23 „The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
Up until my trip to Jerusalem this year, I had understood that a “bad eye” is one that is engaged in looking at “bad things”.
I still believe that this is true according to Mt 5:28, but there is a fuller understanding that comes directly out of Hebrew culture.
The word translated as “bad eye” in our verse is also translated as “evil eye” one chapter later in Mt 7:22.
Jews in Israel today, refer to jealousy and covetousness as possessing an” evil eye”.
An “evil eye” cannot bear the good fortune of others, while a “good eye,” enjoys seeing others happy and successful. Therefore, Jews in Israel are nervous about commenting on the blessings of others and when an old grandma slips and says, “What a beautiful baby you have” to the mother, they immediately mumble, “Kinehora, Kinehora” which is Yiddish for “without the evil eye”. They want to make sure that their praise isn’t suggesting an envious glance.
This cultural understanding of the „evil eye” fits perfectly with the context of what Jesus was teaching in our verse (see Mt 6:24) as well as the later parable found in Matthew 20:14-15 where the Landowner says to the grumbling laborers…”Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?”
So, if this is correct, then Jesus is warning us to be careful not to envy the blessings that God has given to another because it will darken your own life. (See Miriam in Numbers 12)
The Bible says:
Proverbs 14:30 “A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones.”
Hebrews 13:5 “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For HE HIMSELF has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'”
It would be good to meditate upon Luke 15:25-32 and to remember the affect of the evil eye upon the older son.