The Light of the Body is the Eye

This week’s scripture reading – Matthew 6:22-23, 

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great [is] that darkness!

Single Defined

What is the light of the eyes and what is the meaning of the light of the body is the eye? Readers will find a theme throughout this study on the light of the body is the eye in that a contrast is drawn between spiritual light and darkness. But first, let us define a key term used above. The use of the Greek word for “single” in the New Testament is interestingly found only here in this verse and the same cross referenced verse in Luke. Single, or rather “singleness of your heart” has relevance in the context of this passage. This is also described in Eph. 6:5 and Col. 3:22; therefore this is more of a moral discussion on living right for God.

Scriptural Interpretation

Also to note, the preceding verse to this one deals with what people should treasure in life and the verse following this one deals with who people should serve in life. Taking the entire sermon on the mount together, it tends to cover numerous independent but interrelated topics. So in short, you have just in three passages alone, what do you treasure in life, where is your heart in terms of spiritual light and darkness and who do you serve which will be the focus of next week’s study.

Another telltale context for this passage is the reference to darkness and that being a darkness which emanates from an internal, or spiritual perspective. This tends to harmonize far better with the general theme in scripture rather than interpretation of the message from any notion of a physical health point of view of a person’s eye, especially in light of the phrase, if thine eye be evil. Evil does not necessarily pertain to physiology. With this preliminary context, let us now delve into the theme of spiritual light and darkness based on a study of extensive scripture. A second cup of coffee is highly recommended!

because of the blindness of their heart.

Ephesians 4:18b

Spiritual Darkness

Let us look at Paul’s letters first. He refers to an internal spiritual darkness that affects people’s understanding or comprehension as a result of a blindness of the heart, in Eph. 4:18, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. This spiritual blindness has its origin in the god of this world, Satan.

Paul further illustrates this by describing it now as a blinding of the mind in 2 Cor. 4:4-6, But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. There is indeed evidence of an ever present distinction in scripture between light with God and darkness with Satan.

the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not,

2 Corinthians 4:5

Jesus stated later in the gospel of Matthew, that this spiritual blindness also tended to perpetuate itself with the religious leaders of that day as noted in Matt. 15:14, Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. The apostle John emphasized the same message by contrasting Jesus as the light coming into the world against the prevailing spiritual darkness that already existed in the world in John 3:19, And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. These verses all harmonize with this week’ scripture, If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great [is] that darkness!

Most notably, this darkness is not even able to understand the true light that has come into the world as further noted in John 1:4-5, In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. During Paul’s long dissertation in his letter to believers in Rome, he also wrote of this dilemma as shown in Rom. 1:21, Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

their foolish heart was darkened

Romans 1:21b

Spiritual Light

Jesus was unequivocal in his message though to declare that he was indeed the true and everlasting light and that believers in him would transition from a place of darkness to one of light as noted in John 8:12, Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. 

Jesus also likened believers as God’s children of light in John 12:35, Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. Paul also drew parallels from this same theme in one of his letters as recorded in 1 Thess. 5:4-5, But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

For ye were sometimes darkness, but now [are ye] light in the Lord: walk as children of light.

Ephesians 5:8

Paul also remarked of this light figuratively as armour for believers to wear for spiritual protection in his letter to believers in Rom.13:12, The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. For people who think they somehow must be good enough before coming to God, (since individuals are typically dwelling in spiritual darkness before coming to Christ), the following verse should give some assurance as Paul noted in Eph. 5:8, For ye were sometimes darkness, but now [are ye] light in the Lord: walk as children of light.

This week’s passage of scripture therefore, while referencing the eye as the proverbial window to the soul, is also giving reference to one’s heart, or inner motives as recorded here in 2 Cor. 4:6, For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Here lies the correlation of the light of the body as the eye to our hearts.

