READ: Psalm 48, Jeremiah 37-39, Matthew 20, Acts 27
Ancient Egyptians painted two eyes on their boats to protect them from misfortune–a practice still common in the Mediterranean. Many Muslims live in fear of the “evil eye”–a curse or difficulty brought on by the jealousy of another. The evil eye of jealousy is avoided by blue pendant charms (usually in the shape of a droplet or a hand) and by declaring “This is what God has willed!” whenever you compliment another. This proclamation proves you are not jealous, for it is jealousy that opens the door for the curse.
Followers of Jesus do not usually curse those we are offended by, not directly anyway. But we tend to be naïve about how jealous we are of others and how jealousy destroys all it touches. Workers in the field “who have borne the heat of the day” are jealous that shorter serving laborers are equally rewarded, and Jesus responds: “Is your eye evil because I am good” (Matt. 20:15)? The unfortunate answer for us is that we indeed are often jealous of the goodness of God toward others. There is a resident evil in us that at worst desires mercy for ourselves while denying it to others and at best demands that others pay their dues just as we did. God’s goodness to others tends to make us look bad, for none of us are as liberal with mercy as Jesus is.
Unlike Jesus, our mercy can be cruel. Sometimes we offer cures that are more damaging than the disease. Out of an insidious self-righteousness we demand penances of others that Jesus did not require of us. Jesus in wisdom sometimes applies “a severe mercy,” but even then He puts rags under our armpits so the rope that pulls us from our deserved mire does not unduly wound us (Jer. 38:12). We cannot forget that we (those of us who are in Christ the longest, have the greatest spiritual heritage, know the Word the best, and are the most disciplined in our spirituality) are the premier Pharisees of our day–we have the greatest propensity to having evil eyes.
Muslims misunderstand jealousy in one key aspect, for jealousy does more damage to the one coveting than the one being envied. Jealousy is a fierce and crippling master. The psalmist prays, “Let no dominion have iniquity over me” (Psalm 119:133). Jesus provides us the “double cure” of being protected from wrath and being inwardly pure. Jealousy is an internal malady that leads to ambition, insecurity, slander, and a host of other soul viruses. Jesus wants us to share in His goodness and to mature us to the place where we genuinely rejoice in His generosity towards others. This is how the evil eye is shattered, not by charms, but by a charity that sincerely revels in God’s lavish mercy to both friend and enemy.