MAGICAL MATTHEW 24

TRANSLATION MATTHEW 6: 22

The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is healthy your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is sick your whole body will be filled with darkness. If therefore the light in you is darkness, how great that darkness is!

No one can be a slave of two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will cling to the one and disdain the other. You cannot be a slave of God and Wealth.

Jesus has been urging his followers to ignore worldly wealth in favour of ‘wealth in heaven’, namely the communal generosity which truly enriches a person. But he is aware that his followers may not see it this way. So he provides illustrations of how human perception may be corrupted.

Firstly he refers to the eye as the organ of perception, but he is not referring to simple sight, rather to the whole process of moral and spiritual perception. The ancients saw the physical eye as providing light/ clarity for the body. Jesus sees the gift of moral and spiritual perception as providing light/ clarity for the whole person. He argues that if that ability is ‘sick’, that is, if it is weakened or corrupted, the person’s basic understanding of life will be perverted. The person is not wilfully sinning against the light; he ‘sees’ that there is a global plot to replace the white race with other races, and therefore ‘sees’ killing a black person as an act of self-defence. His eye is sick. This is a shrewd and appalling diagnosis by Jesus. Any remedy requires a ‘cleansing of the doors of perception‘ as William Blake put it.

The second illustration comes from the institution of slavery, which Jesus used frequently in his teaching. Accumulation of debt in Jesus’ society meant that numbers of people were made slaves because they could not pay what they owed. This terrible loss of freedom was feared by many ordinary people. Slavery meant you were the property of a master, who was your only hope of returning to freedom, because he could reward you for faithful service. That meant you had to focus on him to the exclusion of all else; having two masters was a proverbial instance of an impossible dilemma. So if you are enslaved to wealth, serving it to the exclusion of all else, you cannot also serve God, according to Jesus. You might want to do so, but your enslavement to wealth would make it impossible. Jesus’ insight here is that what some people might see as a sensible commitment to self-advancement can be a destructive form of slavery. Is your ‘wealth’ serving you, or are you serving it?

If you were warned that an event leading to your death would occur, but you could reliably prevent it by doing x, and you refused to do it because it would disturb your way of life, you might be judged as stupid, crazy, or even possessed. But most people, informed of the devastating effects of global warming, refuse to abandon the economic activities which have caused the warming. This may be an indication of the sort of enslavement that Jesus warned against.

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