I’ve recently been pondering and praying a lot about how a Christian should see when it comes to the material world. I’ve been reading and studying a lot in both Proverbs and Matthew. I’ve been noticing that there are literally tons of verses and parables about money and material gain. There are more passages in red about these topics than there are about love. What’s more after reading I’ve also come to the conclusion that the Bible talks a lot about wine and grapes and vision and sight almost as much as it talks about money and material things.
It’s interesting to me that in Proverbs 3:6-9, it talks first about “not being wise in our own eyes” before it talks about giving of the first fruits. The passage from Matthew 6:19-24 is probably one that most of us remember, well at least the first part and the last part are. I mean the first part has the familiar part about not laying up treasures on the Earth and the last part has the part about not serving God and Money. However, the middle section about the eye being a lamp of the body and full of light well I’ll admit, I usually skim right over that one, but we’ll be coming back to this in a bit.
The last parable I want to discuss is Matthew 20:1-16 the one about the workers in the Vineyard. This is the one I discussed in the post about God’s Math and Stewardship. I wanted to expand on this one too, but I’ want to let you in on a secret, this one mention’s eyes and seeing too, even though it’s not as obvious, mainly because of the way it was translated into English from Greek, don’t worry we’ll come back to this one too in a bit.
So let’s think about this, why would there be so much in God’s instruction book about money and so much about seeing, not to mention so much about vineyards, ok we won’t get into that last one much this time. Could it be that the way we see the material world and the treasures of the world is intimately connected to how we see the spiritual world and the treasures of heaven? Could it be that Jesus taught so much on money because our relationship with him would be reflected by our relationship with money?
Let’s dig into the vision described in the Parable of the worker’s in the vineyard. Basically the workers that were hired last and worked least were paid the same as the workers who had worked all day in the hot sun. We talked before about how without a doubt we would all likely react like the angry workers who had been there all day slaving away in the sun, but the landowner basically said that they shouldn’t be envious of his generosity.
That’s the place that I learned recently is paraphrased in the English translation. In Greek a more literal translation is “or is your eye bad because I am good.” Compare that to the phrase in Matthew 6:23 where it says if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. The Greek phrasing is actually the same, yet they are translated differently.
So what is the bad eye in the parable of the vineyard? It’s an eye that cannot see how generosity and giving are a source of brightness and light. It cannot see that if you give freely to others because you can, it is a God-like gift to others and should be viewed as precious and kind. The bad eye in both passages is an eye with a worldly bent, and eye that sees money and material things as more to be desired than the giving spirit of generosity shown by the master. So think back to the other bad eye sandwiched between those two famous verses. Maybe it isn’t so out of place after all. Maybe the connection between true treasures and serving two masters has everything to do with having a “good eye” instead of a “bad eye.”
It reminds me of a joke:
One day, the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?”
“It was great, Dad.”
“Did you see how poor people live?” the father asked.
“Oh yeah,” said the son.
“So, tell me, what you learned from the trip?” asked the father.
The son answered: “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.”
The boy’s father was speechless.
Then his son added, “Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are.”
Aren’t we all at one time or another like that Dad, convinced that our material wealth is so important? We all know that in many places throughout the Bible we are called to give over our first fruits, and we all realize that in modern parlance that is considered a tithe, or ten percent of our income to the local Church for the church’s needs and to help support the mission of the Church. We also know that other times we are called to give more, as an offering above the tithe. These offerings can be put upon our heart by God and are used to support other special causes the Church may be undertaking. The key to realizing that the tithe and offerings are a necessary part of our Christian walk is being emotionally mature enough to see with a good eye that the ultimate source of all of our treasures is God.
But giving that over to God freely, with joy in our heart is often something we are reluctant to do. Having a free and open spirit with our wealth is one way we can in turn have a free and open spirit at all. Our material wealth provides for us freedom and comfort. But it also has glitz and glamor that can enslave us to serve the world instead of God. It is so important that we turn a good eye towards our wealth, not just monetary but all our wealth, and realize that we should honor the provider not the provision. We need to realize that we can give a waiter or waitress 15 percent out of gratitude for good service, how much more than 10 percent do we owe God out of gratitude for our good lives?
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