Is Your Eye “Simple”?
“If, then, your eye is simple, your whole body will be bright.”—MATTHEW 6:22.
1. Why can it be said that the eye is a marvel of intelligent creation?
VISION is generally considered the most precious and important of the senses—especially by those who no longer have it. Scientists tell us that every second ten trillion particles of light pass through the pupils of our eyes. As they reach the retina, they are received by a hundred million rod and cone cells. Stimulated by the light, these nerve cells begin sending electrical signals to the brain. There, a large portion of the hundred billion neurons go to work to decipher what has just been received and to decide what response needs to be made. All of this takes just a fraction of a second. Indeed, the eye is an awesome example of the marvel of intelligent creation.—Psalm 139:14.
2. What aspect of vision still remains a puzzle to scientists?
2 Though scientists know a good deal about the biological workings of the eye and the brain, they know little about how and why we respond as we do to what we see. For example, it is not fully understood why one person prefers red to blue while another may prefer blue to red, or why different colors affect us in different ways. The relationship between vision and reaction remains a puzzle. But Jehovah, the Maker of the eye, and his Son and co-worker, Jesus Christ, are well aware of the intricacies of the physical eye, and they know how the eye influences our actions and our lives.
“The Lamp of the Body”
3. How is the eye “the lamp of the body”?
3 Jesus remarked that “the lamp of the body is the eye.” (Matthew 6:22) A lamp is used to light up a dark place so that we know where we are, how to act, which way to go, and so on. By admitting light into our body, our eyes serve the same function as a lamp. They enable us to keep in close touch with the world around us and to respond with intelligent and specific reactions, rather than groping, stumbling, and possibly hurting ourselves.
4. How are we affected by the condition of the eye?
4 The extent to which the eye can serve as a lamp to the body, however, depends largely on the condition of the eye. For this reason, Jesus went on to say: “If, then, your eye is simple, your whole body will be bright; but if your eye is wicked, your whole body will be dark. If in reality the light that is in you is darkness, how great that darkness is!” (Matthew 6:22, 23) From this we can see the tremendous influence that the eye exerts on our entire life course, for good or for bad.
Influence of the Eye
5. To what extent was the eye involved in Eve’s temptation by Satan?
5 Consider the case of the first woman, Eve. The extent to which the eye influenced her actions can be seen from the Bible’s account of her encounter with the Deceiver, Satan the Devil. (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14) Satan suggested that ‘her eyes were bound to be opened’ if she would just ignore God’s command and take and eat the fruit from “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” How did she respond? The Bible tells us: “Consequently the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon.” She allowed her eyes to dwell upon something forbidden to her. That was a deliberate misuse of the eye. What was the result? “So she began taking of its fruit and eating it.”—Genesis 2:17; 3:4-6.
6. How does the eye influence our actions?
6 No doubt this was not the first time Eve saw “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad” or its fruit. But something different was happening. This time it appeared to be “something to be longed for to the eyes” and “desirable to look upon.” Longing and desire normally are qualities not of the eye but of the heart. But what the eye sees intensifies the longing and desire of the heart, so much so that action may result. In Eve’s case, such action led to disastrous consequences for herself and her husband Adam, as well as for all their future offspring, including us today.—Romans 5:12; James 1:14, 15.
7. How was the eye involved in Satan’s third effort to mislead Jesus, and what was the outcome?
7 To show, however, that it is possible to resist any influence for bad that may come through the eye, we might consider the example of Jesus Christ. Again, the same Tempter, Satan, was involved. In his third effort to draw Jesus away from doing God’s will, “the Devil took him along to an unusually high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” Notice that Satan did not just verbally offer Jesus all the power and glory of the world in exchange for an act of worship. He “showed him” these things, exploiting the powerful influence of the eye. Yet, because Jesus’ eye was not distracted by the tempting offer but was closely focused on his relationship with his heavenly Father, Jehovah, he was successful in thwarting Satan’s cunning scheme.—Matthew 4:8-10.
