Generosity and Your Eyes

| Brett Landry

“The eye is the lamp of the body.”

This is a strange little expression.

I’ve heard this explained a few times in my life and I have never been super satisfied with the explanation (or misuse) of the phrase. Look at it in it’s context:

Matthew 6
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 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!

“The eye is the lamp of the body.”

R.T. France, a commentator on Matthew’s Gospel, basically says, to understand this we have to understand the word play that is going on here that is nearly impossible to reproduce in English.

We’ll need some help from Proverbs.

Proverbs 22:9
Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed,
for he shares his bread with the poor.
The Hebrew here is literally, whoever has a “good-eye” will be blessed. “Bountiful eye” is also translated “generous” in the NIV. In the verses below, the “stingy” are literally the “bad-eyed.”

Proverbs 23:6
Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy;
do not desire his delicacies,

Proverbs 28:22
A stingy man hastens after wealth
and does not know that poverty will come upon him.

France says, “In view of the recognized meaning of the “bad-eye” to note selfish greed or meanness, it seems likely that the saying is meant to indicate that one indication of a person’s spiritual health is their generosity or lack of it in the use of their material possessions.”
Think about that: 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.

To the Christian: If you are “bad-eyed” or stingy, perhaps it’s because you are walking in some semblance of spiritual darkness. If you are “good-eyed” or generous, you are live out a healthy spirituality, “full of light.”

Stinginess and generosity have almost nothing to do with how much you give away, but rather are about the motivation behind the decision to bless or withhold. (Jesus was most impressed with the faith of the poor widow who gave the penny in Mark 12)

This is a great diagnostic. What is your default posture toward wealth? What happens when you end up with some unbudgeted funds? Is your primary inclination to say, “how can I consume this on me,” or is it “how can I be generous and bless others?”
If you find yourself reluctant to part with your money or your possessions, maybe it’s time to do a bit of soul-searching. You could turn Psalm 139:23-24 into your prayer.

Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

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Generosity and Your Eyes

“The eye is the lamp of the body.”

This is a strange little expression.

I’ve heard this explained a few times in my life and I have never been super satisfied with the explanation (or misuse) of the phrase. Look at it in it’s context:

Matthew 6
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 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!

“The eye is the lamp of the body.”

R.T. France, a commentator on Matthew’s Gospel, basically says, to understand this we have to understand the word play that is going on here that is nearly impossible to reproduce in English.

We’ll need some help from Proverbs.

Proverbs 22:9
Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed,
for he shares his bread with the poor.
The Hebrew here is literally, whoever has a “good-eye” will be blessed. “Bountiful eye” is also translated “generous” in the NIV. In the verses below, the “stingy” are literally the “bad-eyed.”

Proverbs 23:6
Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy;
do not desire his delicacies,

Proverbs 28:22
A stingy man hastens after wealth
and does not know that poverty will come upon him.

France says, “In view of the recognized meaning of the “bad-eye” to note selfish greed or meanness, it seems likely that the saying is meant to indicate that one indication of a person’s spiritual health is their generosity or lack of it in the use of their material possessions.”
Think about that: 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.

To the Christian: If you are “bad-eyed” or stingy, perhaps it’s because you are walking in some semblance of spiritual darkness. If you are “good-eyed” or generous, you are live out a healthy spirituality, “full of light.”

Stinginess and generosity have almost nothing to do with how much you give away, but rather are about the motivation behind the decision to bless or withhold. (Jesus was most impressed with the faith of the poor widow who gave the penny in Mark 12)

This is a great diagnostic. What is your default posture toward wealth? What happens when you end up with some unbudgeted funds? Is your primary inclination to say, “how can I consume this on me,” or is it “how can I be generous and bless others?”
If you find yourself reluctant to part with your money or your possessions, maybe it’s time to do a bit of soul-searching. You could turn Psalm 139:23-24 into your prayer.

Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!