God Is Moral Part Twelve
The Bible reveals that our eyes have great moral significance and, therefore, are of concern to God. They are the primary organs by which we receive knowledge and perception of the universe and everything in it. Although God has the ability to see inside our hearts (our inner control centers), as human beings, we are limited to looking at outward appearances (1 Sam. 16:7; Isa. 11:3). As a result, “Of all the physical organs of the body, the eye was considered one of the more important.”1
The Significance of the Eyes
The Bible indicates that eyes significantly influence the moral character of human hearts. Ephesians 1:18 refers to the “eyes of your understanding being enlightened.” The Greek text literally says, “the eyes of your heart.” It thereby signifies a connecting relationship between eyes and heart. Job referred to such a relationship when he requested that God weigh him on honest scales to see if his heart “walked after [his] eyes” (Job 31:6–7).
Scripture presents the following concepts of the heart as:
- The center of man’s inner life.
- The source of all the forces and functions of soul and spirit.
- The dwelling place of feelings, emotions, desires, and passions.
- The seat of understanding.
- The source of thought and reflection.
- The seat of the will and source of resolves.2
“Thus,” wrote Johannes Behm, “the heart is supremely the one centre in man to which God turns, in which the religious life is rooted, which determines moral conduct.”3
The eyes relate to the human heart in two significant ways: They both influence and reflect its moral condition.
The Eyes’ Influence on the Heart
Jesus Christ indicated that eyes have a major influence on the moral condition of the heart: “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light” (Lk. 11:34).
Jesus signified that the human eye is a lamp. A lamp is not light. It is an instrument that dispenses light. Thus Jesus was saying that, as a lamp, the eye has the function of dispensing knowledge or perception to a human being.
The word translated “good” means “pure.”4 It has “the sense of ‘single, undivided loyalty.’”5 Thus the “good” eye is one that is morally pure because its focus is single, undivided loyalty to God and His truth. It will dispense knowledge and perception of God and His truth to the human heart.
Consequently, a person who has a ”good” eye will be full of light. The word light in Jesus’ declaration “is the element and sphere of the divine.”6 Figuratively, it is the light “that illuminates the spirit and soul of man, is generally the element in which the redeemed person lives, rich in blessings without and with-in.”7 Thus “to be filled with Christian truth means to be walking in the light.”8
By contrast, Jesus declared, “But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness” (v. 34). The word translated “bad” means “evil” or “wicked” and refers to what “is characterized by its antithesis to God and His will.”9 Thus the “bad” eye is one that is morally evil because it focuses on what is “contrary to God,” does not seek God and His truth, and refuses to be guided by Him.10 It will dispense to the heart knowledge and perceptions that are self- and world-centered and contrary to God and His truth.
As a result, someone with a “bad” eye will be full of darkness. Jesus used the word translated “darkness” figuratively to connote “the darkening of the mind or spirit, of ignorance in moral and religious matters.”11 The meaning included “everything that is at enmity with God, [both] earthly and demonic.”12
Through this contrast between the good and bad eyes, Jesus emphasized the following truth: The moral character of the human heart is influenced greatly by what the eyes look at and focus on. Eyes that focus on God and His revealed existence, nature, and truth will greatly influence the heart toward moral purity and goodness.
By contrast, eyes that focus on what is contrary to God and His truth will greatly influence the heart toward selfishness, greed, moral impurity, and wickedness. What the eyes see can affect emotions and desires, including sexual desires and desires for false worship (Num. 15:39; Isa. 3:16; Ezek. 20:24; 23:16).13
The sin nature (a disposition of enmity against God, cf. Rom. 8:7) is indelibly inscribed in every heart from conception onward and produces deceitfulness and wickedness in the heart (Ps. 51:5; Jer. 17:1, 9). It wants the eye to look at things that will turn the heart toward selfishness, greed, moral impurity, and wickedness.
As the eye exposes an individual’s heart to these things, the sin nature is stimulated to exercise controlling power over the will of the individual to prompt him to sin: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin” (Jas. 1:14–15). King David’s sin of adultery, as a result of seeing another man’s wife bathing, is an example of the eye influencing the heart toward moral impurity (2 Sam. 11:1–4).
In light of these contrasting influences of the eye upon the heart, Jesus issued the following warning: “Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light” (Lk. 11:35–36).
The word translated “take heed” means “to look at critically as the judge does.”14 The person who does so “will make a critical decision between the eternal and the transitory and keep from what presents itself to the eye because he knows something better.”15 The idea is this: “Test whether the light in you is darkness.”16 In other words, test to see if the light inside you has been tainted or compromised by darkness—if it has darkness mixed in with the light as a result of what your eyes have seen.
The Heart’s Reflection in the Eyes
The eyes also relate to the heart in that they reflect the heart’s moral condition. F. J. Stendebach wrote that the “eye is associated with the heart. The eye is accordingly a concentrated expression of the personality, of people’s disposition toward God, human beings, and the world about them.”17 In other words, the eye is the instrument through which “the human ‘soul’ is revealed.”18 Through Jesus’ statement “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed…an evil eye,” Jesus indicated that eyes reflect the heart’s moral condition (Mk. 7:21–22).
Various biblical descriptions reflect this truth:
Evil Eye. The word translated “evil” in the Old Testament “seems to denote the inner condition of people who reject God and do things contrary to God’s will.”19 It is the inner condition characterized by “moral deficiencies, moral qualities that injure oneself or others, or a condition that is below par.”20 It normally leads to “abuse of people and exploitation of their property.”21
In light of this concept of evil, the “evil eye” is “the ‘wicked,’ ‘envious,’ ‘covetous,’ ‘greedy,’ ‘avaricious eye.’” 22 It reflects a heart consumed by “insatiable greed for riches; inordinate, miserly desire to gain and hoard wealth.”23
Thus Proverbs 23:6–7 says, “Do not eat the bread of a miser [literally, “a man with an evil eye”], nor desire his delicacies; for as he thinks in his heart, so is he. ‘Eat and drink!’ he says to you, but his heart is not with you.”
Proverbs 28:22 states, “A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him.”
Jeremiah 22:17 declares, “Yet your eyes and your heart are for nothing but your covetousness, for shedding innocent blood, and practicing oppression and violence.”
A man who agreed to work for a certain amount of money, but later insisted he should receive more, had an evil eye (Mt. 20:15).
The next article will consider other types of eyes that reflect the moral condition of the heart.
- Carl Schultz, “ayin,” Theological Wordbook of the old Testament, R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 2:662.
- Johannes Behm, “kardia,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Kittel, trans./ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, translated from Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 3:611–612.
- Ibid, 612.
- Otto Bauernfeind, “haplous,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Kittel, trans./ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, translated from Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 1:386.
- A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 8:178.
- William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, eds./trans., “phos,” A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature (1952: translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur, 4th ed., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 880.
- Gunther Harder, “poneros,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Friedrich, ed./trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, translated from Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1968), 6:551.
- “skotia,” in Friedrich and Bromiley, 764.
- J. Stendebach, “ayin,” in Friedrich and Bromiley, 34.
- Ernest Fuchs, “skopeo,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Friedrich, ed,/trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, translated from Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1971), 7:414–415.
- Ibid., 415.
- Ibid., 416.
- J. Stendebach, “ayin,” in Friedrich and Bromiley (1971), 32–33.
- Ibid., 32.
- Herbert Livingston, “ra’a, ra,” in Harris, Archer, and Waltke, 2:856, 854.
- Ibid., 855.
- Ibid., 854.
- Harder, “poneros,” in Friedrich and Bromiley (1968), 556.
- The American College Dictionary (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1948), s.v. “avarice.”