The Good Eye or the Bad Eye?

January 20, 2017

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22–23, NKJV)

Jesus’ discourse on the good eye or the bad eye occurs between his section on treasuring up treasures in heaven versus treasuring up treasure on earth and the danger of serving two masters — God or Mammon (Money).

What does Jesus mean by a good or bad eye? One idea in our translations is the idea of health: “healthy/bad” ESV, “clear/bad” NASB, and “healthy/unhealthy” NIV (but note the NIV’s footnote1). But is Jesus merely telling us that we have light with healthy eyes and darkness with unhealthy ones?

A helpful place to start is the fact that the bad eye in several places in scripture refers to the greedy person. In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, the first hired grumble that the workers who have not borne the burden of the day also receive a denarius. The owner replies: “Or is your eye evil because I am good?” (Matthew 20:15b Note the footnotes in the ESV, NASB and the more literal translation of the NKJV.)

In the Old Testament, we find several places where the bad eye refers to stingy or greedy person.

Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy (literally, evil eye); do not desire his delicacies, (Proverbs 23:6, ESV see footnote)

A stingy man (literally, man of evil eye) hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him. (Proverbs 28:22, ESV see footnote)

On the other hand, the person with a good eye is generous.

Whoever has a bountiful (literally, good) eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor. (Proverbs 22:9, ESV see footnote)

The good in this description of the eye in Matthew 6:22 refers “to being motivated by singleness of purpose so as to be open and aboveboard, single, without guile, sincere, straightforward.”2 This may connect to the person who serves one master, God.

Certainly, if we have a healthy eye we will have light in our life. But the contrast of light and darkness in scripture is often moral. We inwardly will be very different people if we look at life with generosity versus greed. Which kind of eye do you want to have: the good eye or the bad eye?

1The footnotes on healthy and unhealthy state: “The Greek for healthy here implies generous. The Greek for unhealthy here implies stingy.”

2BDAG, s.v. ἁπλοῦς, p. 104

Wallets that Never Wear Out

June 21, 2013

Wallets, billfolds, purses – we probably all have one. They are the place where we put our money, credit cards, driver’s license and ID cards. They are necessary things that take a tremendous amount of wear and tear.

Wallets wear out. I can remember the transfer from a worn out one to a new one. The old wallet’s leather was worn and discolored. It had never quite recovered from the amusement park water ride. Emptied it looked kind of like a shed snake’s skin – still having some of the shape of its former occupants, but looking very lifeless.

But worse that wearing out – money disappears from them at blinding speed. I’m reminded of Proverbs 23:5: “Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (NIV).

How would you like a wallet that never wears out? It’s a special wallet that never loses its contents. Is it some special new super cowhide with SuperGlue inside? No, this special offer isn’t found on the shopping channel, but from Jesus himself.

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:29-34, NIV

It’s a paradox. What I give as a Christian is what I truly get to keep. What I accumulate for myself will ultimately go to another, “naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart” (Job 1:21). Thomas Fuller states another paradox, “Riches enlarge rather than satisfy appetites.” Somewhere along the way, I must learn that satisfaction and contentment come from another source than more things. As Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Do I have an eternal wallet or simply one that will wear out?

Rich, Riches, Richly

May 3, 2013

Paul uses the root word “rich” three times in 1 Timothy 6:17 — rich, riches, and richly. Examining these three occurrences will help us think through Paul’s teaching about material things (1 Timothy 6:6-10, 6:17-19).

God richly provides us with everything to enjoy. God is the creator of wealth. He has provided an abundant, fruitful world rather than one of mere subsistence. These blessings are for our enjoyment. This rich provision makes riches a possibility, but Paul provides us with some legitimate cautions. The desire for riches and the love of money can lead to temptations and spiritual ruin. People may through hard work, good stewardship, ingenuity, and inheritance find themselves with abundance. But the proper response should be thanksgiving to God.

The uncertainty of riches is a reality. The financial news may report the stock market is down, and billions of dollars of value is wiped out. Hurricane Sandy hits the east coast and property loss is estimated at $75 billion. Proverbs warns of this: “Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (Proverbs 23:5, NIV). Therefore, our hope should be on God and not on riches.

Paul is warning us of the danger of worshipping the creation rather than the creator. That is why greed can be classified as idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Jesus had also warned, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24, ESV).

Paul gives a charge for the rich in this present age. The phrase invites a contrast with the age to come. If rich now, what will be the status then? Jesus, after all, told a story of the rich man and Lazarus in which there was a great reversal. The rich man of this present age ignored the beggar Lazarus. He became the beggar whose pleas were by necessity ignored, while Lazarus enjoyed the riches of being at Abraham’s side (Luke 16:19-31).

So how does Paul want the rich of this present age to prepare for the age to come? We must worship and put our hope in God. We must learn contentment when our basic needs are met (1 Timothy 6:6-8). In other words, more things will not necessarily make us happier. We must be humble (not haughty) towards others. We must not think that material possessions make us better than others. All are created in the image of God; all are precious in his sight. We must learn to be rich in good works and be generous. The only treasure we take out of this world is the treasure we lay up in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). We must take hold of that which is truly life, which is the life lived as a follower of Jesus Christ. We must all deal with material things. Paul’s instructions help us to live properly in this age and to have hope for the age to come.

The Insatiableness of Avarice

March 24, 2009

Though the covetous grown wealthy
See his piles of gold rise high;
Though he gather store of treasure
That can never satisfy;
Though with pearls his gorget* blazes,
Rarest that the ocean yields;
Though a hundred head of oxen
Travail in his ample fields;
Ne’er shall carking† care forsake him
While he draws this vital breath,
And his riches go not with him,
When his eyes are closed in death.

–Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, Book III, Song III. (translation by H.R. James)

*a covering for the throat or a covering around the neck, †burdensome