“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 this transcendental world is unseen by the physical eyes or physical mind, it is difficult to describe without using 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 poor light - allowing for little vision.

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

A person who is soft-hearted and full of humility will be able to receive the teachings of God's representative and thus will 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 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 with the Supreme Being. Yes, we were created by Him. But we were created in order to exchange 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 who rejected their relationship with the Supreme Being were sent to the physical world and given physical bodies to act out our desires for 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 in this world is the desire to be the 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, these are the desire to be the Supreme Being. This is envy, and this 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 bring light into our lives.