I imagine myself as a tiny person living inside the head of the body that people see as me. The big "me" is really a physical body with which I interact with the physical world. The tiny "me" is my consciousness.
So, if I am the tiny "me", living inside the head of the big "me", then my only source of light will be the eyes of the big "me". That's how I understand the idea that the "eye is the lamp of the body."
The question Jesus posed is, "What if the eye (of the big "me") is faulty? What if, instead of bringing in light, it lets in darkness?"
Now, if you are inside the head, and no light comes in, things are going to be pretty dark for you. But (of course there is no such thing, but what if...) what if, not only no light is coming in from the eyes, but instead the light that comes from your eyes is BLACK light... how great is the darkness!
Think about that, Jesus said. So let's think about that...
It is dark. And if my only source of light gives me black light, it is totally hopeless. I cannot see and I will not know where I will end up.
What is the spiritual equivalent of this situation? I cannot see God. I cannot see my destiny. I cannot see my future. I do not know what is good, what is bad. I am on earth, bound by my limitations. God is in the spiritual realm. I cannot reach Him. Only He can reach me. The only way that I can be reached is through faith. Faith is the window that we open to allow the spiritual realm to affect us, to give us knowledge. Just as science is the window through which we allow knowledge of the physical realm to affect us and give us knowledge.
The problem is that we can have bad science, and end up with faulty knowledge. And we can have bad faith (faith that may be very sincere, but resting on sources that have no real authority), and end up even more blind spiritually - more blind because bad faith keeps us away from true light.
In the context of the things Jesus has been talking about, he challenges us to re-examine the basis of our beliefs. Conventional wisdom (what everybody says) has it that the longer and more profound the prayer, the more pleased God will be. The face value of our gifts to God is what counts. And while we should always do good so that we do not anger God, this will not put food on the table or get you what your heart desires. We find it very hard to give up these beliefs, because, examined from the physical perspective, they seem true. But Jesus tells us that from the spiritual perspective, they are false.
But as long as we hold on to conventional wisdom, we continue to hold up the torch that shines black light.
No one can serve two masters. Jesus is not saying that God does not allow rivals. He is saying that it is impossible. You say that it is possible. Surely I can love God and mammon at the same time. But Jesus says that it is not possible. To love one is to hate the other. To be devoted to one is to despise the other. But we disagree. It can be done. It is possible. Jesus, it is possible.
Here is another of those apparent contradictions that I have spoken of in my talk. And once again, the crux of the contradiction lies in our mind. For we have such a watered down idea of love and devotion that we consider our half-hearted efforts, not even one-tenth tithing, inattentive worship, tokenism, ill-considered decisions, poorly prepared service, uninspired singing, grudging time set aside for communion with God, unwillingness to sacrifice to please Him—to be adequate.
But let us examine the corollary truth. Imagine complete devotion to God, finding deep jo y in his presence, and deep fulfilment in serving Him. Imagine being eternally grateful because He has rescued you from the depths of hell. Imagine waking up each day with a sense of adventure because each day is an opportunity to discover the mystery of God's person and purpose. If your imagination is anything like mine, you will know that such a person is completely happy, completely filled and fulfilled. Such a person will be completely detached from mammon. But if the person was at first the person described in the previous paragraph, and he remembers how mammon made him selfish, worried, restless, unfulfilled, uninspired and shallow, then he will hate and despise mammon.
Devotion to God detaches you from mammon and fills you. Devotion to mammon neutralizes your relationship with God, and destroys you.
After almost a lifetime of careful balancing of the various demands of faith, finance, personal desires, ambition, obligations, and responsibilities, it is hard to live with such a black and white point of view. This or that. No compromise, no middle ground, no percentages. It is all and nothing.
I do not want to return to the earlier, more idealistic, days, when my view of the world is simplistic. I cannot just shrug off financial concerns (I have a housing loan to pay off), the need to plan for retirement (old age?), the desire for a new car (mine is about 8 years old), the constant thought that I will be more productive with a new Powermac G3. And what about getting a MIDI enabled synthesizer to hook up to the Mac so as to start composing great music?!
Yet I also long for the simplicity of faith. The lack of clutter in my mind if I were to just be completely devoted to God and despise mammon. I long for the experience of what I described yesterday, to be completely happy, filled and fulfilled.
Is the answer in the instruction that Jesus gave to the rich young ruler, "Go, sell all your possessions and give to the poor, and come and follow me"?
I don't know.
Although the reference to the rich young ruler yesterday was a last minute inspiration, I decided that it will be valuable to pursue that direction, because the issues confronting me here are so serious. To ignore what is a clear statement of Jesus is to dilute the integrity of my faith. But to carry on with such serious reservations will be just as bad.
I am reminded of the conversation I had with Jun Ee last night, regarding the whole issue of acknowledging our faith in the face of the possibility of our suffering pain or death for it. She was saying that one can, at this point, come to the right conclusion (that is, acknowledge my faith despite the dangers) but when the situation actually arises, one will probably fail. The question is, "Does Jesus ask us to do what we cannot do?"
There is so much in this passage that is relevant to my reflection this week but I will go straight to the issue at hand.
The disciples said, upon hearing Jesus' proclamation that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God", asked, "Who then can be saved?" You are requiring the impossible!
Jesus' reply is instructive for what he did NOT say, as much as for what he said.
If I were trying to teach people about the cost of commitment and I raise situations like "Someone points a gun at your head and say, deny Jesus or I will blow your head off" or, "If you really want to go to heaven, you must sell all your possessions" the likely response will be "who can do this?" And my likely response will be, "that is the degree of commitment that we must achieve". The value of what we desire is so great that it is worth our possessions, even our life. As Jesus said, what is the point of gaining the whole world if as a result of that we lose our soul?
Jesus' reply surprised me. He acknowledge t hat such faith is impossible with men. But God is greater than our faith. The onus is on God, not men. He does not tell me what to do in such situations, although, because the rich young ruler persisted in wanting to know, he was brutally direct with him.
Perhaps the example of the chap who knelt before Jesus saying "I believe, help my unbelief" is helpful at this point, because his honesty before Jesus was well acknowledged and accepted by him.
You cannot serve God and mammon.
Dear God, I choose to serve You. Help me though because my faith is weak and there are many things that I want, and there are many influences in my life, and there are many pressures that I face, that conflict with my desire to serve you.