There is a very cryptic, often misunderstood passage in the New Testament which I would like to use to illustrate a point: The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23) Understanding this excerpt is not difficult. Jesus was embellishing on a passage from the Book of Deuteronomy regarding greed and generosity. Basically, if one looks upon the world through the eye of greed, covetousness and selfishness, their eye is “bad” and their existence is dark. On the other hand, when one looks upon the world and sees need, and responds by extending Generosity, their eye is “good” and their life is brightly illuminated. I, for one, truly value this teaching.
Americans are, for the most part, a very generous group of people. Last year, individuals gave $259 billion–that’s an average of $2,974 per household. This amount represents 2.4% of our Gross National Profit! About a third of this giving goes to support religious efforts, 15% for education and 20% for health and human services. This is a chunk of change which is so necessary to support non-governmental organizations which provide supportive services for millions of Americans.
Interesting, but not necessarily surprising, is who does the giving and what they give. Last year, the Chronicle of Philanthropy published their extensive research of IRS records indicating that the wealthier one gets, the less apt they are to give. In fact, they found that lower income coincided with greater generosity. Additionally, the wealthy tend to give to education and the arts where they are more likely to receive personal credit, recognition and praise. By contrast, lower income individuals predominantly give to humanitarian efforts, human services, and helping and religious organizations.
I previously wrote an article on Giving where I quoted Sir Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” The amassment of wealth produces stuff – not life. Remember, when you are immersed in giving, you will quench your thirst for wanting. But let’s push this to yet another level. Mother Teresa said, “Give ‘til it hurts you. Giving which hurts the giver, is in some way supreme.” There is much greater sacrifice, meaning and reward for someone to give out of their poverty, than there is for someone who gives out of their abundance!
So, why do people give? Personal values; a sense of morality and ethics; belief in a specific cause; faith and religion; and personal experiences are just a few reasons. The short answer is because they have a “good eye.” It’s really all about Generosity. Sure, there will always be those selfish people who give-to-get. But most people give because they want to; they see a need or opportunity coupled with a generous heart.
Unfortunately, there will never be a lack of a need to help others. Just think of the tens of millions of refugees who have lost everything at the hand of evil regimes or ideology. Closer to home, America has one of the highest child poverty and homelessness rates in the world. Generosity is opportunity shopping! A generous eye is one which is always looking for the opportunity to bless another; to meet a need; to brighten a darkened soul; or to make someone happy. My mom used to say, “Every new day is an invitation for us to arise and brighten someone's day.” What a great axiom to live by! Every day there is an opportunity waiting at our door and within our reach. And there is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.
Simone de Beauvoir wrote, “This is what I consider true generosity: You give your all and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.” This is the magic of having a generous spirit. In our world so filled with pain, broken-ness, disappointment and incredible need, Generosity is the engine for invigorating the downtrodden, healing the brokenhearted, serving the needy and spreading joy for its own sake. Generosity is the glue which binds humanity, builds fortitude and promotes hopefulness. Generosity is the outward expression of one’s internal character, compassion and kindness, the window through which the light of one’s soul is revealed.
As we embark upon yet another “season of giving,” embrace it not as a laborious task, but as an invitation to arise and brighten someone’s day. Let your “Eye be Good,” so that you radiate the light of Generosity!