What we feed our eyes will eventually rule our hearts. And I’m not just talking about pornography.
Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. 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!” (Matthew [6:22]–23;Luke [11:34]).
Yes, our eyes will be drawn to what our hearts desire, but they also often hold sway. Our eyes are not neutral. They influence and even drive our hearts. If we feed them what is true, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable, our eyes can grow our faith, heighten our love, and intensify our happiness. But where the eyes wander, the heart quickly follows — and falls. How many of us leave our eyes on too long a leash?
For some, tragically, it is pornography. For others, it’s something less salacious, like sports scores or news headlines. For others, Instagram or Facebook. For still others, it’s Amazon or Target, YouTube or Netflix. Just because something isn’t inherently bad, doesn’t mean it can’t fill our eyes so full as to crowd out the one who matters most. That’s what darkened eyes are: eyes so full of something other than Christ that they can no longer see him and enjoy him.
Lamp of the Body
When Moses warned Israel about idolatry, he stared directly into their eyes:
“Watch yourselves very carefully. . . . Beware lest you act corruptly by making a carvedimagefor yourselves, in the form of any figure,the likenessof male or female,the likenessof any animal that is on the earth,the likenessof any winged bird that flies in the air,the likenessof anything that creeps on the ground,the likenessof any fish that is in the water under the earth. And beware lest you raiseyour eyesto heaven, andwhen you seethe sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them.” (Deuteronomy [4:15]–19)
The eye is the lamp of the body, he said to God’s people, and if you allow yours to lust after the things you have made, or even after the wonders God has made — your eyes will lead your heart astray and eventually destroy you.
Moses didn’t mention sexually explicit images. No, he knew the people would be tempted to worship even the good in creation — animals, birds, and fish; sun, moon, and stars — the wonders God had placed all around them. The wonder of wonders is that we often end up worshiping the wonder and not the Creator.
What Your Eyes Say
How do our eyes lead our hearts away from God? When Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body,” he’s in the middle of a word about treasure. Three verses earlier, he says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew [6:19]). And then two verses later, he says, “No one can serve two masters. . . . You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew [6:24]). Our eyes will always be drawn to what we treasure. But more than that, they play a role in what we treasure. If our eyes are sick, we’ll inevitably have heart trouble.
And money, as Jesus teaches, carves as many images as anything today. If we’re not content to have him, we’ll fall in love with whatever else we can have (or buy).
If we have little appetite for Christ, and a voracious craving for sports, our treasure is free of charge at ESPN. If Christ cannot keep our attention, but we hunt and shop for hours on Amazon, our treasure should arrive in two business days or less. If we lack ambition to know Christ and carry out his mission, but we work hard to advance our career and build our retirement fund, we’ll finally receive our treasure as our time on earth expires. If time with Christ is the first thing we surrender when we’re busy, but we never miss a meal or our favorite television show, we have treasure, but it’s not him.