Just once in my life I was able to have a drink with a friend at a grand old London club. It was the Carlton Club on Pall Mall, and one of my good friends was a member there – long story. I was duly warned the day before to make sure I was wearing a tie – no admittance without one! As it happens, despite the warning, as I seem to remember my friend actually turned up tie-less. There was a brief delay as the genteel doorman quietly produced a rack of ties from his cupboard, one of which my friend chose. Then it was up the stairs to lounge for a couple of hours on enormous Chesterfields. I could get used to it, I must confess.
Entry points matter. They certainly matter in elite establishments, who usually have all kinds of rules to make sure only the right sort are let in. Truthfully, I’m not sure if wearing a tie is necessarily a foolproof method of ensuring this – answers on a postcard, please – but there is a principle here which today’s passage addresses directly.
Let’s move location from a posh club to our souls and bodies. And what Jesus tells us today is that what we let in is profoundly important. Or to put it another way, we need ways of screening out ‘undesirables’. In this case, it’s definitely not people, all of whom are equally loved by God and made in his image. It’s the stuff of life: it’s attitudes and motivations, desire and direction.
Jesus has just told us that we are the light of the world – filled with God’s presence, reflecting that presence to others. We can’t hide it – we just need to let it shine as best we can. But light needs fuel – in ancient societies that would be material to burn; nowadays that might be electricity or battery power. Either way, for light to keep burning brightly, it needs careful attention.
Our eyes are the entry point for our souls (v22). If what we let in is only ‘good fuel’, then the light will burn ever more brightly. However, we can also dim it by letting in darkness (v23).
The context of the passage is that of greed and desire. Jesus has warned his listeners not to set our hearts on wealth, but rather on the things of the kingdom (v19-20). So often, our eyes can feast on material temptation: we can see the trinkets of the wealthy, and allow that into our souls. Or we can allow worry over our material circumstances to dominate our thinking and reduce our trust in God’s provision (v25).
Both such temptations are forms of ‘darkness’, as Jesus describes it – they corrode our souls. Instead we are to watch what we absorb, to keep ‘healthy eyes’, that our souls and bodies may be full of light.
What grabs our attention today? Is it helping your light to burn? May God grant us grace to be renewed through what we see, what we fix our eyes upon – that we may shine brightly, for his glory. Amen!