Matthew 6:23
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!
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(23) If thine eye be evil.—If the spiritual faculty, whose proper work it is to give light, be itself diseased—if it discerns not singly but doubly, and therefore dimly—then the whole life also is shrouded in gloom. If that is the case with the higher life, what will be the state of the lower! If the light is darkened, what will be the state of the region of life which is in itself naturally dark—the region of appetites and passions, which needs the presence of the light to keep them at all in check! “If the light that is in thee be darkness, the darkness how great will it 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.

23. But if thine eye be evil—distempered, or, as we should say, If we have got a bad eye.

thy whole body shall be full of darkness—darkened. As a vitiated eye, or an eye that looks not straight and full at its object, sees nothing as it is, so a mind and heart divided between heaven and earth is all dark.

If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!—As the conscience is the regulative faculty, and a man's inward purpose, scope, aim in life, determines his character—if these be not simple and heavenward, but distorted and double, what must all the other faculties and principles of our nature be which take their direction and character from these, and what must the whole man and the whole life be but a mass of darkness? In Luke (Lu 11:36) the converse of this statement very strikingly expresses what pure, beautiful, broad perceptions the clarity of the inward eye imparts: "If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light." But now for the application of this.

Ver. 22,23. You had need look to your hearts, your understanding, judgment, and affections; for look what proportion there is betwixt your bodily eye and the rest of the bodily members, with regard to their guidance and conduct, the same proportion there is betwixt your heart and whole conversation, with reference to the guidance of it with relation to God. The eye is the window by which the soul looks out to guide the body; if that be not impaired by the defluxion of humours, &c., but be single, it directs all the motions of the body right; but if that be defective, or any way impaired, the whole body is at a loss how to move safely, and with advantage to it. So if your hearts be set right, if you have a right and sound judgment, a true and sanctified affection, they will influence and guide all your actions, your whole conversation will be regular and holy: but if that inward eye be evil, through covetousness, too much adherence to the earth, or through envy, (both which are called evil eyes in Scripture), or through the prevalence of any other lusts or passions, your darkness will be exceeding great, you will not be able to set one step right; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, and according to the dictates and affections of the heart the hand and the whole man acts.

But if thine eye be evil,.... If thou art of a sordid disposition, of an avaricious temper, if the sin of covetousness prevails over thee,

thy whole body will be full of darkness: thy judgment will be so influenced by that sordid principle, that thou wilt not be able to discern what is agreeable to the law of God, or human reason; what is fitting to be done for thyself, for God, or for thy fellow creatures; all the powers and faculties of thy soul will be enslaved by it, and all be intent upon, and employed in the gratification of it: thy mind will be always sad and sorrowful, harassed and distressed; and thy estate, and condition, will be most miserable and uncomfortable:

if therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! as it is in the body, so it is with the mind; as when the eye, the light of the body, is put out by any means, all the members of the body are in entire darkness; so when the light of reason in the mind is so far extinguished by any prevailing iniquity, particularly the sin of covetousness, so that it is wholly influenced and governed by it, what irregular actions is it led into! What deeds of darkness does it perform! and what will be the consequence of it, but utter and eternal darkness, if grace prevent not!

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!
23. the light that is in thee] Here the Greek word is correctly rendered “light.” If the light admitted to the body be distorted and obscured by the diseased medium, how great will be the darkness!

Matthew 6:23. Πονηρὸς, evil) sc. shifting, double, inconsistent, imbued with self-love.—τὸ φῶς, the light) which the lamp should give.—τὸ σκότος, the darkness) How great darkness must be the darkness of the whole body![277]—πόσον, how great) As great as the body.

[277] In the original the passage runs thus—

Tenebr totius corporis, quantæ erunt tenebræ!” and then proceeds,

“Singularis tenebra, veteribus non ignotus, a multis Theologis in loco adhibitus, sæpius conveniret simplicitati hermeneuticæ.”—(I. B.)

Matthew 6:23In thee - darkness

Seneca, in one of his letters, tells of an idiot slave in his house, who had suddenly become blind. "Now, incredible as the story seems, it is really true that she is unconscious of her blindness, and consequently begs her attendant to go elsewhere because the house is dark. But you may be sure that this, at which we laugh in her, happens to us all; no one understands that he is avaricious or covetous. The blind seek for a guide; we wander about without a guide."

"Seeing falsely is worse than blindness. A man who is too dim-sighted to discern the road from the ditch, may feel which is which; but if the ditch appears manifestly to him to be the road, and the road to be the ditch, what shall become of him? False seeing is unseeing, on the negative side of blindness" (Ruskin, "Modern Painters").

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