8. What lessons can we learn from the examples of Eve and Jesus?
8 What can we learn from the foregoing examples? First, that what we focus our eyes on can reinforce the good or the bad desires of our heart. This may lead to action that will bring either blessing or disaster for ourselves and others. Second, it is clear that the eye is a favorite means by which Satan moves to deceive his victims. Of all the “designs” that Satan uses to mislead mankind, this appeal to the eye appears to be one of the most powerful.—2 Corinthians 2:11.
9. How does Satan promote “the desire of the eyes” today?
9 Today, Satan still uses the same tactic in his schemes to draw all people away from doing God’s will. Through the glitter and glamour of the world, Satan promotes “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life.” (1 John 2:16) This is clearly seen in the advertising schemes used by the commercial world. Is it not true that the most successful advertisements are those that capitalize on their visual impact? The thousands of colorful billboards and flashing signs, the glossy pictures in magazines and newspapers, the clever TV spots—and the billions of dollars spent to produce them—all testify to the fact that the whole idea of advertising is to stimulate the consumer’s “desire of the eyes.”
10. What is really being promoted by the commercial world?
10 While many of these advertisements may leave little to the imagination, what is more subtle is the fact that these ads are really promoting not just consumer products but also life-styles. Very often the products are displayed as being used by the most privileged, influential, happy, and beautiful people. The message is that if the consumer uses that product, his “means of life” will automatically fit into one of those categories. Advertisers know that once a person accepts a certain manner of life, it takes little to persuade him or her to accept the goods and commodities that go along with it. In this light, how wise it is for dedicated Christians to heed the counsel found at Hebrews 13:5! There we read: “Let your manner of life be free of the love of money, while you are content with the present things.”
Keeping the Eye “Simple,” Not “Wicked”
11. Explain the terms “simple” and “wicked” in Jesus’ statement about the eye.
11 Confronted daily with such an array of eye-appealing distractions, we can appreciate all the more why Jesus Christ admonished us to keep our eye “simple” and not “wicked.” (Matthew 6:22, 23) What does that mean? “Simple” here is translated from the Greek word ha·plousʹ, which basically means singleness of mind or devotion to one purpose. On the other hand, “wicked” in the original Greek is po·ne·rosʹ and has the meaning of bad, worthless, evil. Thus, the ‘simple eye,’ rather than being distracted or sidetracked by everything that is going on, focuses its attention on only one thing. By contrast, the ‘wicked eye’ is shifty, crafty, and covetous, and is drawn to things shady and dark.
12. Review and explain the context of Jesus’ discussion.
12 But what should the eye focus on so that the “whole body will be bright”? A consideration of the context will help us to find the answer. In the preceding verses, Jesus was talking about “treasures upon the earth” and “treasures in heaven.” He said that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Then, after discussing the eye, he again emphasized the need to show singleness of purpose, saying: “No one can slave for two masters,” God and Riches. In the following verses, he offered counsel on one’s view of the daily necessities and concluded with the admonition: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matthew 6:19-34.
13. On what should we focus our eye so that our “whole body will be bright”? Why?
13 What can we glean from all of this? Jesus is here talking about goals in life, pointing out the futility of the pursuit of material things and the blessing of cultivating interest in spiritual matters. Clearly, he is telling us that by focusing our eyes singly on Kingdom interests, our “whole body will be bright.” Why? Because if we make the doing of God’s will our goal in life, we will seek to reflect the glorious good news in every aspect of our lives. Not only can we look forward to a bright future but we can also be freed from the dark and underhanded things produced by a life devoted to selfish pursuits.—2 Corinthians 4:1-6.
14. How does focusing one’s eye on material riches result in “darkness”?
14 The apostle Paul reinforced Jesus’ words when he explained: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin.” (1 Timothy 6:9) There surely is substance to these words! The news is full of stories about senators, mayors, judges, bankers, corporate executives, and others who have been caught in white-collar crimes that, according to one report, “rake in a minimum of 200 billion dollars annually” in the United States alone. The ‘temptation and snare’ of becoming rich have turned many once respectable individuals into felons and criminals. Surely, we want to avoid being ‘plunged into destruction and ruin,’ experiencing the “darkness” about which Jesus warned.—See Proverbs 23:4, 5.
15, 16. (a) What other “desire of the eyes” must we shun? (b) How would you apply the counsel at Proverbs 27:20 to our discussion?