Emanating Light

There are also some remarkable references to light in scripture as it relates to the radiance from the eternal God and the effect it had upon certain individuals. John the Baptist was described as a light by Jesus in John 5:35, He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. After being with the Lord for forty days, Moses was similarly described in Ex. 34:30,  And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they  were afraid to come nigh him. Stephen was described as having a form of heavenly radiance in Acts 6:15, And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

Jesus himself was described as radiating light in Matt. 17:2, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. The very notion of the Lord being described as the eternal light is also referenced in Rev. 21:23, And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb [is] the light thereof. Finally, on this point, the apostle John shares a very clear message of God as the eternal light in 1 John 1:5, This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. * (raiment – clothing)

And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

Matthew 17:2

Hope in the Light

All of this in context begs the question then for believers, how should one live and walk in a world filled with spiritual darkness? David highlighted this widespread predicament in the Old Testament in his writings in Ps. 82:5, They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. Solomon in all his gifted wisdom also wrote of this in Prov. 4:19, The way of the wicked [is] as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.

But, there is good news for people seeking a better way out of the darkness because Christ has come into the world to bring light as prophesied in Is. 9:2, The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. This is why Paul taught believers similar passages referencing prophetic teachings as noted in Eph. 5:14, Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

The way of the wicked [is] as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.

Proverbs 4:19

Visiting again the prophecy shared many centuries earlier, the passages of scripture now start to all come together in Is. 60:1-3, Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Clearly, there are countless scripture references that relate to the light of the body is the eye. * (Gentiles – non-Jewish people)

Christ is our Light

Therefore, to live and walk as believers in a world often filled with darkness, we are to follow Jesus, his will for our life and obey his word as he shared in Matt.5:14-16, Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. This is why the early disciples of Jesus also affirmed their position in life, (again referencing prophecy from Isaiah) after envious Jews endeavoured to derail their ministry as noted in Acts 13:47, For so hath the Lord commanded us, [saying,] I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. 

Pauls’ letters help to outline the position believers should pursue in the world amidst the darkness as shared in Phil. 2:15, That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world. In another one of his letters, Paul was also quick to counsel believers in their daily walk in the Lord as recorded in Eph. 5:11, And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove [them.] * (rebuke – to reprimand) * (reprove – to correct, gently)

The apostle John further drew upon this distinctive walk with the Lord in 1 John 1:6-7, If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. John also noted how relationships with other people will affect and reflect one’s walk in Christ as noted in 1 John 2:11, But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

Living as Light

To close off this Bible study on the light of the body is the eye, people should take this opportunity to contemplate and pray upon the singleness of their eyes, or heart, and determine where their own focus is in life. Each and every person must ultimately decide between light and darkness in their daily walk as expressed by Jesus in John 3:19-21, And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.

Isaiah 60:20

For some, this may draw some conviction while reading through the many verses contrasting light with darkness. Hopefully it will give reason to make a decision in putting their faith in Jesus Christ as their living saviour and redeemer. There is nothing greater in life than to come to this realization and experience the transforming change from new birth in Christ. 

Two parting verses from scripture should help inquiring people in this regard with the first as noted in Is. 60:19-20, The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. Finally, from an eternal perspective the apostle John closes with this encouraging verse in Rev. 22:5, And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. With this knowledge of the light of the body is the eye, let us now bring the light of Christ to a dark world in need!

Bible Study Questions

  1. Why do you think Jesus describes inward light with the phrase, The light of the body is the eye?
  2. Fill in the blanks. ___________ is to God as ___________ is to Satan.
  3. In John 1:5, does the darkness understand the light of Jesus? Yes or no and why (bonus points).
  4. In Proverbs 4:19, why do you think it associates wickedness with darkness?
  5. Why do you think there is often a fascination with spiritual darkness in the world?
  6. In John 3:19-21, what is associated with coming to the light?
  7. Describe how the last two verses of this study (Is. 60:20, Rev. 22:5) give you hope for living in the light of Christ.
  8. Bonus! The light of the body is the eye study contains 32 scripture references. Memorize at least one this week.

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