Many statements made by Jesus contain a depth of information not to be discerned by the careless reader. One such statement is the potent lesson given by Jesus when he reveals “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (KJV Matthew 6:22).
A few questions that may arise when this passage is read are: How is the eye the light of the body? How is a person’s eye supposed to be ‘single’ when they have two eyes? What does single mean anyway, doesn’t it mean one? How does the eye being single make it full of light?
“The light of the body is the Eye”
The world of Biology teaches that the eye is the only organ of the body that contains photoreceptors which convert light signals into nerve impulses which are then converted to mental images in the optical area of the brain. Thus for the biologist the eye is merely the organ of the body that receives and decodes light so that the brain can place an interpretation on it. The philosopher however sees the eye as the organ through which people can receive information about your inner condition and the iridologist sees in the eye an opportunity to diagnose people. In “Longman’s Dictionary of Contemporary English” the eye is given 40 uses with example sentences included. So what did Jesus mean?
First and foremost we need to recognize that Jesus was not here speaking of the natural eyes. The physical eyes of those around Him were wide open and those whose eyes were blind needed only to make request of the “Great Physician” and they would receive healing in a moment. A clearer understanding of what Jesus referred to when He spoke of the eye comes when one looks at the incident as recorded in John 9 after the healing of the blind man.
“And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.’ And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, ‘Are we blind also?’ Jesus said unto them, ‘If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth’” (John 9:39-41).
Thus in John 9:39-41 we are taught that the eye that Jesus seeks to open more than anything is the “eye” of spiritual discernment. “Longman’s dictionary of Contemporary English” lists the second use of eye as, “way of seeing/understanding.” But here we meet upon a second challenge. Jeremiah reveals that “the heart,” our human understanding without God, “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Yet the Savior’s words are “the light of the body is the eye.” Clearly then Jesus recognizes that our way of understanding things can be so radically transformed that our perception becomes the agent through which God can bring light to us. Paul draws into agreement with this thought when he reveals that the eyes of our understanding can be enlightened when “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation” gives us knowledge of Jesus (cf Ephesians 1:15-18). Which brings us to the next phrase:
“If thine eye be single”
The Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary in defining “single” under number 5b gives the following definition for single: “exclusively attentive.” The same dictionary presents the following as its example passage “an eye single to the truth.” If a person’s perceptive powers are removed from the sources of error and become “exclusively attentive” to sources of truth, then through the power of the Holy Spirit truth will be the thing that pours into that person’s life.
Jesus declares that God’s “Word is truth,” and the psalmist informs us that the same Word is “a lamp … and a light” (John 17:17; Psalm 119:105). Jesus is the personification of the Word and is justly referred to by John as “the WORD of God” (Revelation 19:13). Jesus carries the figure still further in pointing to himself as the personification of truth and light (John 14:6; 9:5).
The eye, our understanding, must be found searching the scriptures under the influence of the “Spirit of Christ” that we will be able to obtain a “revelation of Jesus” (John 5:39; 1 Peter 1:11; Revelation 1:1). It is when we search the scriptures “with all our heart” that we behold “the Glory of the Lord” and “are transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (John 5:39; Jeremiah 29:13; ASV 2 Corinthians 3:18). Which leads us to the last phrase:
“Thy whole body shall be full of light.”
Luke is more emphatic in saying, “full of light, having no part dark” (KJV Luke 11:36). Scientists view light and darkness as diametric opposites and both cannot exist in the same place. Where light is darkness cannot exist. The scientist defines darkness as the absence of light; thus science teaches that in order for a place to become dark it must lose light. The lesson of Christ gains new clarity; through reliance on truth we are safeguarded against error.
Jesus encourages us to remember that what we perceive affects our spirituality and when our perceptions are guided by “the truth” and the “Spirit of Wisdom” we are able to make choices that produce a transformational effect that changes us into centers of light (Luke 11:36; Matthew 5:14-16). Jesus lived this when “the word became flesh.” He was “full of … truth” and thus “in him [there was] no darkness at all” (John 1:14; 1 John 1:5). Peter reveals that Jesus was not only our sacrifice but His life was an “example that we should follow in His steps” and John reveals that we should “walk even as He walked” (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). By being “partakers of the divine nature” and being “filled with all the fullness of God” we too can be “full of light having no dark part” and thus we would “give glory to Him” “who hath called [us] out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (2 Peter 1:4; Ephesians 3:19; Luke 11:36; Revelation 14:7; 1 Peter 2:9).
“We are to have an eye single to the glory of God. We are to work with all the intelligence that God has given us, placing ourselves in the channel of light, that the grace of God can come upon us to mold and fashion us to the divine similitude” (Ellen Gould White, Amazing Grace, 272).