“No one can serve two masters.” Matthew 6:24a
These three verses at first glance might strike you as some of the most enigmatic thus far in the sermon. This is because Jesus uses some mixed metaphors to make his points. Thankfully, the broader context that these verses sit in can help us to understand; whenever we find a Bible passage difficult, using the surrounding paragraphs for clarification is a great place to start.
We know that Jesus has been contrasting those who look for rewards from other people in public, while he wants us to look for rewards from God. We also saw that he contrasted treasure seeking on earth and treasure seeking in heaven. So it’s not a surprise that he uses another contrast here—between a “healthy” eye and an “unhealthy” eye—because it continues the image of what one is looking for.
When Jesus says the eye is the lamp of the body, he is expressing that what we look for, what we seek, has an effect on our inner person. This is very similar to what we read about the treasures. The idea of the healthy eye implies a good kind of seeking, and seeking after good things; likewise, the bad or unhealthy eye seeks useless or bad things. The first type of seeking produces light in the body, an image of purifying affect, of cleanness and goodness. It’s no wonder that light in the Bible is so often associated with God. On the other hand, the bad eye produces such an opposite that even the light in a person with the bad eye is darkness as compared with the effects of a good eye.
This isn’t to say you might find yourself “stuck” with a bad eye. You may find yourself in a season where you’ve been seeking things apart from God, or been out of line with his priorities; maybe you’ve never been in line with his desires! You may feel like you have a bad eye. But this isn’t like being born with an unfixable deformity. Jesus presents so many contrasts in this sermon because he calls you to a better way, which provides hope that he can empower you to it.
This call is clear in verse 24. He promises that you can’t have it both ways: you can’t have Jesus as your leader and something else, whether it’s money (as the passage clearly states) or some other potential master, including yourself. He doesn’t want us to be deceived. We often want it to be the case that we can have both, take the best from the world and the best from heaven, but before very long at all, we’ll start dreading the demands of one or the other, and our life will be heavy.
If this heaviness represents where you are now, don’t be discouraged. You can turn to Jesus in prayer and ask for help; start by telling him where you have been off track, and ask for forgiveness, which he promises to give. Next, ask that he would strengthen you with the power of the Holy Spirit, and let others in your Christian community know about your desire to grow in health and maturity in the Lord so that they can help you. Jesus always hears and draws near to those who recognize their need of him!
If you find yourself in a healthy season, take time to praise God! What a wonderful gift to see spiritual fruit in our lives. Take some time to reflect on what has helped bring this health to your life, and ask God to keep you steadfast. Pray through ways that you can come alongside your friends to strengthen and encourage them with the beauty of the gospel and the power of God.