The lamp of the body

Matthew 6:22-23
22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.
23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

Last evening, I felt like I really didn’t want to watch another television program, and so I sat down and opened my Good Book to Matthew chapter 6. The thought going through my heart was that I wanted to fill myself with the Word rather than with the unraveling of yet another English mystery. As I read through the Sermon on the Mount, these two verses jumped out at me, called to me to be meditated upon. So I sat down to consider the words I was reading.

The first thing that struck me is the wording of the phrase “lamp of the body.” Although Jesus had told us earlier that we are “the light of the world” and that we are not to let the light of our lives be hidden (Matthew 5:14-15), here He is saying something quite different. The lamp of the body is that which brings light INTO the body, into the wholeness of our being. By saying that our eye–or our vision–is the lamp of our body, Jesus is telling us that our body receives light from the way we see the world. As He says, if our eye or vision is good, then our whole body will be full of light, will be illuminated.

The word we have translated here as “good” (or “single” in the King James, “healthy” in the ESV) is the Greek word απλους (haplous), which literally means twined together, made into one. When the whole of our vision is twined together into one vision, one way of seeing what is before us, then the wholeness of our being is illuminated by that vision. That singularity of vision is especially appropriate in the context of these verses, because they are immediately followed by Jesus admonishing us that we cannot serve both God and mammon (Matthew 6:24)–i.e. we cannot have two visions, we cannot be of two minds. We must choose to have a singular focus upon Jesus Christ, who alone can enlighten our lives.

Oh, but if our eye is bad, then we will not see the light of Jesus! Here we have another Greek word–πονηρός (poneros)–that is full of meaning. It means evil or hurtful, something that causes anguish or pain. When our vision of life is evil, when we see things not through eyes of faith but with a mind toward malice and darkness, then our whole being will be infused with that darkness. And again we have a wonderful Greek word–σκότος (skotos)–that means not just darkness but obscurity, something that is clouded, making it hard to see through.

Although we are meant to be a shining city on a hill, we cannot shine forth if the light that is in us is obscured or clouded by the darkness of our own vision. Singleness of vision leads to clarity and light, but splitting our vision–trying to make our eyes see things through both a worldly lens and a Godly lens–only darkens our whole being. Worse yet, as Jesus notes, if the light that is in us is darkness–clouded, obscured–then that darkness just becomes greater and greater. Only the singular vision of Jesus Christ will drive away the darkness.


John 8:12
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

We can choose to have a singular, healthy vision of Jesus Christ, or we can choose to have a vision that is clouded by worldly concerns. We can see the Lord our God as the one shining point in our lives, or we can try to imagine many obscure points of light that never do more than confuse us and darken our vision of the world. We can look at the world through the eyes of someone who is saved by grace through faith, or we can look for other ways to try to get something that is already ours, thus clouding our vision of the prize that is before us. We can allow our vision to be perfected through focusing on the gospel and on the love of God in Christ, or we can try to perfect ourselves and fail miserably because we stumble in the darkness of our own vision.

It was no accident that last night I felt like I needed to be filled with God’s Word rather than worldly things, and so came across today’s verses. Only the Lord our God could have brought me to those words. He is trying to tell us all that we need to be wholly focused upon Jesus Christ so that our whole body–heart, mind, and soul–can be enlightened, made to shine bright all on its own. The light of our lives doesn’t shine forth from our eyes, it shines into the world from the integrity–the singleness, the twining together–of our actions and our faith.


Hebrews 12:1-3
1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

Jesus, our Lord and Savior, had that singular vision, that whole focus upon God the Father. Jesus looked neither to the right nor to the left but kept His eyes upon the prize that was set before Him. We can do that, too, because we are strengthened by His Holy Spirit–He who guides and counsels us, who leads us to righteousness and truth. Our eye can be clear and whole when we set our vision upon Jesus. And having set our eyes upon Him, we may follow Him out of darkness and into light.

We have an opportunity to decide for ourselves what we want to see, where we want to look, what we want within the bounds of our vision. We need not be bound to worldly things by the society around us. We need not be let our eyes and our hearts be distracted by “mammon”–wealth, worldly success, fame, temporary glory. Let us set our eyes upon the One who can illuminate our souls. Yes, we will have to stand in that light, and we cannot hide from His gaze, but having been washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ, we can stand without shame and allow His light to enter us and cleanse our hearts. Let us open our eyes to Jesus, looking clearly at Him and the wondrous cross where He died for our sins, and see for ourselves the light that will illuminate our bodies and bring us eternal life.

Holy Lord Jesus, we praise You for being the shining light of our lives. Help me, precious Lord, to see You more clearly, to love and cherish the Father as You do, to be obedient and singularly focused upon Him. Teacher, guide my vision so that I never look away, am never distracted by worldly things. As the old song goes, Lord, “Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart. Naught be all else to me save that Thou art.” Amen.

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About Glenn Pettit

I am a deacon at The Well of Iowa, and husband to a beautiful wife and the father of four lovely kids. Called to teach and to preach, I write fresh messages about the Bible every now and then.
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