Back to Posts
Feb 17, 2019

The Eternal Consequences of Good (and Bad) Vision

Thomas Smith

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” – Matthew 6:23-24

GlassesI’ve heard interpreters of this passage confidently proclaim that “Jesus is telling us the eyes are the windows of the soul.”

Gee, thanks. That’s equally cryptic.

What in the world is Jesus talking about and why is it important?

Looking Back

In order to “see” his point, we’ve got to “look back” to the Old Testament.

Jesus is using a common Hebrew idiom to describe a person’s attitude toward others. It is an understanding of “seeing” that is much more profound than physical sight.

In Jewish wisdom literature, having a “good eye” (in Hebrew, ayin tovah) is having the spiritual vision to see and respond to others’ needs. A person with a “good eye” is generous, while a person with a “bad eye” focuses only on himself. Consider these two proverbs,

“A generous person (literally in the Hebrew, “a good eyed person”) will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor” – Proverbs 22:9

“A person with a bad eye hastens after wealth and does not realize that lack will come upon him” – Proverbs 28:22

Seeing Things Differently

So, to paraphrase Matthew 6:23-24, Jesus is saying:

“If you have a good and generous attitude, all your actions will shine and give light. But if you are always thinking of yourself, you will not bear or bring light, but instead stumble in darkness.”

Looking ahead to Lent

As we look ahead to Lent, let us ask for the eyes to see the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of those around us, and then to respond to their poverty with lavish generosity and tangible sacrifice. Pope Francis said:

“Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”

Looking Up to the God Who Sees All

Lord Jesus, Light of the World, we cry out with the blind beggars, “Lord, I want to see!” (Matthew 20:23). Help us to see you more clearly in our daily circumstances, events and relationships. Help us to see you in the distressing disguise of the poor and become messengers of mercy and heralds of hope.

Lord, when we are tempted to impatience or to think only of ourselves, remind us to walk in the light by growing in our love for you, by loving others, and dying to self. Amen.

This article was first published on The Great Adventure Blog on February 20, 2014.

About Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is the co-author of Wisdom: God’s Vision for Life,  Revelation: The Kingdom Yet to Come and The Prophets: Messengers of God’s Mercy. He is an international presenter for The Great Adventure Bible Timeline. Bringing a wealth of experience and insight on the Word of God to audiences across the U.S., Thomas is a repeat guest on EWTN and Catholic radio as well as a sought after parish mission and conference speaker. Thomas Smith has taught as an adjunct professor at the St. Francis School of Theology in Denver, and is the former Director of the Denver Catholic Biblical School and the Denver Catechetical School. He lives on his family ranch in southeastern Idaho and writes for his website

Has Ascension's free media strengthened your faith?
You can now offer ongoing support for this content with a recurring gift.
Support Ascension

Get your favorite Ascension content sent right to your email!

  • Responding face to face lovingly and generously to emotional or spiritual poverty can be so very difficult. It isn’t easy to recognise that kind of poverty especially when it manifests itself in so many different ways from anger, sadness, blindness, spiritual sloth etc. Plus, there is the other difficulty in that a starving person knows they are poor, by the physical hunger but many people do not know when they are spiritually or emotionally poor. Even when we think we are spiritually wealthy, something happens that stops us in our tracks, and upon reflection we realise that we have deluded ourselves into believing that a spiritual sweet is a wholesome filling spiritual meal.

    For those of us who would struggle to give of ourselves to the poor, it is such a blessing that there are so many people in the Church sacrificing themselves so generously to fight poverty with loving kindness. All people such as myself can do is to humbly respond to the call to give, with gratitude that God has provided more than sufficient for our needs and wonder why our tiny prayerful giving, rewards us with such abundant wondrous joy. It is a wonderful mystery.

  • In 2 Corinthians 4;4 the god of this world has blinded the minds of the
    unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the
    glory of Christ, who is the image of God. I am praying for my understanding to recognize the true gospel of Christ since by the time we open our eyes in the morning, though we see clearly the words in the bible but there were so many schools of thoughts that come to redirect our own understanding away from the minds and thoughts of Christ. The worst thing that may come to us when we are unable to understand the message and come to a personal decision to reject the gospel of Christ. I believe this scenario is dangerous to our souls when we started rejecting a single teaching of Christ in the Bible, because one rejection can possibly followed by another rejection as we go on further reading of the gospel. That means we have our second rejections and second rejections, can naturally follow, third, then fourth and etc., and etc., until we end up abandoning Christ’s teaching and eventually we engaged in formulating our own personal understanding and establish a new church. I believed this is what happened to the existence of about 38,000 denominations all over the world with competing teaching among them.

  • >