15 However, is it only those who set their eye on becoming rich that face the danger of walking in darkness? No, for “the desire of the eyes” also includes many other things. Recall Jesus’ words at Matthew 5:28: “Everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Surely, that warning can also be applied to allowing one’s eyes to dwell on material that is designed to excite or arouse illicit passions and desires.
16 Then there is the anxiety over food, drink, and clothing that Jesus spoke about. (Matthew 6:25-32) While these things are necessary, an inordinate desire always to have the latest, the richest, the most sought after, can enslave our mind and heart. (Romans 16:18; Philippians 3:19) Even in recreation, hobbies, sports, exercise, and so on, we must maintain proper balance and guard against being caught up in the fads and fancies of the world. In all these areas, it would be good for us to bear in mind the wise words found at Proverbs 27:20: “Sheol and the place of destruction themselves do not get satisfied; neither do the eyes of a man get satisfied.” Indeed, we need to exercise self-control so that in trying to satisfy our eyes we do not endanger ourselves spiritually.
Blessings for Keeping the Eye “Simple”
17. How has keeping the eye “simple” helped some pursue Kingdom interests?
17 Those who have kept their eye “simple” and have focused it intently on God’s Kingdom promises have received many blessings from Jehovah. This is well illustrated by the experiences of people from around the world and from many walks of life. Consider these examples:
“When I was serving where the need is great in Colombia, South America, I had to live on an income of approximately $100 a month. I had started pioneering, but at the start of the month, I fell and broke my ankle. The resulting medical expenses drained my resources, and I would not get any more money until the end of the month. My Kingdom Hall contribution was due, but if I contributed the money, I would have nothing to buy groceries with the next week. After considering the matter for a few days, I decided that the hall rent must be paid, so I put the money in the contribution box. The very next morning, I received a letter from a sister in the United States who had visited me in Colombia. In her letter she enclosed some Colombian money left over from her visit. It was the exact amount I had dropped in the box.”
On a hot Tuesday afternoon, Ki, who operates a clinic in Taechun, Korea, was invited by three co-workers to spend the afternoon at the beach. Though the idea was tempting, Ki knew that if he went, he would not be back in time to be at the Congregation Book Study that evening. So he declined the invitation. Moments later, the three were brought back to the clinic—dead! They had a fatal traffic accident right after leaving the clinic. Ki grieved over the incident but was glad his life had been spared on account of his sticking to the good habit he had formed over the years.—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
18. How can young ones be taught to keep their eye “simple”?
18 Even young ones can be taught to keep their eyes focused on Kingdom interests, as is illustrated by the following experience:
“When we heard from two visitors that brothers in three congregations in the Philippines had to come up with $1,000 per congregation—a substantial sum for them—to rebuild their burned-down Kingdom Hall, my husband and I decided that we wanted to make a contribution. What about our four children, from four months to six years of age? Every week when my husband got paid, he would buy a silver dollar for each child. My husband divided the coins so that each child could see how much he had. We also mentioned some of the things they had set their hearts on buying with the money. But the answer was always the same—they wanted to give the money to the brothers.” With their $99, the children also sent along a simple letter. The brothers in the Philippines were so moved by the love and generosity that many of them were in tears when the letter was read.
19. We can be assured of a bright future if we keep our eyes on what?
19 “As for your eyes, straight ahead they should look, yes, your own beaming eyes should gaze straight in front of you.” (Proverbs 4:25) How wise it is for us to heed that counsel and not allow our eyes to wander, so that we get sidetracked! “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons,” Paul advised, “buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” He also urged: “Go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17) By doing so, we can rest assured that we will be successful in keeping our eye “simple,” and we can confidently look forward to a bright future—everlasting life in God’s promised new system of things.—Compare 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18.
Can You Explain
□ How is the eye “the lamp of the body”?
□ How does the eye influence our actions, as exemplified by Eve and by Jesus?
□ In what ways does Satan appeal to “the desire of the eyes” today?
□ What must we do to keep our eye “simple”?
□ What should we focus our eyes on now?
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What we focus our eyes on can intensify the desire of the heart