Free and Full of Light: What Jesus Taught about Scarcity, Generosity, & Abundance


“The eye is the lamp of the body. If 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. So if the light within you is darkness—how deep is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23)

Not many Scriptures are preached out of context as much as this one, maybe because it’s just not plain to an English speaker what Jesus is talking about. For years I thought he was talking about media consumption: the “garbage in, garbage out” principle.

Not so. Squarely in the middle of Jesus’s discussion of treasures in heaven, treasures on earth, and serving two masters, this passage is about money.

More specifically, it’s about two conflicting mindsets that shape how we think about money: scarcity and abundance.

Bountiful Eyes & Missing Hearts

It was actually Proverbs that helped me put this together. I suddenly realized that Jesus was using a fairly common Hebrew idiom, brought out by the literal leanings of the KJV:

He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor. (Proverbs 22:9, KJV)

Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: for as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words. (Proverbs 23:6-8, KJV)

One who has a bountiful, or good, eye lives in a world of abundance. He isn’t afraid to share his bread with the poor; he’s moved with compassion and secured by trust in the Father who provides. He gives and receives blessing without being ruled by it; his heart is free to be with God and with other people.

His whole body is full of light.

The mindset of abundance, which only grows as it is shared, is in fact a mindset based in truth. The truth is, we live in a world of abundance. This was true in Solomon’s time, in Jesus’s time, and perhaps never more true than now.

One who has an evil, or bad, eye lives in a world of scarcity. He is ruled by fear. He can’t give generously; his heart is missing from the transaction, as it is preoccupied with getting and keeping. His heart is weighed down by earthly treasures that rot and rust.

He is also driven, hurried, unable to rest. Because he does not believe in abundant blessing and a giving Father, all of life is a race to find security and wealth before someone else takes it first.

He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him. (Proverbs 28:22)

The Lie of Scarcity

A scarcity mindset is a trap, now as then. It keeps us locked in fear, in comparison, in envy and covetousness. It tells us “There is not enough.” Therefore, we’re all in competition with one another for the little there is.

It’s not just money, although that’s where scarcity thinking is most obvious. It bleeds into the rest of our lives too.

There’s not enough love.
There’s not enough recognition.
There’s not enough ability to succeed.

We live in fear of running out.

It’s a false fear, a lie.

The truth: God has placed us on an abundant planet, in an abundant universe. Although we can, at times, create scarcity through faulty systems, fundamentally abundance is always there. We can tap back into it.

There is enough.

Poverty in the world is not the result of too few resources. It’s the result of mismanagement of resources, of ignorance, of bad decisions, or sometimes of what we’d call plain “bad luck.”

To be clear: I’m not blaming the impoverished themselves. Some people are poor because of their own choices. But the world’s poorest people aren’t poor because of their own bad decisions; they’re poor because of systemic problems.

The Bible always calls for one response to poverty: compassion, and sharing out of our own abundance.

But that’s the key.

We have to see the abundance. We have to choose to live in it, and to give out of it. We have to choose to be full of light.

Holistic Affluence

There is no greater call to holistic living than this one:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

We can’t do this if our hearts are fractured. Jesus knows that. He knows that if our hearts are busy collecting treasures and sharing in their rust, rot, and corrosion, then our hearts are not fully with him.

If we fear that trusting God will leave us impoverished and unable to survive, we will take part of our hearts away from him so we can focus on securing our futures. That is the way of finite beings. We have needs. If we don’t believe God can and will meet them (and most often already has), we will set out to meet them ourselves.

This is the Bible’s whole teaching on prosperity in a nutshell: God gives abundantly. He wills that we prosper. But we must do so through trusting in his abundance, and not through greed, fear, or miserliness.

To live as children of light means to believe that there is enough.

I love Merriam-Webster’s second definition of affluence:

an abundant flow or supply :  profusion

In the kingdom, we are all affluent. We are recipients of God’s abundant flow of provision.

Practically Speaking …

Work is an integral part of human life. Has been since the garden of Eden. It’s God’s primary way of giving us access to abundance; it’s also a primary way we find satisfaction and confidence in life. It’s a gift.

Jesus is not teaching that truly spiritual people don’t work, or that living by faith means camping out by your mailbox waiting for mysterious checks to arrive rather than doing anything to access wealth.

We do indeed reap what we sow. In work and finances as in other areas of life.

The practical difference is found in mindset. A mindset of abundance, a mindset that says “God will provide,” “there is enough,” “there is more where that came from” (h/t Michael and Gail Hyatt), “I am not my own source,” “my efforts can be multiplied and so can my giving”—

This mindset opens up possibilities. It multiplies efforts. It is flexible, elastic, able to change. It embraces good risks. It gives and shares.

This is a fundamentally different mindset from one of scarcity, which says there is only so much, and so we must grit our teeth and do whatever it takes to get it, and then keep it.

Scarcity will stop us from taking risks. Scarcity will prevent us from sowing at all (how can we possibly afford to sow seed, when a famine or a blight might destroy it? Better to hoard). Scarcity will bring stress, narrow thinking, and cutthroat actions.

Scarcity fills our whole bodies, our whole selves, with darkness.

There Is Enough

Today, there is enough. You can give without fear, explore without being afraid that you will run out.

You can be free and full of light.

This is the way of Jesus.

(This is Part 71 in a series on the Gospel of Matthew, which you can access here. Unless otherwise marked, quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)



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6 responses to “Free and Full of Light: What Jesus Taught about Scarcity, Generosity, & Abundance”

  1. Violeta Yarcia Avatar
    Violeta Yarcia

    when we share with those in need, do we have to continue doing it even if we know that they use whatever help we give them to have fun with their friends instead of using it for their basic needs?

    1. Rachel Avatar

      That’s a great question. I don’t think it can be answered with a general rule, honestly … I think it’s something where we need to check in with God and ask him for discernment. The basic principle directing it all is love. If we can’t give to someone in love (because it will hurt them, for example), then we shouldn’t give.

  2. Rebekah Powledge Avatar

    So so good! I’ve realized I really do live with a scarcity mindset. This has really helped me a Biblical perspective. Also, I love your writing style. It reminds me of my own. 😉

    1. Rachel Avatar

      Thanks, Rebekah! Lol, the more of us writing the better!

  3. Mitch Avatar

    Wow! This precisely what I am doing. Fantastic and painful in its conviction. Thank you! Anyone who sees this please say a prayer for me.

    1. Rachel Thomson Avatar
      Rachel Thomson

      Thank you, Mitch! Praying for you, brother!

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