“You are what you eat,” right? At least that is how conventional wisdom deals it out to us. And, of course, there is a great deal of truth to the adage. On the other hand, Jesus might have worded it a bit differently were He to have used the expression in the days of His earthly ministry.
“The eye is the lamp of the body,” said Jesus. “So, 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. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Mathew 6:22-23 ESV).
In so many words then, “you are what you look at.” For example, if you turn your gaze (so to speak) upon those things that are negative, hurtful, or ugly (in the emotional and spiritual sense), then you allow those things to have power in the shaping of your thought life. If you watch programs, movies, or shows that mock the dignity that God has appointed for humanity (which was created, by the way, in His image), then the darkness of pride, anger, and contempt will seep into your attitude towards your fellow human beings.
Envy, the desire to have what others have, is the fruit of fixing one’s gaze on what another has and setting one’s affection upon it. After we fix our gaze on what others have, the shadow of dissatisfaction moves into our hearts and takes up residence. And, of course, pornography quite literally fills the mind (spiritually) with the darkness of lust which portrays people as nothing more than objects to be used. It cultivates utterly selfish attitudes and habits and snares its perpetrators (a.k.a. victims) in cycles of condemnation.
In a broader sense, however, we “fill our eyes with darkness” whenever our eyes are not on God, whether it is an obvious “sin” or not. He is, after all, light and the only true Source of it. If this is so, then it stands to reason, that when our eyes are not “on Him”, gloom begins its slow, but steady advance into our psyche. When the light of His truth begins to grow dim, we find that things that come with the light of God’s presence begin to fade as well. Joy goes when we lose track of the wonder that is ours as God’s children through Christ Jesus. Peace fades when thoughts of worry and stress begin to dominate our busy thoughts, crowding out the calm assurance that our God is, in fact, in control. Love disappears because our hearts are not settled on the one true example and source of love, the God Who gave His only Son so that we might have life (see John 3:16).
If you are not sure that this is the intended application of Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 6, consider the context. The amazing passage of Scripture from which it is taken is referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount” and stands as the Lord’s foundational teaching for how we are to relate to God, how we should relate to one another, and how we should see ourselves.
In this passage, Jesus speaks on greed, which is fixing our eyes on material things. He talks about worry, which is the outcome of fixing our proverbial stare on our circumstances. He teaches regarding forgiveness, lest we fix our gaze on crimes against us and become filled with anger and hate. He cautions us against judging others, so that we do not get caught up in the tentacles of spiritual pride and become calloused to the needs of others.
But eyes that are filled with the awesome presence of God channel that light to the heart. God’s love and acceptance of us heals brokenness and comforts wounded hearts. God’s holiness show us the pure and wholesome standard to which He draws us through Jesus Christ, as His Spirit works within us to make us holy, too. His glorious power, revealed in the Bible and through the pages of history (for any who care to see it), trumpets the clear and awesome assurance that our God is sovereign and in absolute control of the cosmos as well as the most miniscule molecules of our existence.
The heart blessed with eyes on God is a heart that is lifted up out of the ugliness of the world. The soul blessed with a heart set on God is a soul that repeatedly experiences joyful communion with its Creator. The life blessed with a soul filled with the presence of God is a life that bears fruit and leaves a lasting legacy of hope for those around it.
If Jesus’ words applied to first century Palestine, then how much more careful should we be today with millions of images passing in front of our faces all day long via the internet and television? If folks needed to be reminded to keep their eyes on God then, how desperately do you and I need also to be reminded to turn the “windows of our souls” to the light of God so that we may be filled with light, too.
I occasionally hear folks say “let your light shine”, only to discover that what is meant is that one should celebrate his or her uniqueness and no particular connection to the Gospel of Jesus is intended. But without the light of God within us, the only thing you and I have to offer the world is our own brand of darkness. Turn your eyes to Jesus first, and then let the light He sheds in your heart become a beacon to the lost world around you.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father Who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV).
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 19 years, is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)