The Source of Generosity
(This is going to be the first in a series of four blogs over the next week regarding generosity. I hope you check back and enjoy.)
There are many reasons that we are motivated to give. Most motivations revolve around us. A desire to alleviate guilt. In order to get something in return. Obligation. An effort to secure rightness with God. Or attempting to buy influence within community.
None of these reasons evidence generosity.
They are coverings for the false self.
Jesus addresses the idea of generosity in Matthew 6:19 – 24 with a Hebrew expression:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
In the last blog of this series we will return to the idea of where we store up treasure. But on interest today is the idea of the eye being healthy or unhealthy and how that fits in with the idea of generosity.
Within the Jewish culture, have a good (healthy) eye was a reference to looking out for the needs of others. Good eye is the ability to SEE beyond your own self and into the life of another. But it does not just refer to seeing, it also refers to the motivation to ACT on what is seen. Using our time, talent, as well as treasure as modes of generosity in self-less acts of loving-kindness.
The good eye is equated with generosity.
On the other hand, having a bad (unhealthy) eye is to not see. To cling to the little that you have; living with a scarcity mindset. Resenting those with more; comparing to see how you measure up. Refusing to help those with less; acting with a greedy closed hand.
The bad eye is stingy. (See Proverbs 28:22, the word translated as stingy is literally “bad eye”.)
Jesus says that “the eye is the LAMP of the body” because our generosity (or lack thereof) tells the story of who we are. We cannot just force our self to have a good eye. That would be an attempt to make our self righteous apart from God. People around us may be fooled (for a time), but God will not be.
The good eye comes from a good heart. A heart – an identity – that is clothed in Christ and his truth.
A bad eye (selfish giving) comes from a body that is full of darkness (attempting wholeness apart from God).
A good eye (true generosity) comes from a body that is filled with light (Christ).
And that light shines forth in the self-less deeds of generosity. Openness to the needs of others without expectation or desire for a return.
That lack of expectation can only come from an identity that finds is security and worth firmly rooted in Christ.
Our old and new natures battle, when it comes to bad eye or good eye, which dominates in your present position on the spiritual journey?
Click here for part 2 of the series – My Daughter’s Good Eye and the Pig.
Click here for part 3 of the series – Competition for our Generosity.
Click here for part 4 of the series – Living Generously
* Insight on the Hebrew idioms good eye and bad eye comes from the book Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus by Lois Tverberg.