“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22)
There is quite a lot of talk about treasures and rewards in this chapter of Matthews’s Gospel. For those who pray, fast and give alms, both the warning and the promise are repeatedly given that those who do these for the praise and recognition of man have already received their “reward”, while those who do so seeking only the Father’s good pleasure will receive their “reward” in heaven. Similarly we are told not to store earthly treasures, which are bound to destruction, but rather heavenly treasures, which are not only eternal but also secure.
In the midst of these teachings is a short, mysterious set about the necessity of having a “sound eye” that, at first glance, seems entirely out of place. What does this have to do with performing pious acts correctly? Or not falling into materialism? And how does this fit into the whole rewards/treasures scheme?
The key is found in the word translated as “sound”. It literally means “single” and was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament to translate the word “complete” or “perfect”. Jesus is presenting an image here of a mind that has one sole focus, a person of undivided loyalty. What is the object of that focus and loyalty? The kingdom of God and his righteousness (v 33).
However there is far more than meets the eye here (pun only slightly intended). R.T. France notes that this same word is used in the NT with the connotation of generosity, while the words describing the “eye that is not sound” (literally ‘evil eye’) was a regular expression not only for jealousy, but of miserliness. The undivided loyalty to which Jesus calls us is to be expressed not only in obedience, but in a detachment from material goods that issues forth in generous giving.
The promise is that the “whole body” (i.e. the whole life) of those who live in this way will be full of light. This is not hard to imagine. How many lives have shone as resplendently as the Mother Teresa’s, Pope John Paul II’s or the George Mueller’s of the world?
And yet, beneath this lies an even deeper truth: the lamp which is now full of light is that which leads them to their final destination and goal. What is that goal? The kingdom of God and his rightousnes. In addition to the light shone here on earth through such a life, comes also the assurance that through such undivided loyalty we will be able to reach our desired destination (and hopefully lead others there, as well) and so receive the rewards and treasures we are promised in Him.
These rewards and treasures are not remuneration for a life well lived, but the abundant graces of a God who, by his very Triune nature, is eternally giving, and in whom lies the richest fulfillment of all our hearts’ deepest desires.