The ability to see is a priceless gift from God. Far too many of us live life without gratitude for our sight. Not only do we live without gratitude for it, we misuse it.
The eye is a “gateway” to the mind. Jesus spoke of this ability to see and our responsibility to guard it. He said, “If your right eye offends you, pluck it out, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29).
“If your eye offends . . . .” Matthew uses the Greek word skandalon from which the English word “scandal” is derived. Literally it has reference to baiting a hook or a trap. The bait on the hook or trap lures the victim to destruction. If your eye is like that—baiting the hook—then “pluck it out.” Whatever leads astray or entices to sin must be eliminated. Radical surgery must be taken to remove the source of sin—not just sin.
This is a painful process that we have to go through. It often involves things that are very important to us and very priced. It might be some hobby, practice, idea, friend or any number of other things that have come between us and God—it has become an “offense.” We have set our eyes on that and cannot see the Lord. We must remove it!
Moral promiscuity is a serious matter to God. The seventh commandment is devoted to adultery. The ancient Jews punished adultery with death. When Jesus uttered those words in Matthew He was referring specifically to adultery. This is a problem in our visually-oriented society, perhaps more than at any other time in history. Our advertisements, commercials and magazines are largely oriented to our sensual-sexual desires. The prime way to “hook” a man or woman’s attention is to excite this desire.
Commentators who have written on this passage have noted that Jesus was not literally talking about gouging out the eye. His speech, they say, was figurative, but the point is very obvious. We ought to remove what gives rise to sin in our lives. Enticing books, suggestive amusements, compromising friendships or other tempting things must be “cut” out of our lives. We must do it without mercy. Whatever “traps” us—the object, book, show, song, company, thought—must be cast from us.
This matter of regulating sight is not legalism. It is a matter of self-discipline. However, we must guard against legalism—putting down rigid laws and rules about what you can look at, where you can look and how long you can look. Paul said, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient” (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23). We must not attempt to regulate the lives of others, but I can regulate my own life. I can decide where, at what and for how long I look. The one area that is most common today is the Internet (for some television). I can decide when, how long and what I will see on the computer or television. It is a matter of self-discipline, Paul describes this in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “But I keep under my body, and bring it I not subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” We must guard what we see so that our vision might always be clear to see the Lord. We must “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14). Jesus is our source of personal discipline enabling us to direct and guard our vision.
You cannot ignore the laws of God or flaunt them and escape penalty. Dr. E. Stanley Jones, a great Methodist missionary to India, once remarked, “We don’t break the laws of God, they break us.” We can break the laws of God with our eyes—by seeing the wrong things, by looking intentionally at wrong things. Jesus said this about adultery, “looking on a woman with lust after her” was committing that act in one’s heart (Matthew 5:28).
The look of the eye is not only related to adultery. It is, also, related to jealousy, pride, covetousness and many other sins. The tenth commandment presents an inclusive list related to this matter, including many things (Exodus 20:17). All of these are things which we desire and set out to acquire.
God has not only commanded us not to look in the wrong manner. He has also provided us a way to control this most vital “gateway” to the mind and spirit. When we come to Jesus for salvation we receive a new mind and a new heart. We are able with a new power to control the direction and content of our seeing. The Corinthians had a vision problem. Paul advised them, “You are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
The people of God have power over how they see, what they see and where they look. Peter explains this for us in 1 Peter 2:9-10. The eyes are a tool of the heart, the spiritual nature of man. They look at and where and how we determine in our hearts they will look. Peter gives us the insights into seeing as God’s person. In other words, we can see things as God sees them. We have a new light in which to see things. So we have been given new eyes and a new light in which to see life. We have a new perspective to use our new vision and new light—mercy. Here is true Christianity in operation, mercy known and mercy shown toward others. It all begins with receiving new vision and new light and being put in a new perspective from which to see life—mercy. We are what we see!