Is your eye evil? Little did I know when I converted to Orthodoxy that there was a whole body of writing and even prayers against “the evil eye.”
Turns out this is shorthand for the toxic power of envy and jealousy to poison a community. And it certainly can do that. Over and over again relationships have been destroyed, lives ruined, and hearts broken by the spiritual cancer of envy and jealousy. I never will forget the comment of a man, after having been found innocent in court over a crime he didn’t commit, asking “OK, now where do I go to get my reputation back?”
Look at our Gospel lesson today in Matthew 20:1-16:
The Lord said this parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.”
We know this story well. The Owner of the Vineyard hires workers throughout the day to work in his vineyard and promises to pay the workers at the end of the day. Of course the Vineyard Owner is generous, paying the men who had worked the least the same amount as He promised the men who had worked a full day. And here is where the trouble starts.
Isn’t it amazing how our hearts are revealed and uncovered in the face of generosity? The grace of God given to those who we believe “don’t deserve it” reveal a weakness of character, a poverty of soul, in our own hearts. “Why doesn’t God give me the blessings He’s given her?” All the while this “evil eye” blinds me to my own blessings and gifts of grace God has shown me over and over again. It’s a trap, but it’s a trap we can avoid.
The way to avoid this trap is two-fold: First, the humble honesty that I am to spend my time dealing with my own sins and weaknesses, not busying myself with the sins of others, and second, learning to love others as Christ loves them, which sets me free to rejoice when good things happen to someone else rather than allowing the sickness of an “evil eye” to poison my heart.
Today, where is the eye evil? Where do you easily slip into envy and jealousy? It’s that place in your heart that is a barrier to your spiritual growth and freedom. By becoming Orthodox on Purpose, you will set your eye free to only see your own sins and to truly rejoice in the good that happens to others!