Lamentations 3:51 Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city.
The above verse is most often quoted alongside an exhortation to young men to "keep their eyes in their heads." Now, making that application from this passage does not contradict any other portion of scripture (2 Peter 2:7-8) and such instruction is vitally important for this generation (2 Peter 2:14).
However, to interpret Lamentations 3:51 as a warning from Jeremiah regarding the lust of the eyes is to take the passage way out of context.
Let's get the background of the book of Lamentations. For over 40 years, Jeremiah had prophesied in the land of Judah. His message was one of warning. God had grown weary of the nation's idolatry and disobedience and would soon allow them to be taken captive into Babylon (the judgment He had prescribed in His covenant with the Hebrew people called the law of Moses). For over 40 years, Jeremiah urged the people to repent, but all to no avail. He was ignored, ridiculed, mocked, despised, and persecuted by the people he was trying to save from destruction.
In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar defeated Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and took the people of Judah captive just as Jeremiah prophesied. In Lamentations we see the great measure of love he had for the people who had so despitefully used him! He never came to the place where he was glad to see them get what they had coming (what Jonah wanted). He had continued to preach despite the hardness of their hearts because his true desire was to see them repent and be delivered. And when his preaching was finally validated – Jerusalem destroyed and Judah taken captive – it broke his heart and drove him to tears.
Let's read the verses that lead up to Lamentations 3:51 so we can put the passage in its proper context.
Lamentations 3:47-51 Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction. Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people. Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission, Till the LORD look down, and behold from heaven. Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city.
Here's the application for us today. Do we care about the people we preach to anything like Jeremiah did? Does it break our hearts to see people refuse the preaching of God's word and go on in their sinful ways to their own destruction? Or do we take the mocking and the reproach and the scorn personally and become apathetic about the wrath of God that abides on them and is soon to fall? Yes, it's frustrating when people reject the word of God and continue in their ignorance. But does it break our hearts? Does it cause us to weep?
May our eyes affect our hearts because of all the daughters of our cities. God grant it!