Generosity or Greed?

Generosity or Greed?

The ancient metaphor of the eye being the lamp of the body in Matthew 6:22-23 seems a bit out of place at first glance. But once we understand what this ancient idiom meant in its time and culture the text comes alive and is full of meaning. The human eye was commonly thought as that which brought the outside in and the inside out. It has been said that the eye is the window to the soul. Your pupillary responses are indicative of what’s going on inside (reveal) & not only a reaction to light/darkness (reception).
The word translated “healthy” (v22) actually means “singularity of purpose.” It is motivation that is sincere, open and aboveboard. It’s translated “healthy” because it’s contrasted to the bad or evil eye (v23), but it actually means wholeness and singleness of heart. To clearly see is to be loyally devoted to God, and in this context it means wholeness in generosity. How do we know this? Because a good or evil eye has deep Old Testament roots (Deut 15:9; Prov 22:9; 23:6; 28:22). They are ancient Hebrew metaphors for generosity or stinginess, benevolent kindness or miserly selfishness. Jesus himself highlights this reality in the parable of the vineyard workers where an evil eye suggests envy, lust, covetousness and selfishness (Mt 20:15). Hence, a good eye is singularly devoted to God while an evil eye is morally and spiritually corrupt.
Once we understand this ancient idea, this section of the Sermon on the Mount (v22-23) fits together with the context (v19-21 & v24). Jesus says that material possessions and money are to be used for eternal values and timeless pursuits. The Good Life & the “blessed state” (Mt. 5:3-11) is manifested in generosity. Jesus says that if the light in us is clouded and overcome by darkness (selfish ambitions and stingy lifestyles), how incredibly dark is that darkness! 
Again, Jesus is not saying that you cannot have nice, expensive things! But how much time do you think about, pursue, and spend energy & resources into temporary things compared to how much time and energy you put into eternal things for the glory of God and the good of others? Over the totality of your life are you more generous than you were 5 years ago? Would others describe you as generous or stingy (Lk 12:48; Acts 20:35)?

May we as God’s people live with singular devotion and unwavering commitment to the Lord. A generous life (a good eye) is what leads to fullness and flourishing of the Good Life which is contrasted to living a double or divided life in Mt 6:24.

~ Wesley