How is your eye?
Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23)
Jesus is using a Hebrew idiom his Jewish audience surely knew and understood well.
This idiom first appears in the Hebrew scriptures in Deuteronomy 15:7-9.
If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.8Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing.
God tells his people to willingly, generously provide for their poor brothers and sisters. They shouldn’t have a “bad eye” (ayin ra’ah) toward them and so give them nothing.
Proverbs 28:22 says… “The stingy (ayin ra’ah – bad eye) are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them.”
Proverbs 22:9 says… “The generous (ayin tovah – good eye) will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.
Even today in Israel, when someone asks for a donation, they may ask that you give with a beautiful or good eye.
Jesus uses this Hebrew eye idiom more than once! In Matthew 20 Jesus tells the parable of a generous employer who pays all his workers the same full-day’s wage regardless of how many hours they’ve actually been on the job. The workers who’d been sweating in the field all day long got ticked!
The employer said to them, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious (ayin ra’ah) because I am generous?”
We’re to have a “good eye” toward those in need. When we see them and are generous toward them, Jesus says we are living in light.
This brings to mind the famous justice passage Isaiah 58, where God promises, “If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”
Go, with good eyes, and may your life be filled with light.