Seeing With Your Good Eye
by Pastor Steve Schantz
Good afternoon to each of you! Last Sunday in week two of this God Provides series, we saw from Jeremiah’s account how God blesses His people even through tough circumstances as He provides for us to prosper where we are planted. During each of these 6 weeks we are discovering how faithful people learn to trust God to provide. As we trust Him more, God enables us to see what matters most in life, and our choices reflect lasting values and reap eternal rewards. This week’s lesson has us journeying with Abram as he relies on God’s promises and makes decisions which bless and prefer others. In complement to this series, please turn with me this morning to Matthew’s gospel account, chapter 6, beginning in verse 19, as we see how Jesus challenges his followers to change the way they look at life. There is an intended slight variation in word choice from the NKJV as we read.
Matt 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (NKJV)
As Jesus points out the folly of investing in things which have built in obsolescence, notice how He links our eyesight with our value system. He uses the good eye/band eye illustration to show how we gather and process the information which drives our choices. This text also reminds us that the kinds of decisions we make reveals who or what we serve, and who or what actually rules over us! Discovering that some of your most popular, profit based personal choices actually take place in the dark can be upsetting. Realizing how far from Jesus thinking is from our modern mantra “He who dies with the most toys wins!” should also be disturbing to us. John Calvin once noted that scripture brings health to our spiritual eyesight like a good set of glasses. He wrote:
“For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any book, however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written, are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words, but when aided by glasses, begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering together the impressions of Deity, which, till then, lay confused in our minds, dissipates the darkness, and shows us the true God clearly.” (Institutes I.VI.1)
So, using our good eye means learning to refocus by spending time in scripture!
Before leaving Matthew’s gospel, let’s notice one other place where Jesus uses this good eye/bad eye illustration. I’m referring to the Kingdom parable in Matthew chapter twenty where the owner of a Vineyard has hired Laborers to work his harvest. Some of the vineyard laborers were hired at the beginning of the day, and others late in the afternoon. At the end of the work day the owner paid everyone one denarius, no matter how many hours they’d worked. However, the twelve-hour workers registered an official complaint. Guess what they said? “Hey, this isn’t fair!” But here’s how the owner of the vineyard answered them:
Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ (Matthew 20:15 ) … Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ –NKJV
Bad eyes are blindly offended by the overarching generosity of the owner of the vineyard. A scorekeeping eye cannot handle the grace God pours out. It is always monitoring, competing with everyone else for the reward. The twelve-hour workers judged the owner as unfair because they resented his abundance! The look captured in the two debt collector’s eyes as they accepted the widow’s payment in the first week’s video of God Provides told it all! They remained doubtful bystanders, selfish blind participants in the miracle of the oil God provided. In Hebraic tradition, Jesus use of the good eye illustration in Matthew’s account sees generosity toward God reflected in our generosity toward others.
Proverbs 22:9 He who has a generous eye will be blessed, For he gives of his bread to the poor. (NKJV)
None of us wants to operate in the dark. And yet human history is marked by spiritual blindness, suffering, pain, and death. We’ve been influenced by the serpent’s view of God as recorded in Genesis chapter three. Under the serpent’s influence, Adam and Eve did not trust God to be abundant! The serpent challenged Eve planting seeds of doubt as to what God is really like. “Really now? Did God say you can’t eat from the trees of the garden?” And even after Eve answered him with, “We may eat of the trees of the garden, but not that one right over there… in fact we’re not even supposed to touch it, or we’ll die!” “Oh…hehe.. I see, just the one tree over there you’re not supposed to eat from?- OK – well first let me tell ya – you’re not gonna die! And second, He’s holding out on you! You can take it for yourself and be just like him… Then you won’t need Him to tell you anything about life!” (loosely paraphrased rendition). Once those neural pathways of doubt and disbelief toward God were laid down in the garden, our fight for self-sufficiency and survival turn us against one another in selfishness and eclipse the abundant life God intended. So good Eyes: Realize their sight has been damaged.
We have learned to trust ourselves, rely on ourselves, take for ourselves, and strive for our place in the world around us by any means possible. Like Eve, we believe that walking by the sight of our own eyes is, to be desired. When we trust our own eyesight, we tend to look at the glass God has provided as half empty, and we can’t turn ourselves around!
Why is our vision so blurry when we try to see out of a good eye? Memories are made along well worn neural pathways. Whenever we repeat an activity, we fire the same set of neural networks. A phrase used since the late 1940’s in neuroscience is “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” At the cellular level our brains collect and process data from our five senses, (sight being a very prominent one), and identify it with emotional markers. When we re-access these pathways as memory, it informs the next choice we make with similar stimuli. It’s really good that God wired our brains in this marvelous way or as adults we’d never remember not to touch a hot stove!
