O, Be Careful
by Mark Fulmer
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
A simple Sunday School song always had a chilling effect on me. While its intent was probably to encourage, the mixed message creeped me out.
O, be careful little eyes what you see.
O, be careful little eyes what you see!
For the Father up above is looking down in love
So be careful little eyes what you see.
What if my little eyes accidentally see something they shouldn’t and the looking down Father conks me for it? What is it exactly that I’m not supposed to see? Then there’s that whole business in the same part of the Bible about gouging out your own eye. Are my little eyes ever safe? Such were the ruminations of an overly analytical elementary Sunday School customer. And I was the preacher’s kid!
Jesus is talking about wealth, possessions, and loyalties. This shouldn’t come as a shocker for us. The Bible contains more than 2,300 verses about money, wealth, and possessions. That’s four times more verses than those on heaven, hell, and salvation combined. Money is one of the Lord’s most talked about topics.
And in this part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is drawing a sharp contrast between our loyalty to wealth and our loyalty to God. The Lord uses a metaphor that was common in his day in Israel. The eye was often described as being “good” or “bad.” Having a “good eye” was the way to describe someone who lived their lives with compassion and generosity. A “bad eye,” or more correctly an “evil eye,” was often used to describe someone who was greedy, miserly, or selfish.
After Jesus tells His disciples not to store up treasures on earth and that the things they treasure announces their heart’s loyalties, He makes plain to them that putting the needs of your pocketbook first is not the way of a true disciple. He says pointedly that we must not be more loyal to money than we are to God.
Now, we don’t need to fret like a second-grade singer worried about having careful eyes, but it is appropriate to ask ourselves a few litmus-test questions.
First, am I a generous person? If I can help financially, or by loaning my car or lawnmower or books, am I quick to be open-handed? Or is my real-life attitude one of thinly veiled stinginess? Is my eye turned toward the things of God enough that I can say about all my possessions, “It’s just stuff”?
Secondly, do I look with an “evil eye” of covetousness? Can I be invited to someone’s house and enjoy the party without secretly wishing I had more? How much do I wish I owned someone else’s lake house, ranch, or home in Colorado?
Lastly, is my loyalty to and friendship with others at all influenced by their wealth? Am I unduly impressed if someone is known as a millionaire or billionaire?
The apostle Paul reinforces Jesus’ teaching about wealth and possessions.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
1 Timothy 6:17-19
James, the brother of Jesus offers a similar warning and says this pointedly to the church.
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which He has promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
The desire to honor the Lord with our money and possessions is a life-long journey for followers of Jesus and maybe one of the greatest challenges for a believer living in a materialistic city like Dallas. Perhaps we should trade in our worn out versions of "O, Be Careful Little Eyes” and replace them with the simple prayer from the Psalms.
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in Your ways.