Matthew 6:22
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore your eye be single, your whole body shall be full of light.
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(22) The light of the body.-Literally, the lamp of the body. So in Proverbs 20:27, “The spirit of man is the candle (or ‘lamp’) of the Lord”—that which, under the name of “conscience,” the “moral sense,” the “inner man” discerns spiritual realities, distinguishes right from wrong, gives the light by which we see our way. If this is “single,” if it discerns clearly, all is well. The “whole body,” the life of the man in all its complex variety, will be illumined by that light. The connection with what precedes lies on the surface. Singleness of intention will preserve us from the snare of having a double treasure, and therefore a divided heart.

Matthew 6:22. The light — Or lamp rather, as ο λυχνος should be translated, of the body, is the eye — That is, it is by the eye that a person has light to direct him in his bodily motions, and in the use of his bodily members. If therefore thine eye be single Απλους, simple, not mixed with noxious humours, but clear and sound; so both Chrysostom and Theophylact understand the expression, considering it as synonymous with υγιης, whole; thy whole body shall be full of light — Every member of thy body shall be enlightened by the light of thine eye, and directed to perform its proper office. But if thine eye be evil — Gr. πονηρος, rendered νοσωδης, morbid, by Theophylact, and distempered, by Dr. Campbell, who observes, “that there is no reference to the primitive meaning of απλους, single, is evident from its being contrasted to πονηρος, evil, bad, or disordered, and not to διπλους, double. Our Lord’s argument,” adds he, “stands thus: The eye is the lamp of the body: from it all the other members derive their light. Now if that which is the light of the body be darkened, how miserable will be the state of the body! how great will be the darkness of those members which have no light of their own, but depend entirely on the eye!” Thus “if the conscience, that mental light which God has given to man for regulating his moral conduct, be itself vitiated, what will be the state of his appetites and passions, which are naturally blind and precipitate?” To the same purpose speaks Macknight, only using the term reason, instead of conscience. “As the body must be well enlightened if its eye is sound and good, or greatly darkened if it is spoiled with noxious humours; so the mind must be full of life, if reason, its eye, is in a proper state; or full of darkness, if it is perverted by covetousness, and other worldly passions; but with this difference, that the darkness of the mind is infinitely worse than the darkness of the body, and attended with worse consequences, inasmuch as the actions of the mind are of far greater importance to happiness than those of the body.” Baxter and Dr. Doddridge understand the words in nearly the same sense, interpreting the word eye of the practical judgment. “If thy judgment be sound,” says the former, “and thou knowest the difference between laying up treasure in heaven and on earth, it will rightly guide all the actions of thy heart and life: but if thy judgment be blinded in this great affair, it will misguide thy love, thy choice, and all the tenor of thy life: if thy judgment then be blind, which must guide thee, what a miserable erroneous wretch wilt thou be! and how dismal will that error prove!” Or, as the doctor expresses it, “If the maxims you lay down to yourselves are wrong, how very erroneous must your conduct be!”6:19-24 Worldly-mindedness is a common and fatal symptom of hypocrisy, for by no sin can Satan have a surer and faster hold of the soul, under the cloak of a profession of religion. Something the soul will have, which it looks upon as the best thing; in which it has pleasure and confidence above other things. Christ counsels to make our best things the joys and glories of the other world, those things not seen which are eternal, and to place our happiness in them. There are treasures in heaven. It is our wisdom to give all diligence to make our title to eternal life sure through Jesus Christ, and to look on all things here below, as not worthy to be compared with it, and to be content with nothing short of it. It is happiness above and beyond the changes and chances of time, an inheritance incorruptible. The worldly man is wrong in his first principle; therefore all his reasonings and actions therefrom must be wrong. It is equally to be applied to false religion; that which is deemed light is thick darkness. This is an awful, but a common case; we should therefore carefully examine our leading principles by the word of God, with earnest prayer for the teaching of his Spirit. A man may do some service to two masters, but he can devote himself to the service of no more than one. God requires the whole heart, and will not share it with the world. When two masters oppose each other, no man can serve both. He who holds to the world and loves it, must despise God; he who loves God, must give up the friendship of the world.The light of the body ... - The sentiment stated in the preceding verses - the duty of fixing the affections on heavenly things - Jesus proceeds to illustrate by a reference to the "eye." When the eye is directed steadily toward an object, and is in health, or is single, everything is clear and plain. If it vibrates, flies to different objects, is fixed on no one singly, or is diseased, nothing is seen clearly. Everything is dim and confused. The man, therefore, is unsteady. The eye regulates the motion of the body. To have an object distinctly in view is necessary in order to correct and regulate action. Rope-dancers, that they may steady themselves, fix the eye on some object on the wall, and look steadily at that. If they should look down on the rope or the people, they might become dizzy and fall. A man crossing a stream on a log, if he will look across at some object steadily, will be in little danger. If he looks down on the dashing and rolling waters, he will become dizzy, and fall. So Jesus says, in order that the conduct may be right, it is important to fix the affections on heaven. Having the affections there - having the eye of faith single, steady, unwavering - all the conduct will be correspondent.