I remember a young pastor and wife who shared the story of their daughter Sophia’s traumatic early experience with the Happy Birthday song because she spent so many of her early days in the hospital. Here’s this tiny little girl, enduring necessary but very uncomfortable medical procedures that enable her heart transplant to be successful, probes, IV’s and syringes, repeated blood testing, surgical tape, alternating sleep schedule … and then some stranger pops into the room toting balloons, wearing a weird grin and singing “Happy Birthday to you!…” You and I would probably start screaming to! Well, Sophia no longer screams when someone sings Happy Birthday. She’s learning to enjoy the party because our memories can be retrained!
We understand through God’s word that He reaches us, informs us, moves us in this body, the temple of His Spirit. His Spirit works with the brain He gave us by wonderful design. Consider this oversimplified graphic where our brain mediates the choices we make. There are things that our brains are thinking without us thinking about it – (like signaling our heart to beat, an unconscious blink, and most of the time our breathing.) Those primitive brain reactions such as fight or flight come from closest to our brain stem, and tap into implicit memory banks. While our higher thinking, discerning, knowing that we know something area of the brain and where decision making is mediated takes place in DorsoLateral PreFrontal Cortex. This is where we think about our thinking and process explicit Memories.
We were designed to receive from His Spirit a good eye view of God and each other. Just as Sophia learned with coaxing and present tense assurance to revisit those old memories and recast them without fear, so we can learn to see out of our good eye and making different kinds of choices.
All of Christian growth is about learning to be attentive to the leading of the Holy Spirit as He rewires how we process input from our five senses. So, how’s your attention span? Let’s watch this short video and try to follow the narrator’s instructions answering his questions about what we’re seeing together.
Let’s return to Matthew chapter six, verse 20-21 and be sure we haven’t missed anything.
“…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Jesus isn’t suggesting that we give up living selfishly today so that we can live really selfishly for eternity. The gift of salvation by God’s grace is just that… a gift! Our Savior is not reversing the premise of an underserved pardon and salvation. That would be looking at His good plan through an evil eye! Author, Pastor, and teacher Rick Warren notes the highly relational aspect of where our hearts should be when he notes, “The Way You Store Up Treasure in Heaven is by investing in getting people there.”
Now salvation is God’s to give, but He has called us to be His ambassadors of that Kingdom. The fullness of the Kingdom of God will be populated with all the people of God in His presence – not our suitcases full of trinkets! Not even three ounces of toothpaste will make it through the security gates. We really can’t take it with us. Acting out His love and plan for others is all that will be remembered together. To see from our good eye is to treasure God’s good purpose for His creation and give ourselves to it wholeheartedly! As Abram grew in trusting God as his reward, his attitude and actions also changed toward others close to home – like his Nephew Lot. There came a point in Abram’s life just as in our own where we need to ask ourselves, “Am I hoarding, or helping? Investing in the Kingdom of God means looking around for who God may use you to bless for eternity. Good eyes resist hoarding by investing in God’s eternal work in others!
Our creator calls on us to make those gracious tough choices which count for something eternal in the lives of others! Let us hear the words of the Apostle John as he helps us cut through the clutter.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” I John 2:15-17
By God’s grace, it is possible to see out of our good eye in making Life’s choices. It is possible to teach our children that God will provide even as we trust and obey him. It is possible to make better choices which confirm God’s goodness, abundant grace and love, even as we forge new memories in tough times. If your children see that you Let God be The Vision for Your Next Decision and that your heart is invested in their eternal future – they too will learn to see with good eyes!
In the 2005 movie Cinderella Man based on a true story, Russell Crowe portrays heavyweight boxer James Bradock. Bradock is reduced to poverty by a broken hand and the Great Depression. While working odd jobs and living in a rundown apartment not knowing from day to day whether he will be able to earn enough money to buy food for their next meal, his oldest son James steals a sausage from the local butcher shop. The elder James went with him to return it, and then on the street corner had a heart to heart as father and son. The young James knew friends who had to be sent away from their families to the country because their parents could no longer feed, and he feared the same thing might happen to him. A gracious but firm father secured a promise from his son to never steal again, no matter how tough things get, and then makes him this promise – “We will never send you away!”
When Life’s choices got tough, Bradock chose to see out of his good eye even while correcting his son for stealing. Just as he spoke those words of comfort and truth to his son, helping him to make better choices, faithful choices, knowing that his Father would be there for him no matter what. So to our Father will never leave us or forsake us. He desires to share His greatest blessings with us which can never be taken away! Our Father invites us to look at Life differently, to see out of our good eye the provision of an irrepressible abundant God, and to make choices based on this God who is our reward!
Benediction – May our abundant God who rewards with eternal treasures, Father, Son and Spirit, going before us, moving within us, be our strong and sure Vision for Life’s best choices this week.