Guard Your Eyeball Lightbeams

Up until the 1500s, it was thought that eyes actually emitted or projected something like light or energy. This energy wasn’t as extravagant as an X-Men superpower, but ancient people certainly believed there was a power of sorts in the eyes. Indeed, they believed that you could basically curse someone by casting an “Evil Eye” on them—a glance to which pregnant mothers, newborn babies, and children were especially susceptible. This kind of look was thought to be widespread enough that some Jewish teachers in the early first centuries claimed that, “Out of one hundred persons, ninety-nine die of an Evil Eye.”

Throughout the Bible, there are at least 24 references to the evil eye, with a few of those references coming from Jesus himself. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, he says something that often confuses us: “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 evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

Many modern readers are taken aback by this teaching. How is the eye a lamp? How can eyes be evil? The answer is found in the ancient conception of the eyes, as they were thought to emanate what’s inside of us and project it out, kind of like a lamp or a lighthouse. I know it sounds odd to us, but just as your tongue exclaims the good or evil and blessings or curses that live inside of you, so would ancient people say that your eyes emit the light or darkness inside of you.

While we know that this is not scientifically how eyes work, maybe you can still admit that you’ve fallen under the good or evil glances of another person (or even given such glances yourself). We’ve all noticed throughout the pandemic that we don’t need to see the bottom half of someone’s face to know how they feel about us. We can feel all kinds of good and evil expressions through the eyes of others: kindness, enjoyment, judgment, sensitivity, seduction, rage, and much more. How little we would be able to comprehend someone’s full feelings without their eyes. Though our eyes may only scientifically be receptacles, we must admit that we’ve felt their spiritual-like emissions one way or another.

I’ve had one friend strangely mention several times that I have “kind-Jesus-eyes,” which they sometimes struggle to look at when kindness is not what they think they should receive. But the eyes of Jesus are the exact kind of eyes we Christians are to strive for. For if Jesus was the light of the world, then the kind of light that emanated from his glance is the same kind of light we should pour out on other people—and that’s a teaching that our angry and judgmental world could probably use more of.

So in conclusion: In ancient thinking, your eye is a lamp, so it should naturally pour out the light that is within you, blessing those around you. But if you instead are filled with evil, you will emit darkness instead. Erase the darkness and be like Jesus—be light. You already know that as a Christian you are to guard your tongue—now guard what you say with your eyes as well.


*This devotional was created out of the themes of Matthew 6:19-24 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net. My research on the “Evil Eye” here is taken from John H. Elliot’s book, Beware the Evil Eye: The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World. Volume 1. “Introduction, Mesopotamia, and Egypt.” Below are the various AI-created pictures I typed into existence via Mid Journey to mock up artwork for today’s post.

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