If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out, and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members that for your whole body to be thrown into hell.Matthew 5:29.
In the 70’s Bev and I lived in Minnesota. During those years I went a few summers to a Christian camp very near us in Wisconsin to serve as a camp counselor or assistant director. The camp session I went to was one week long.
One summer we had a man join our staff who constantly railed against the evils of pornography. None of the other staff, myself included, thought for a moment that porn was a good thing, however, we didn’t have to keep telling one another over and over about its evils. To misquote Shakespeare, “He protests too much, methinks.”
Years later I found out that the protesting man had lost his standing as a pastor because he had been caught looking at porn. Jesus warns about the sins of the eye in this section of the Sermon.
Later in the sermon (Matthew 6:22-23) Jesus called the eye “the lamp of the body.” In this case, he was talking about our relationship to wealth, but it still applies to sexual purity. The things that guide and animate life come through the eye. Of course, the eye is only a lens; the guidance system for the eye is the heart.
The things we dwell on are what we consider to be important and it can be wealth or sex or power. Truly, the eye is the lamp of the body.
Jesus says, metaphorically, that if your eye causes you to sin, you should pluck it out. But, in actuality, pulling out one’s eye will have little effect until the real cause of the sin is addressed. You can still be lustful while being blind as a bat. By using the metaphor of the eye, Jesus was showing how serious and difficult dealing with sin is.
Why should one be concerned about lust or wealth? Jesus knew these were destructive appetites – destroying the people who give them a home. “Don’t do it,” Jesus says. “You will destroy your soul.”
In our sexualized society, Jesus’ advice is even more pressing and more needed. Marketing has weaponized sex and power and even made us think they are healthy impulses. Today, where do you find anyone talking about the virtues of purity and commitment? Except for Jesus!
Prayer: Lord, there is no one like you, and you made us, in image, like you. In the beginning, your creation had all it needed. But, true to humankind, the Creation wasn’t “enough,” or so we thought. Our eyes are never full of lusting and coveting, and through our eyes come all the things that can destroy us. Help us to be better stewards of what we look at and give our lives to. In Jesus’ name we pray this. Amen.