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The Lamp of Compassion

June 30, 2019  Harry Potter #3,         The Problem of Evil,

Matthew 6:19-24

In the seventh and final book of the Harry Potter series, Rowling inserts two scripture verses into the story. She has said these verses sum up and represent the message of the books in their entirety. The second of these verses will be the focus of next Sunday’s message. Today let’s look at the first verse, Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. These words appear on the tombstone of Dumbledore’s mother and sister. But it’s the way in which the following verses in Matthew unpack verse 21 that really caught my attention this week. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

The Message translation makes you sit up and pay attention – “Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have.”

Have you heard of the “evil eye”? This is an ancient belief encompassing many cultures around the world and is still prevalent today. The general idea seems to be that a person can curse someone by giving them the “stink-eye”. The “evil eye” actually makes several appearances in ancient Jewish Rabbinic literature. According to commentary writer and theologian Douglas Hare, these verses from Matthew seem to contrast a “good eye” with the age-old idea of the “evil eye.” But it’s the scriptural context for good vs. evil in this use of the eye that I really want to highlight here.

A year ago I did a sermon based on a scriptural interpretation approach Bryan Moyer Suderman presented at last year’s WDC annual assembly. Suderman pointed out how Jesus buried clues within his teaching that led his hearers straight back to the Old Testament. Jesus was, of course, an Old Testament scholar. And he is at it again in this whole passage from Matthew, dropping a bread trail of clues within these verses that lead us to the book of Proverbs.

Now, I don’t tend to use the King James translation because I find the language, while beautiful, also kind of cumbersome. I prefer newer translations. However, I was caught up short again this week at how the King James version often stays to a more literal translation of the actual text rather than trying to modernize and put things in today’s vernacular. So this idea of a good eye and an evil eye first makes its scriptural appearance in Proverbs.

Proverbs 22:9 – “He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.” In contrast, we have the evil eye…Proverbs 23:5-6 – “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven. Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats.” And Proverbs 28:22 – “He tha