“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good ..." (Matthew 6:22-23)

"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matthew 6:22-23)

What do the 'eye' and the 'lamp' represent?

This metaphorical statement by Jesus is often misinterpreted. What does it mean?

It should be noted that Jesus was teaching to a particular society and culture—some 2,000 years ago in another land and in another language. Each culture and society has tangible and common everyday occurrences and understandings that might be used to communicate a deep subject matter.

Here Jesus was teaching about the deepest subject matter of all: He was discussing elements of a world transcendental to this temporary physical world. Because that transcendental world is unseen by the physical eyes and physical mind, it is difficult to describe without metaphorical language.

This creates a problem of understanding for those who either do not relate to the metaphors being used or are not otherwise versed in the subject matter. In Jesus' times, people used lamps with fire for light. A lamp could be of different shapes and sizes, and a lamp could have a good light - allowing a person to see quite a bit - or a weak light - allowing for little vision at night.

Jesus is comparing the "eye" to the condition of our heart and the "light" to our spiritual consciousness. This means our relationship with the Supreme Being and others.

A soft-hearted and humble consciousness will be able to receive the teachings of God's messenger and thus be able to re-develop our relationship with the Supreme Being. That will leave our "light" - the condition of our relationship with the Supreme Being - in a state that is increasingly joyful and full of love and compassion.

But if our heart ("eye") is full of pride, greed and self-centeredness, then there would be little ability to receive Jesus' teachings. And our "light" within - our spiritual condition - will be in darkness.

What does Jesus mean by 'darkness'?

"Darkness" is that metaphorical state where our self-centeredness and our pride prevent us from connecting with our relationship with the Supreme Being. This is "darkness" because we are each intimately related to the Supreme Being. 

Jesus taught that we were created by God. That is why he often addressed God as πατήρ (patēr) - typically translated to "Father" but more appropriately translated to "Creator."

Why did God create us? We were created for the purpose of exchanging a unique loving service relationship with the Supreme Being.

This is our identity. This is who we are. We are not these physical bodies. We are each spirit-persons who belong with Him in the spiritual realm.

But because love requires freedom, the Supreme Being also created us with the freedom to love Him or not. We can reject Him if we want, in other words.

Those of us who need to develop our loving relationship with the Supreme Being are sent to the physical world and given physical bodies to learn as well as to act out our independence and self-gratification.

But in order to maintain our freedom, the Supreme Being also created the physical world in such a way that it completely covers up our spiritual identity and our relationship with Him. It allows us to completely escape Him, and even forget Him and deny His existence.

Such a state is the state of "darkness" that Jesus is referring to in this metaphorical statement. He is talking about the nature of greed and enviousness in this world. This is about the desire for power and the desire to be superior to others.

What is 'darkness' in this world?

Darkness is exhibited in this world by the desire to be top dog. The desire for fame. The desire to be the 'champion of the world.' The desire to be 'the greatest.' The desire to be recognized as 'the hero.'

These are all the Supreme Being's positions. Yes, this means these desires are ultimately envy of God's position - which is why we are away from Him.

When Jesus says “how great that darkness,” he points out that when the heart is blackened by greed and envy, a great downward spiral draws the self deeper and deeper into self-centeredness - leading to acts of hatred, anger, and violence.

But we can turn things around quite quickly and immediately. We can transcend this darkness by simply turning to the Supreme Being, and praying to Him - Our Friend and Eternal Savior - to rescue us. 

For this reason, God is often referred to as The Most Compassionate, because we can approach Him in distress, and He will come to our rescue. Because He is always there for us. This is called unconditional love.

Such a request made humbly will immediately soften our hearts and allow our innate relationship with the Supreme Being to begin to provide light to our lives.