Single - Steady, directed to one object. Not confused, as persons' eyes are when they see double.

Thy body shall be full of light - Your conduct will be regular and steady. All that is needful to direct the body is that the eye be fixed right. No other light is required. So all that is needful to direct the soul and the conduct is, that the eye of faith be fixed on heaven; that the affections be there.

If, therefore, the light that is in thee ... - The word "light," here, signifies "the mind," or principles of the soul. If this is dark, how great is that darkness! The meaning of this passage may be thus expressed: The light of the body, the guide and director, is the eye. All know how calamitous it is when that light is irregular or extinguished, as when the eye is diseased or lost. So the light that is in us is the soul. If that soul is debased by attending exclusively to earthly objects - if it is diseased, and not fixed on heaven how much darker and more dreadful will it be than any darkness of the eye! Avarice darkens the mind, obscures the view, and brings in a dreadful and gloomy night over all the faculties.

22. The light—rather, "the lamp."

of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single—simple, clear. As applied to the outward eye, this means general soundness; particularly, not looking two ways. Here, as also in classical Greek, it is used figuratively to denote the simplicity of the mind's eye, singleness of purpose, looking right at its object, as opposed to having two ends in view. (See Pr 4:25-27).

thy whole body shall be full of light—illuminated. As with the bodily vision, the man who looks with a good, sound eye, walks in light, seeing every object clear; so a simple and persistent purpose to serve and please God in everything will make the whole character consistent and bright.

See Poole on "Matthew 6:23". The light of the body is the eye,.... Or, the "candle of the body is the eye"; for the eye is that in the body, as a candle is in the house; by the light of it, the several members of the body perform their office; and what is said of the eye of the body, is transferred to the eye of the mind:

if therefore thine eye be single: that is, if thy mind be liberal, generous, and bountiful: for Christ is still upon the same subject of liberality, and against covetousness; and here speaks entirely in the language of the Jews, who could easily understand him; in whose writings we read of three sorts of eyes; a good eye, a middling one, and an evil one; so in the offerings of the first fruits (s),

, "a good eye" gave the fortieth, the house Shammai say, the thirtieth part; a middling one, the fiftieth; and an evil one, the sixtieth part.''

Upon which the commentators say (t), a "good eye" means one that is liberal, and an "evil eye" the contrary: hence you often read (u) of "trading, dedicating", and "giving with a good" or "an evil eye"; that is, either generously, liberally, or in a niggardly and grudging manner; which may help us to the sense of our Lord in these words; whose meaning is, that if a man is not covetous, but his mind is disposed to generosity and liberality; if this be the case, as if he should say,

thy whole body shall be full of light: all thy actions will be influenced by this noble principle; thy whole life will be illuminated, guided and governed by it; thy mind will be cheerful and pleasant, and thy estate and condition will be prosperous and successful.

(s) Misn. Trumot, c. 4. sect. 3.((t) Maimon. Bartenora & Ez. Chayim in ib. (u) T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 37. 2. & 71. 1. & 72. 1.

{7} The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine {g} eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

(7) Men maliciously and wickedly put out even the little light of nature that is in them.

(g) The judgment of the mind: that as the body is with the eyes, so our whole life may be ruled with right reason, that is to say, with the Spirit of God who gives light to us.

