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Eye as Lamp of the Body


EYE AS LAMP OF THE BODY

Like the symbolic meaning of the heart, the eye also has a similar spiritual significance. The Hebrews considered the eye as the window to the heart or the soul of a person. Since about 80% of a person’s perception comes through eyesight, the eye represents the understanding of a person. Before the scientific study on the eye, people believed the eye was the light of the body that helps to see things.

The metaphorical meaning of eyesight in the Bible is the gift of understanding the spiritual truths in life. The Israelites lacked faith and disobeyed God in the desert despite witnessing the miracles He did for them. So, Moses told them, “the LORD has not given you a heart to understand, or eyes to see, or ears to hear until this day” (Deut 29:3). Though they had physical eyesight, they lacked the spiritual meaning of what they saw. So, the Israelites prayed, “Open my eyes to see clearly the wonders of your law” (Ps 119:18). When we turn away from God, we end up in spiritual darkness that affects our spiritual destiny. During Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance, “he opened their (disciples’) minds to understand the scriptures” (Lk 24:45). Though they could read or listen to the scriptures, they needed an additional gift to understand them. That is the eyes of the heart or the eye of understanding (Eph 1:18).

The eye also represents the spiritual or philosophical view of a person. So, a person who has the physical eye can have a positive or negative understanding depending on how he perceives things. That is why people interpret the same reality differently. Society considers those who practice morality or faith as people of light and those who behave badly as people of darkness.

EYE AS LAMP OF THE BODY

Jesus compares the eye (singular) to a lamp (Mt 6:22-23). Since people in the past understood the eye as the doorway to our soul, they considered it as a lamp to perceive the spiritual meaning. Babies take weeks and even months after birth to see things clearly. In our spiritual birth, we must be born in the Spirit of God for our spiritual vision. Hence Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (Jn 3:3). Such persons “look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:18).

Jesus gave importance to spiritual vision rather than physical eyesight or blindness. While Jesus was travelling through Jericho, a blind beggar shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” When people asked him to keep quiet, he repeated his shouts (Lk 18:35-39). Though physically blind, he had the spiritual sight to understand Jesus as the Messiah whereas people with normal physical eyesight failed to recognize Jesus as the Christ.

In the metaphorical sense, a person with a sound eye means an upright person, or the one who has the right vision of the world. Hence, such a person would radiate goodness or light from his spiritual eyesight. A person with a bad or diseased eye stands for an evil person who causes trouble for himself and for the people around. Sir Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” Similarly, a believer sees God’s providence in the trials of life and acts on the promptings of the Holy Spirit that dwells in him. A non-believer would try to understand on the basis of natural law only and would lack inner sight.

Paul distinguishes between natural and spiritual persons. Only those who have the Spirit of God within them can understand the underlying spiritual realities. “And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms. Now the natural person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can judge everything but is not subject to judgement by anyone. For ‘who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:11-16).

If the lamp is bright, we can view everything well, and if it is dim or does not light up, then we cannot see. The same is the case with spiritual eyesight. When people saw the miracles of Jesus, they believed in him. Others found fault with him and rejected his message. Thus, the views differed among the listeners of Jesus. Quoting Isaiah, Jesus spoke to his disciples about those who rejected him, “Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’ ‘But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear’” (Mt 13:13-16). So, looking with the eyes of faith is essential for conversion and eternal salvation.

John the Baptist and John the Evangelist introduced Jesus as the light that illumines the world. “What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (Jn 1:3-9). Jesus presented himself as the light of the world. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).

Jesus wanted his disciples also to become the light for those around them who are in darkness. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:14-16). So, the light we receive from Jesus and his Church would help us illumine ourselves and brighten the lives of others in this world of darkness.

When religious individuals like the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees deviated from the genuine spirit of religion, they ended up in spiritual darkness. Jesus compares this to the blind people moving around hitting obstacles and falling into ditches.
When leaders become corrupt, they cause destruction to their followers. Hence, their spiritual blindness is more dangerous than that of the ordinary people. Referring to the Scribes and the Pharisees who came from Jerusalem, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a pit” (Mt 15:14). Hence, their spiritual darkness led the people away from the light of God. So, Jesus warns, “Take care, then, that the light in you does not become darkness” (Lk 11:35). Instead, he advises to illumine others with the spiritual light we receive from Jesus like a lamp lit on a lampstand. “No one who lights a lamp hides it away or places it under a bushel basket, but on a lampstand so that those who enter might see the light” (Lk 11:33).


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