The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, if you are a generous person that gives to the poor your whole body will be full of light. But if you are a stingy or greedy person who gives his poor needy brother nothing, your whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23)
My two previous blogs have unlocked the meanings of the two idioms Yeshua used in the verses above:
(1) good eye – a generous person that gives to the poor
(2) evil eye – a stingy or greedy person who gives his needy brother nothing
Now let’s turn our attention to the words light and darkness. In the Jewish culture light and life are often used synonymously. This relationship can be found in numerous examples, like the one below.
"Better to extinguish the light on Sabbath than to extinguish life, which is God's light" (Shab. 30b).[i]
The parallels are clear:
(1) light = life
(2) darkness = death
The relationship of the Creator and life is established in the opening words of the first chapter of the Torah (Genesis 1). This revealed a foundational principle of the Torah – life is the first priority and highest value of the Creator. Life was also the first priority and highest value of Yeshua. Now let’s add this information to the verses above:
The life of the body is the eye. Therefore, if you are a generous person that gives to the poor your whole body will be full of life. But if you are a stingy or greedy person who gives his poor needy brother nothing, your whole body shall be full of death. If therefore the life that is in you is death, how great is that death!
Even though a greedy stingy person, who does not help his poor brothers and sisters (fellow humans), even though he is alive – he is living like a dead person. If his life is like death – how great is that death? The acts of a greedy stingy person are extinguishing the light of the Creator. On the other hand, the acts of a generous person increase the light of the Creator.
The key to understanding the Torah and the teachings of Yeshua is discovering the standard that the Creator and Yeshua shared. I call it the TOV Standard and it was the standard the Creator used to judge His acts of creation. In your English translation of Genesis 1, it is found in the verses that read: “And God saw that it was good.” The Hebrew word translated “good” is TOV. The word “good” does not sufficiently translate the meaning of TOV in that context. Below is a much more accurate definition:
TOV is an an act that is visible and concrete; beautiful and pleasant to the Creator’s eyes; that makes something more functionally complete; that protects and preserves life; and that enhances and increases the quality of life.
In the verses from the Hebrew Scriptures that we found the parallelism that explained the meaning of the idiom good eye, we read:
He that has a good eye shall be blessed;
for he gives his bread to the poor.[ii]
A poor person was hungry and had no food to eat. Another person saw that the poor person was hungry. He had bread and gave food to the hungry person. Let’s use the Creator’s TOV Standard to judge that act:
Sharing food with a hungry person is a visible and concrete act; it is beautiful and pleasant to the Creator’s eyes; it makes the poor person more functionally complete; it protects and preserves life; and it enhances and increases the quality of the poor person’s life.
Now let’s measure the act of the one with an evil eye -- a greedy stingy person that does not share his food -- with the TOV Standard:
The act of not giving food to the poor is an act that is visible and concrete; it is not beautiful and pleasant to the Creator’s eyes; it makes the poor person less functionally complete; it threatens and destroys life; and, it decreases the quality of the poor person’s life.
The person with a good eye does TZEDAQAH – righteousness. A person with an evil eye does RA – evil or wickedness. Those with a good eye or evil eye in Judaism hold a very special status:
"For the living know that they will die" (Kohelet 9:5) - this is referring to tzaddikim (righteous people), who, in their death, are called living.
This can also be seen in the words of Isaiah, which are no doubt the source of Yeshua’s choice to use “light” and “darkness” in his teachings:
Is this not the fast I will choose? To undo the fetters of wickedness, to unite the bands of perverseness, and to let out the oppressed free, and all perverseness you shall eliminate. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and moaning poor you shall bring home; when you see a naked one, you shall clothe him, and from your flesh you shall not hide. Then your light shall break forth as the dawn, and your healing shall quickly sprout, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall gather you in. Then you shall call and the Lord shall answer, you shall cry and He shall say, “Here I am,” if you remove perverseness from your midst, putting forth the finger and speaking wickedness. And you draw out your soul to the hungry, and an afflicted soul you sate, then your light shall shine in the darkness and your darkness shall be like noon.[iii]
Pay close attention to what will happen to those with a good eye:
● your light shall break forth as the dawn
● your healing shall quickly sprout
● your righteousness shall go before you
● the glory of the Lord shall gather you in
● your light shall shine in the darkness
● your darkness shall be like noon
Yeshua saw something very important lesson in Isaiah’s words. It was so important that it became his message and promise of salvation:
Your acts of righteousness will go before you when you are gathered in by the Lord at death. Your life shall shine in death and you shall live. Your live will rise from death!
Keep this principle in mind as you read the words of Yeshua. He will repeat it over and over throughout his teachings. It is also seen in the teachings of his followers. Below are a couple of examples of teachings that stress the importance of doing acts that meet the TOV Standard in the New Testament:
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me no food. I was thirsty, and you did not give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you did not take me not in. I was naked, and you did not clothed me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.” Then shall they also answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not care for you?” Then he shall answer them, saying, “Amen! I say unto you, Inasmuch as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:41-46)
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth. They that HAVE DONE GOOD, unto the resurrection of life; and they that HAVE DONE EVIL, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:28-29)
What does it profit, my brethren, though a man says he has faith, and does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you says unto them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled.” But you do not give them those things which are needful to the body -- what does it profit? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:14-18)
The one person who seems to have missed the most important message in the teachings of Yeshua was Paul:
James, Cephas (Peter) and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along. (Galatians 2:9-10)
When we read Paul’s epistles, we do not find the salvation message that Yeshua, John or James taught. As a matter of fact, Paul’s words have been used as the foundation of a very different salvation message – one in which works are discouraged.
There are thousands of churches that teach salvation messages based on Paul’s gospel, but I can’t think of one church that teaches Yeshua’s salvation message – can you? The interesting thing about Yeshua’s salvation message is that it doesn’t require anyone to believe any religion’s theology.
Think of what would happen if all of the churches that are located in your town taught the message of Yeshua -- and their actively encouraged their members and staffs to use their homes, facilities and budgets to do acts of TOV?
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Choose Life By Doing TOV!
Shalom & be empowered!
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