Out of the “Sermon on the Mount” this is one of the passages that is generally skipped, in large part because the portions before and after it speak about “treasure” and money. But there is a question of what we are keeping our eye on. When I was in confirmation class the pastor, in one of his off tangent lectures spoke to the group of pre-adolescent boys in front of him, whom he fondly referred to as “reprobates from the bowels of hell” and said: “It isn’t when you notice a young lady that you are sinning. The sin is when you take that second look.” And my friend sitting behind me said, “So pastor, does that mean we should just take one long look?” It was a very short time after that when the pastor left the ministry to sell insurance. But the point is true, what you choose to put your eye on will have a lot to do with what is happening in your heart.
If you are filling your vision with images of things which you want to own, possessions that you hope to own but cannot afford, and lifestyles that are beyond your means, you will tend to fill your heart with feelings of envy and inadequacy. If you are filling your eyes with some of the hostile and angry news commentary, you can anticipate feeling anger and defensiveness. If you are filling your eye with images of peace, love, and compassion, you can anticipate your heart being a much more calm and joyful place to live.
Our difficulty is that the culture surrounding us loves violence. Very few enjoy being participants but there is definitely a love of being spectators. Often the main ingredient in this hostility and violence in the world around us is to dehumanize individuals within the violence in order to justify and excuse the injuries and harm inflicted. The repeated themes of the “Good Guy(s)” defeating the deserving and evil “Bad Guy(s)” causes the eye to be full of judgment, and creates a heart unable to see the struggles or needs of those on all sides of issues. This kind of darkness of the heart makes it particularly difficult when we begin to look at complex situations such as Northern Africa or the Middle East.
The fact is that an important part of our mental and spiritual health is the question of what we will focus our attention upon. At times, for the sake of improving the light that is within us, we need to reconsider the things on which we are focusing, day in and day out. There is a stewardship of being intentional about our personal intake and the quality of our inner light.