The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 6:22-33
In today’s gospel reading we hear a portion of the famous Sermon on the Mount. These chapters 5, 6 and 7 from the Gospel of St. Matthew are the core teachings of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. They show the Lord Jesus as the new Moses who gives these new commandments to the New Israel, both Jews and Gentiles.
The Lord begins today’s reading with these words “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” We have come to assume that this message is a teaching regarding how we use our sense of sight and that may be true in part. What really allows us to understand this teaching comes in the following verses. They are verses that define our struggle as Christians in the western world.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not the soul more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
So when we connect the verses regarding sight with the verses I’ve just read we get a slightly different picture. It is certainly important to guard our senses and avoid viewing troubling images. It is of great importance to shelter our kids and teens from the bad stuff that they can see. That stuff has many forms from movies to certain games to websites. I highly suggest that to protect your family you should have filtering and monitoring software on all your computers/ devices at the very least. Taking proactive steps to guard your children is a powerful step towards helping your children become saints who walk with God.
But back to the original point. When viewed within its context, the Lord’s verses regarding the eyes seem to actually be about what we see and desire. As we commonly say of someone who wants to purchase something “He’s had his eye on a Honda Accord,” or “She’s had her eye on that necklace for a long time.” In this way we see that our Lord is really talking about what we desire, what we pursue, what we live for. And perhaps that is a great place to start; what do we live for?
Our Lord reminds us that in the grand scheme of things we can only serve one of two masters, God or mammon. We can choose to serve either the living God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ or we can serve mammon which is money or wealth. It is a difficult balancing act to perform for many of us because we understand that we need money and resources to buy food, to pay for gasoline, to pay mortgages, to start businesses, to build churches. All of these things require money. However the pursuit of money can become idolatry when it goes unchecked and is used to fuel an unchecked desire for stuff.
How do we balance our use of money with our love for God? We have to honestly assess our budgets. We need to know where and how we spend our money. As Christians who understand that this world is our temporary home, that it is slowly passing away, we need to look at where we spend money and what we are saving for. We also need to look to the needs of others and the needs of the Church. God has blessed some here with great wealth. God has also blessed us with the poor. How are they a blessing? They give us a chance to think outside ourselves. The poor give us a chance to show generosity, to show love, to show mercy. Almsgiving and tithing both give us opportunities to show our gratitude to God in a concrete way. Words and thoughts are not enough. Can we imagine a God who would tell us that He loves us but never ever shows that love through His actions? I’m not sure we would believe that He loves us. What about us? Do our actions and our choices show God that we are full of love for His people and for His Church?
With the Lord, every issue is ultimately an issue of the heart. What is really going on in our hearts? What do I have my eyes set on? What are we seeking out of life? What are our goals in this earthly life? What is the purpose for our existence? Why did God put me on this earth? Today’s reading is a reminder that we were not put on this earth to acquire riches or to worry about what we will eat or what we will drink or what we will wear. God put us on this earth and gave us life and He has given us a purpose. What is this purpose? The Lord tells us today, “To seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” The Lord actually backs this teaching with a strong promise. He says that if we seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness then “all these things will be added unto you.” The Lord is opening our eyes to His reality, the reality of being children of God. He tells us that if we do what the children of God are supposed to do, if we keep ourselves busy with God’s business, if we desire the things of God and the righteousness of God, we will find our purpose in life and what’s more….. we will also have all our other needs met, like food and water, clothes and shelter.
We often do the exact opposite though. We seek the growth and prosperity of our own personal kingdoms and just assume that God will bless the rest of our lives. But that’s not the teaching of Christ. If a man goes hiking in the wilderness, should he trust his eyes or his compass? No doubt, he should trust the compass, because his eyes can be deceived. Where our compass arrow is pointed is of greater importance than how the trail appears. The trail might appear easy and smooth based on what we see, but the compass tells us the proper way to go. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and if we choose to make His kingdom our priority, then He will also become our life. And Glory be to God forever AMEN.