In one of Jesus’ core teachings on money, he says,
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness!”
– Matthew 6:22–23 CSB
This is a pretty confusing statement, but it gets even more confusing when you realize it’s in the context of a bunch of other teachings about money. What does the eye have to do with money?
Tim Keller has a helpful way to think about this: Imagine you get up at night and turn the light on. If your eye works, your hands find what you are looking for, and you won’t slam your pinky toe into the furniture. Your whole body benefits from the light.
But if your eye isn’t working, your feet won’t know where to go; your hands won’t know what to pick up. Even though there’s a lot of light all around the rest of your body, your whole body, in a sense, is in the darkness.
In the same way, when your view of money is distorted, it messes up every part of your life.
You may have experienced this at some point of your life. I’m guessing you can think of a time when your desire for a little more money made you do something you regret. Maybe it nudged you into a career you hate. Maybe it pulled you away from family for a little more office time, even though it wasn’t really necessary. Maybe it pushed you to cut a few corners, sacrificing your integrity by lying about some numbers.
If you’ve done any of these things, you were probably surprised at yourself. You don’t consider yourself a greedy person, or a liar, or someone who doesn’t care about family. And if you were seeing clearly, perhaps you wouldn’t have done those things. But you weren’t seeing clearly. You were being led around by money, so your eye was dark.
It’s why in Luke’s account of the story in Matthew 6, Jesus follows up this eye metaphor by saying, “Be on guard against greed.”
Jesus doesn’t use that phrase about anything else. He doesn’t say, “Be on guard against sexual immorality.” It’s not that greed is worse than sexual immorality (or vice versa). It’s that there’s something uniquely sneaky about greed. It begins to happen without you even knowing it. You can become greedy and still look pretty generous. You can become greedy and still have a lot of people pat you on the back.
And all the while, you are gouging your eyes out, preventing yourself from seeing the dangers in front of you.
Keeping your eye healthy takes diligence. Be on guard against greed growing in you, and counter it with generosity. Give, give, give—not only because God commands it, but because it is only in giving yourself away that you can get your life back.
Be on guard against greed growing in you, and counter it with generosity. Give, give, give—not only because God commands it, but because it is only in giving yourself away that you can get your life back.