December 10, 2021
"Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness. Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. If then, your whole body is filled with light, with no part dark, it will be wholly lighted, as when a brightly lit lamp shines on you."
What does it mean when you hear that someone has a “good eye?” I immediately think of the skill it takes to recognize quality in items and the ability to display these items in a striking way - especially in the areas of home furnishings and clothing. Having a good eye encompasses both the perception needed to recognize excellent craftsmanship, as well as the ability to incorporate these items well aesthetically--increasing a surrounding area’s beauty and light. In this passage from Luke, Jesus draws attention to the power of perception and its ability to fill a life with either darkness, equated with an evil eye, or light, equated with a good eye. Perception is a powerful force for regulating the amount of light within a person’s life, greater even than the effect a well-placed lamp has upon a darkened room. But what fuels this perception?
The translation above is from the Complete Jewish Bible, and uses the Hebrew terms ayin tovah, denoting a good eye and ayin ra’ah, denoting an evil eye. These terms were commonly used figures of speech in Jesus’ day and convey the concepts of generosity and stinginess. If a person has ayin tovah, he looks out for the needs of others and is generous in giving to the poor, while if someone has ayin ra’ah, he is self-centered and greedy and does not look out for the needs of others. Jesus draws attention to these character traits because they are linked to a person’s knowledge of God. Ultimately, our lives will reflect who we know God to be.
Scripture is full of God’s directives to the Israelites to take care of the orphan and widow and to have compassion on those who lack social capital. God links service to the poor to knowledge and love of Him. In Jeremiah 22, it says “Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD. ( Jeremiah 15b-16). Conversely, when the Israelites did not care for the poor, God related this cold stinginess to a lack of relationship with and knowledge of Him. Proverbs 28:5 says, “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it completely.” No wonder God warned the Israelites time and again about the dangers of idolatry and of placing any gods before Him, because ultimately idolatry leads to mistreatment of people.
What we believe about God ultimately shows up in how we treat other people. Do we believe God’s character to be one primarily of judgment and condemnation or of love and grace? If we believe God first approaches us in judgment, and withholds from us, we will be apt to pass that judgmental, stingy attitude on to our fellow man. However, if we believe that we are first objects of God’s grace, and that he is willing to share His kingdom with us, we will be likely to approach others in love, compassion, and generosity. (See Matthew 25:14-30).
How do we foster a good eye in our own lives? It comes with seeking God through spending time with Him daily, and as a result, soaking in His love. During this time of Advent, as we immerse ourselves in Scripture and expectantly wait for the arrival of our Messiah, may we also expect to grow in our experience of Him. This is sure to lead to a heightened awareness of how much we are loved, which in turn will spill over to those around us.
So, maybe the next time you hear the term “good eye,” it will be filled with new meaning. God has set His Spirit and thoughts within us to move us toward Him and toward others in compassionate, giving relationships. We praise God for sending His Son who modeled this through his life and death for us. We are now children of light and through our knowledge of His grace and compassion, are able to reflect and walk in this light.
Thank you for approaching us in love and grace and for providing a way for us, in Christ, to no longer be children of wrath. May we be generous people, walking in your light, with the ability to pass on to others what we have received from You.