Generosity is in the eye of the giver

September 24, 2014 | Viewpoints | Number 19
Dori Zerbe Cornelsen |

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light” (Matthew 6:22).

Mrs. Potato Head understands the power of non-verbal communication. I laugh every time I remember her in the outtakes of the 1999 movie Toy Story 2 helping Mr. Potato Head pack for the mission the toys are about to undertake: “I’m packing your extra pair of shoes. And your angry eyes, just in case.”

Our eyes are powerful. They can communicate emotions that our words may not express. Perhaps it is the power of non-verbal communication that Jesus was trying to express when he said that the eye is the lamp of the body.

We shouldn’t be surprised that, during Jesus’ time, people understood differently how the eye worked than we do today. People then believed that humans were able to see because light came out of the eye at the object to be seen. So what the eye saw depended on what kind of light was inside a person.

From this ancient way of knowing, what can we learn about making a greater connection between our inner lives—thoughts, attitudes, desires—and the way we see the world? Perhaps our seeing really does expose the light or darkness within ourselves.

Joshua Becker, a self-described writer, blogger, speaker, pastor, husband and father, maintains a website he calls “Becoming minimalist.” There, he blogs to inspire readers to pursue their passions while owning fewer possessions.

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Some time ago, Becker wrote a post about nine ways generous people see the world differently. All nine are worthy of contemplation, but his reason No. 5 struck me: “They trust others. Generosity always requires trust.”

While some people may use a lens of suspicion to assess individuals and institutions asking for their support, generous people are more likely to get to a place of seeing that their resources will be used wisely. In this way, Becker writes, generous people are optimistic because they choose to believe in others.

I would suggest another side of trust revealed by the vision of generous people: a belief that God has provided resources enough for all. People who live generous lives trust that they don’t have to worry and store up just for themselves, which are words of Jesus that surround the saying about the eye found in Matthew 6. They find themselves in faith commu-nities that encourage trust in whatever circumstances they face.

If we take Jesus seriously, learning to let go of treasure and worry can lead to our bodies being full of light from which we can cast a gaze of generosity. In other words, generosity is in the eye of the giver.

I like the way Becker ends his blog post: “Our world is desperately seeking cheerful and generous givers. . . . They inspire us. They push us forward. And their view of the world is one I desire to further grow in my own life.”

Amen to that.

Dori Zerbe Cornelsen is a stewardship consultant in the Winnipeg office of Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit MennoFoundation.ca.

--Posted Sept. 24, 2014

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