Matthew 6:22-23. Connection: In order to fulfil the duty mentioned in Matthew 6:19-20, and warranted by what is said in Matthew 6:21, you must not allow the light within you, i.e. the reason (ὁ νοῦς, Chrysostom), which apprehends divine truth, to become obscured, i.e. it must be preserved in that state of normal action in which error and moral evil find no place. The obscuring of this faculty of thought and volition, by which the divine is perceived and morally assimilated, imparts a wrong tendency and complexion to the entire life of the individual man. Comp. Luther: “This is a warning not to allow ourselves to be taken in by fair colours and outward appearance, with which avarice may trick itself out and conceal the knave.” The supposition that Matthew 6:22 f. originally stood immediately behind Matthew 5:16 (Ewald, Jahrb. I. p. 129) is therefore without sufficient logical warrant, and Luke 11:33-36 may be a later digest of similar import. Observe, moreover, that nothing is said here about the capability of the natural reason, purely as such, to apprehend the divine by its own unaided efforts; for Jesus has in view those who are believers, whose νοῦς is already under the influence of the divine truth which He has revealed to them (Ephesians 1:18; Romans 12:2). However, the subjective meaning of ὀφθαλμός and φῶς must be preserved intact, nor is φῶς to be understood, with Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 320, as referring to the holy nature of God, which seeks to illuminate the hearts of men.

ὁ λύχνος τοῦ σώματός ἐστιν ὁ ὀφθαλ. μός] for without the eye the body is in darkness; the blind man is without light, which comes through the medium of the eye as though it were a lamp. The subject is not ὁ ὀφθαλμός (Luther, Bengel), but ὁ λύχνος τοῦ σώμ., to which corresponds τὸ φῶς τὸ ἐν σοί, the subject in the application of the illustration.

ἁπλοῦς and πονηρός are mostly understood in the sense of: healthy (which many have defined more precisely as the opposite of double-sight), and damaged. But usage is in favour only of πονηρός being employed in this sense (see Kypke; comp. Plat. Hipp. min. p. 374 D: πονηρία ὀφθαλμῶν, also the German expression “böse Augen”), but not ἁπλοῦς, which means only integer in the moral sense of the word. Comp. Test. XII. patr. p. 624: ἁπλότης ὀφθαλμῶν, as meaning the opposite of the dishonest, hypocritical cast of the eye. Consequently the above meaning is contrary to usage, and both words must be understood in their moral signification, so that Jesus has selected the predicates in His illustration in view of the state of things to which the illustration refers, and in which the darkness of the νοῦς is the result of the evil will resisting divine truth (Romans 1:21). Therefore: if thine eye is honest, i.e. if it honestly does its duty,—and: if it is good for nothing, i.e. if it maliciously refuses to perform its functions.

φωτεινόν] is enlightened, so that it is clear round about him; through the light which is perceived by the eye, no one of his members is in darkness.

εἰ οὖν, κ.τ.λ.] Inference a minori ad majus.

τὸ φῶς τὸ ἐν σοί] i.e. the νοῦς especially as practical reason (Vernunft). The figurative designation (Philo, de cond. mund. I. p. 12 : ὅπερ νοῦς ἐν ψυχῇ, τοῦτο ὀφθαλμὸς ἐν σώματι, comp. Plat. Rep. vii. p. 533 D: τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς ὄμμα, Soph. p. 254 A. Creuzer, ad Plot. de pulcr. p. 361) is suggested by, and is correlative to, ὁ λύχνος, etc., Matthew 6:22. Comp. Euth. Zigabenus: ὁ νοῦς ὁ δωρηθεὶς εἰς τὸ φωτίζειν καὶ ὁδηγεῖν τὴν ψυχήν.

σκότος] corresponds to πονηρός above, though denoting at the same time the effect of the evil condition.

