The context of Jesus' words above demands a first century fulfillment ( in other words, they were poignant for the Pharisaical Jews of His day ), but they also hold true today, as many of His words do, as a universal truth. The King James Version renders the Greek 'haplous' as 'single'. In the sense of 'whole', or even 'healthy', both adjectives fulfill their purpose. The singularity of the 'eye' ( Greek 'ophthalmos' ) lends credence to the notion that the Master was here referring to what is metaphorically called 'the third eye'. As a universal truth, Jesus' words remind us of our true nature & that it is with the only with the 'eyes' of the Spirit Within that we truly 'see', or know!
There is much in this world in which we live that is called 'evil'! 'Evil', though, being a fairly relative term ( for instance, what some may call 'evil' is not necessarily bad, or wicked; it just feels or seems that way to them, while on the other side of the coin, what some call 'good' may seem 'evil' to their neighbor ), is simply an adjective describing what any given person, at any given time, chooses to do. 'Evil' cannot be personified ( as 'Evil Incarnate' ), although one could well name many people in our past ( as well as in our present ) as 'evil'. However, some of these, though one might perceive them as continually making bad or 'wrong' choices, are simply guilty of being different, 'marching to a different drummer' ( 'dancing to a different tune' ), so to speak! Coming from a strictly Christian background ( as I do ), we could well say ( most do ), 'well, God ( the Bible ) says this is evil ( wrong ) & that is good ( right )!' There ARE absolutes, but are we to judge them by what some book colored by a certain ( ANE ) perception, says: should we not rather judge them ( individuals ) by 'evil is as evil does', or better yet, 'an ye harm none, do what ye will'??!
Perception, individual or cultural, has much to do with what is considered 'evil' This is not to say that there IS no such thing ( ? ), for anyone can look at a man hitting a woman, for instance & immediately condemn that man for his actions. What they didn't see, in their limited perception, however, is that he was simply defending himself; they didn't see the gun or knife that she had previously threatened him with, or even the child cowering in his shadow. Whether they arrived late on the scene, or whether their perception is colored by a certain dogma, most only 'see' what they perceive with the physical organs called 'eyes'. Many are beginning to understand, however, by 'thinking outside the box' ( or 'the book', as the case may be ) that not all is as they have been taught, so, 'bucking the system', in a manner of speaking, their perception ( if they even HAVE one ) has been altered to the point that they trust the Spirit Within more than what they see with their eyes!
It IS most definitely wrong for a man ( or woman ) to sexually abuse a child! Most often, we are used to reading about it or hearing it on the evening news from a source which is questionable at the very least. Many Americans perceive these articles ( or 'bytes' ) to be true & so start wars both inside & outside themselves. As above, though, increasingly more are noting the bias in much if not all of the major news media & have turned to alternate sources for their information. This often leads to their 'third eye' being opened, with the understanding that 'it is what it is'; all else is simply perception, at least, physically speaking. But then, there is 'knowing'.....................
In the words of that old song, 'To know, know, know you is to love, love, love you'. Okay, so maybe that's a bit out of context ( 'hand-picked cherries, anyone?' ), but the point is, to really love someone, or make any such correct judgement about any certain thing or situation, we must know ( not just perceive ) the facts. Can we 'know' by reading words in a book or listening to what others say? We can surely ascertain truth THROUGH what we read or hear, but only when it resonates with the Spirit Within. In other words, it is not (necessarily ) true just because some book or dogma says it is; the truth can only be known when the 'third eye' is activated, by the understanding of the Spirit Within!
'For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. ( I Corinthians 2:11 )'. Even our own Scriptures tell us that it is not by seeing ( perceiving ) with the physical eyes that one knows a thing ( to be true, but that it is only by the Spirit Within that true understanding, true knowledge comes. Only when we 'see' with the eye of our Spirit ( 'third eye' ) can we come to a knowledge of the truth. Anything less is simply 'perception' & we have seen what 'perception' can do. Anything from wrongful imprisonment to unjust war has been the result of false perceptions of reality.
The prophet Isaiah ( speaking of the ANE context ) was told, 'Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed.' ( Isaiah 6:9 ) All prejudice aside, this is obviously not referring to their physical eyes & ears, but rather to the understanding of their heart, or the knowledge that only comes through the Spirit Within. Much like the world today, the prophet Isaiah had to deal with much that was called 'evil'. Also like the world we live in, the perception of the majority of people was ruled by physicality ( that's why Jesus ended up on the cross ). Lest my readers get the idea that simple perception is necessarily a bad thing; 'perception' is neither good nor bad, but like anything, it can be used for 'good' or 'evil', right or wrong.
True perception only comes through listening to 'that still, small voice'. What we see with the ( physical ) eye or hear with the ( physical ) ear may or may not be true, but by the Spirit Within, through our spiritual understanding, we may ascertain whether it is really true or whether it is simply another's perception of the truth. This, again, is not to say that truth is relative, for there IS such a thing as absolutes, but just because one perceives ( with the physical senses ) a thing to be true doesn't make it so, although, speaking of relativity, it becomes 'truth' for that individual!
Charles Haddon Shank