or jump over the next couple verses to the next pithy saying regarding the love of God and the love of money. Today I have decided to consciously fight this impulse and to figure out how the discussion of the eye relates to the preceding proverb.

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