Under the Old Covenant, the Law required that every seventh year be labeled as a year of release. Essentially, it amounted to a debtor’s Sabbath. Whatever had been loaned to another Israelite was forgiven, no matter how much was still owed (Deut. 15:1-2).
God wanted His people cared for. He made sure that written into the Law was the additional command that if an Israelite fell into financially challenging times, those able were to lend to them whatever they needed for survival (Deut. 15:7-8).
I suppose the smart thing to do would be to stop lending to those in need as the seventh year approached. Imagine if you lent to a person a bunch of money or goods in the sixth year, say, with a month or two before the debtor’s Sabbath arrived. Wouldn’t it be silly to lend out only to have to forgive the debt a month or two later?
God anticipated this way of thinking and gave the following command:
“Be careful that there isn’t this wicked thought in your heart, ‘The seventh year, the year of canceling debts, is near,’ and you are stingy toward your poor brother and give him nothing. He will cry out to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty.” (Deut. 15:9, HCSB)
The words translated, “you are stingy”, in the original language is more literally, “your eye is evil”.
What does this mean, “your eye is evil”? Could it be that when we begin to view generosity toward others as a threat to our personal comfort, ease and security then our sight is clouded by self-centeredness? Is it possible that this self-centeredness is actually insidious evil? Could it be that the more we allow ourselves to practice stinginess the less our lives reflect God’s glory?
This is not the only place in Scripture where the metaphorical statement, “your eye is evil” is used. See the following passages:
“Don’t eat a stingy person’s bread, and don’t desire his choice food, for it’s like someone calculating inwardly. ‘Eat and drink,’ he says to you, but his heart is not with you. You will vomit the little you’ve eaten and waste your pleasant words.” (Proverbs 23:6–8, HCSB)
“A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him.” (Proverbs 28:22, ESV)
In both of the above passages the original language uses the term, “evil eye”. Interesting, don’t you think?
I wonder if Jesus was thinking back on the Law and the Proverbs when He taught the following:
““Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!” (Matt. 6:22–23, NLT)
Of course, this passage in Matthew is the one about laying up treasures in heaven.
What does stinginess tell us about our value system? What does it indicate about our view of the treasure of knowing and making known the person of Christ?
When generous living seems elusive in our quest for self-preservation and self-promotion, perhaps the cure is self-denial?
May the Great Physician heal our evil eyes and place in our stingy hearts a clear view of the Gospel. May we saturate our sight with the Good News of the generosity of Jesus Christ who gave His all to make poor beggars like you and me rich for all eternity. May this spiritual sight result in Christ-like generosity shown in deeds of mercy and Gospel-advancing kindness – and all to the glory of God.
Let’s change orphans to sons and daughters. Let’s be used of God to help set the debtor free – to proclaim the year of the Lord’s release of spiritual poverty even as we seek to act generously by caring for temporal needs.
Do you see what I’m saying?