The Darkness of Greed – Matthew 6:22-24

Just a short note on this very difficult saying. Although it is between two sayings on wealth, the connection to wealth is not clear to most modern readers. First, ancient people thought the eye illuminated the mind. The science is not right in the analogy from a modern perspective, but it is from the first century way of thinking about how an eye works. Second, “healthy” and “unhealthy” are metaphors for generosity and stinginess in Deuteronomy 15:9 (“your eye is wicked” (וְרָעָ֣ה עֵֽינְךָ֗), LXX: καὶ πονηρεύσηται ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου) and Proverbs 22:9 “a good eye” (טֽוֹב־עַ֭יִן).

Deuteronomy 15:9 (ESV) Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin.

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

Third, In Matthew 20 Jesus tells a parable of workers in the field. Those who grumble about the owner’s generosity are envious (NIV) or “begrudge” the generosity of the owner (ESV). Literally, this is “your eye is evil because I am good” (ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου πονηρός ἐστιν).

A “good eye” and a “bad eye” are therefore contrasting metaphors for how one perceives wealth. A generous person who does not hold their possessions too closely is a light in the world, in contrast to the utter darkness of the one who hoards wealth.

9 thoughts on “The Darkness of Greed – Matthew 6:22-24

  1. It is important to understand that their is nothing wrong with having money. It like so many other issues all boils down to the heart. It should not be an internal struggle to give money to the church or tip a waiter. Having money has nothing to do with happiness and often people seem to think of it as being just that. Hence their reluctance to give it away. As someone who follows Christ we should see money as a blessing. Even though American culture teaches us that once we work for something it is ours and no one can take it away from us. Anyone who has even glanced a Job knows that this is not even remotely true. God can humble anyone in the blink of an eye. Everything we have is just a blessing from God. Why should we cling to it when we have an opportunity to bless others? If you struggle every time the waiter comes at the end, I would recommend addressing this in prayer.

  2. I really like the last paragraph you said. I think it greatly describes the issue with money. You said that a rich person who does not cling tightly to their money is a light in the world and is a great contrast to those who hold and seek money with all of their being. I believe that money itself is not evil. It is the intention of us as human beings when we have money that can be evil. It all depends on where our hearts are. If we are clinging onto the money that we have and desperately seeking more of it, rather than using it for God’s will, then there is a problem. We must seek our hearts and make sure that our intentions with money are pure. We need to be using the money that God gifts us with to continue serving Him and doing His will with the money. We should not be using the money to always be seeking to buy the newest and greatest items that the world has to offer. We should be content with the items we have and using the money that God provides us with for His will. It all comes down to the heart and intention of each person.

    • Alex,
      I really enjoyed your post and I am in agreement with you 100%. Your statement, “I believe that money itself is not evil. It is the intention of us as human beings when we have money that can be evil.” I think that this explains the issue of greed perfectly. I mentioned this in one of my other posts. Money acts as a god (McKnight, 2013). Money is something that can be so destructive if it is not handled wisely. I put gambling and greed together. This is where money can cause issues. Gambling to get more money is greed. Then, how are you going to use this money? That is the big question. Are you using it in the ways that it is meant to be used or is it being used as a god?

    • Alex I completely agree with your post, good job! I do think that often times money is seen as something from the devil, when it could very much so be a helpful instrument to help others. Just like the story about the widow that gave everything (Mark 12:41-44) she had that story teaches a lot about the intentions behind giving and how much that influences whether money is good or bad. It has to do with what the person does with their money.

  3. The difference between being generous and being stingy is very far and in between, being generous with anything is not expecting something back and yet still giving with a cheerful heart. While stinginess is just the opposite not giving anything because you think that you need it more than anybody else, while if you live in America even the poorest people in America are among the wealthiest in the world.

  4. I think the last few sentences you wrote are really important to understand. A lot of people in this world cling to money and material items. This is intern making then greedy. But having money does not make you a bad person. Deciding what you do with that money tells about what your heart is like. God will provide our needs, past that what will you choose to do. The world tells us to keep buying and buying and eventually we will be happy with all of our stuff. We know that the truth is our true joy lies in the hope we have in Jesus, not in worldly possession.

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