τὸ σκότος πόσον] s.c. ἐστί: how great then (since the worthlessness of the outward eye involves one in darkness) is the darkness, τὸ σκότος, in which thou liest! But τὸ σκότος, from being put first, is very emphatic. Luther (following the ordinary reading of the Vulg.: ipsae tenebrae) and Calvin interpret incorrectly: how great will then be the darkness itself. Thine, in that case, is the condition in which there is no susceptibility for that divine truth which would enlighten and sanctify thee; and this darkness, how great is it!Matthew 6:22-24. Parable of the eye. A difficult passage; connection obscure, and the evangelic report apparently imperfect. The parallel passage in Luke (Luke 11:33-36) gives little help. The figure and its ethical meaning seem to be mixed up, moral attributes ascribed to the physical eye, which with these still gives light to the body. This confusion may be due to the fact that the eye, besides being the organ of vision, is the seat of expression, revealing inward dispositions. Physically the qualities on which vision depends are health and disease. The healthy eye gives light for all bodily functions, walking, working, etc.; the diseased eye more or less fails in this service. If the moral is to be found only in last clause of Matthew 6:23, all going before being parable, then ἁπλοῦς must mean sound and πονηρὸς diseased, meanings which, if not inadmissible, one yet does not expect to find expressed by these words. They seem to be chosen because of their applicability to the moral sphere, in which they might suitably to the connection mean “liberal” and “niggardly”. ἁπλότης occurs in this sense in Romans 12:8, and Hatch (Essays in [41]. G., p. 80) has shown that πονηρός occurs several times in Sept[42] (Sirach) in the sense of niggardly, grudging. He accordingly renders: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore thine eye be liberal thy whole body shall be full of light; but if thine eye be grudging, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.” Of course this leaves the difficulty of the mixing of natural and moral untouched. The passage is elliptical, and might be paraphrased thus: The eye is the lamp of the body: when it is healthy we see to do our daily work, when diseased we are in darkness. So with the eye of the soul, the heart, seat of desire: when it is free from covetousness, not anxious to hoard, all goes well with our spiritual functions—we choose and act wisely. When sordid passions possess it there is darkness within deeper than that which afflicts the blind man. We mistake the relative value of things, choose the worse, neglect the better, or flatter ourselves that we can have both.

[41] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[42] Septuagint.22. The light] Rather, lamp, or candle as it is translated ch. Matthew 5:15. The eye is not itself the light, but contains the light; it is the “lamp” or candle of the body, the light-conveying principle. If the eye or lamp is single, it admits the influx of the pure light only; if an eye be evil, i. e. affected with disease, the body can receive no light at all. The whole passage is on the subject of the singleness of service to God. There can be but one treasure, one source of light, one master. The eye is the spiritual faculty, through which the light of God’s truth is recognised and admitted into the soul.

The connection in which the words occur in Luke 11:34 is instructive. The inference there is that the spiritual perception of the Pharisees is dimmed, so that they cannot recognise Christ.Matthew 6:22. Ὁ ὀφθαλμός, the eye) This is the subject of the proposition.[275]—ἐὰν οὖν, if therefore) The particle οὖν (therefore) agrees exactly with the scope of the passage, and has been easily left out by some who have understood it, though they omitted it.[276] We will not linger on such matters.—ἀπλοῦς, single, simple) The word simplicity never occurs in the sacred writings in a bad sense. ἀπλοῦς signifies here simple and good, singly intent on heaven, on God. Here is an antithesis between ἀπλοῦς, single, in this verse, and δυσὶ, two, in Matthew 6:24. That which is propounded figuratively in Matthew 6:22-23, is declared in plain words in the following verses.—φωτεινὸν, full of light) As if it were all eye.

[275] Not as in E. V. “THE LIGHT of the body is the eye.” but “THE EYE is the light of the body.”—ED.

[276] i.e. Those who omitted the word actually when copying in the text must have supplied it mentally when reading it.—(I. B.)

Οὖν is the reading of B; b has enim; ac Hil. 520 omit it.—ED.Verses 22, 23. - The light of the body is the eye, etc. Parallel passage: Luke 11:34-36, where it immediately follows the illustration of putting a lamp under the bushel (Matthew 5:15). The excessive difficulty of Luke's ver. 36 points to Luke having preserved on the whole the more original form of the saying; but it seems quite impossible to say which is its more original position. It suits the context quite as well in Matthew as in Luke, while the mere verbal similarity of λύχνος may have caused it to be placed in Luke after his ver. 33 (cf. ver. 24, infra, note). The light of the body; the lamp (Revised Version); ὁ λύχνος (Matthew 5:15, note). The thought of the power which treasure has of attracting the heart forms the transition to the need of a pure and steady "eye" heavenwards. The bodily eye is taken as the symbol of the outlooking power of the soul, not the soul - the inner man - itself, but its outlooking power. As the body is illuminated by the eye, i.e. as by the eye the bodily constitution learns its environment, and naturally, almost automatically, tends to accommodate itself to it, so is it with the gaze of the soul. If this be upon the things of this world, the soul perceives, and tends to accommodate itself to the things of this world; if upon things in heaven, it perceives, and tends to accommodate itself to, the things in heaven. The Authorized Version "light" is, therefore, imperfect, for the gaze of the soul is not "light" (φῶς), but a "lamp" (λύχνος). As the bodily eye is not itself light, but only an instrument for receiving and imparting light, so in the mere gaze of the soul there is no inherent light, but it is the means of receiving and imparting light to the soul. If therefore thine eye be single. The word "single" (ἁπλοῦς) presents some difficulty.

(1) If it meant "undivided," it would doubtless continue the illustration of the lamp, with an undivided as contrasted with a divided wick, but it has no such meaning.

(2) It states the opposite, not to divisions, but to folds (vide Trench, 'Syn.,' § 56.); it is "single" as opposed to "plicate," and therefore can hardly contain any direct reference to the lamp. Its meaning rather appears to be purely metaphorical, and the word seems to be applied 'directly to the functions of the eye in relation to the body. If the eye be "single" and (to use another but related metaphor) straightforward in its working, then the body receives through it the light that it ought to receive. So is it with the gaze of the soul in its effect on the inner man.

(3) Perhaps, however, ἁπλοῦςη is here used in the sense of non-compound (cf. Plato, 'Rep.,' 547. E); in this case free from any foreign substance to bar the light from passing through it (cf. Matthew 7:3, and Basil, 'De Spiritu Sancto,' 9. § 23, sqq.). Thy whole body shall be full of light (φωτινὸν ἔσται). Well-lighted in itself, and bright in appearance to others (cf. s, νεφέλη φωτινή, Matthew 17:5). The word chosen seems to indicate, not merely that the body is, through the eye, lighted, but also that it itself becomes in measure, like the eye, full of light for others. All one's powers become illumined with the Divine light, and the illumination shines through. But if thine eye be evil, etc. Evil (πονηρός); ver. 13, note. Vitiated, worthless. As an eye that does not fulfil its natural function, so is that gaze of the soul which is directed only earthward. To limit tiffs, with Lightfoot ('Hor. Hebr.'), to covetousness (cf. also Hatch, 'Essays,' p. 81), is far too partial an interpretation. Such an earthward and selfish gaze of the soul may often issue in selfishness as regards money (cf. Matthew 20:15), but the full meaning of the phrase includes very much more. Thy whole body shall be full of darkness. What the heart craves to see it sees; but in this case, not light makes its entrance, but darkness, which, as in the case of the light, permeates the frame. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness; rather, is darkness; the change here to the indicative (εἰ... ἐστίν) indicating that the last preceding clause is assumed as fact. The light that is in thee. Our Lord does not say, "the light that comes through the eye," for he means more than this, viz. that the very information, so to speak, brought first by the outlook of the soul, comes into us and remains in us. He assumes that this, which ought to be light, is darkness. How great is that darkness! i.e. the darkness (Revised Version)just spoken of, which comes through the eye. So, probably, Luke 11:35. If' the gaze which should bring light brings only darkness, how terrible in its nature and effects must that darkness be! It is, however, possible to understand our Lord to refer in this verse to the natural darkness of the soul before it looks out of itself. In this case the thought is - you need a fixed gaze heavenwards; if your gaze is not heavenwards, it brings darkness instead of light; how black, then, must be the natural darkness! (cf. especially Trench, ' Sermon on the Mount'). It will be noticed that in these verses darkness, though scientifically only negative - the absence of light - is here represented as positive, because it is the symbol of sin and evil. Single (ἁπλοῦς)

The picture underlying this adjective is that of a piece of cloth or other material, neatly folded once, and without a variety of complicated folds. Hence the idea of simplicity or singleness (compare simplicity from the Latin simplex; semel, once; plicare, to fold). So, in a moral sense, artless, plain, pure. Here sound, as opposed to evil or diseased. Possibly with reference to the double-mindedness and indecision condemned in Matthew 6:24.

Full of light (φωτεινὸν)

Bengel says, "As if it were all eye."

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