Matthew 7:3-5 – “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. NIV
It’s easier for me to see what’s wrong with other people because I am not looking for anything wrong in my life! In fact many of us look for what’s wrong with other people to make ourselves feel superior to them. Interestingly, we often are most critical of things in other people’s lives that are problems in our life. I can still remember a time when I had to give a job review for a great employee. The one thing where I suggested improvement was concerning the messiness of their office! Those of you that know me are laughing already because at times people thought that my office was the annex to the landfill!
The Visual Bible portrays Jesus saying this with humor. It is hyperbole meant to get people laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation while thinking seriously about how they deal with other people. We would do well spend more time bringing the imperfect things in our own lives into Christ-likeness before we attempt to fix someone else. Who knows that if we did that, people might ask us how it happened! Then we would get to tell them about how the Holy Spirit is transforming us.
Matthew 6:28-30 – “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? NIV
Again we are dealing with the passage in the Sermon on the Mount about what we tend to worry. Jesus tells his listeners not to worry about food and clothing. These are basic needs which much of the world has trouble getting. When many Americans hear this question, we think that Jesus is talking about styles and what’s in fashion. So we tend to hear, “Why worry about being in style.” While that may be a great question for some of us who have lots of clothes, there are people who feel fortunate to have one or two changes of clothing.
There are lots of children who are continually growing and whose parents have difficulty keeping them in clothes. There are foster children who have all their clothes in plastic suitcase (garbage bag). There are people in the third world who have the clothes on their back. Jesus’ question to His original listeners was probably addressed to people similar to the people above rather than people like many of us who have lots to wear… stylish or not. They did worry about what they would eat and if they would have enough clothes to keep warm. Jesus’ focus here is to encourage them to trust their Heavenly Father for their provision. We would all do well to consider God as our source, and live life from that perspective. We often consider many other things as our source: our abilities, government, and possibly other people or communities that we know. After asking the questions, Jesus goes on to say:
Matthew 6:31-36 – So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. NIV
I have discovered that when I focus on seeking His kingdom first, I have what I need and many times what I want. However, it’s not always easy to do.
Matthew 6:27 – Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? NIV
The literal translation of this verse is “can add a single cubit (18 inches) to his height?” Either way, the answer seems to be that none of us can add to our height or add to our life by worry. I think that there have been studies that have shown constant that anxiety tends to shorten our lives.
The KJV translates “worrying” as “taking thought,” which can be confusing. Does this mean that we are not to think about anything? Does this me that God does not want us to consider the consequences of our actions? I don’t believe so. I think that this “taking thought” is excessive pondering over something, possibly always expecting the worst outcome of a situation or worst possible scenario.
The way I tend to deal with something that is bothering me is to do what I can a track down. I track down what specifically is bothering me, and then I ask myself some questions: Is there anything that I can or need to do about this situation? If there is, then what is my first step? If there isn’t anything I can do about the situation, then I need to take it to God and give it to Him. That does not preclude my taking it to Him if there is something I can do about it. One of my favorite messages on this passage was “Why Pray When You Can Take Pills and Worry?”
Some people seem to think that it I their role in life to worry about their problems and everyone problems that they know; but I can’t live well like that. There are many things in this life over which we have no control. And worrying about them will certainly not add to the length or quality of our life. It doesn’t mean that we are not to be concerned about doing what is right; but many times there is nothing we can do ourselves. We need to put ourselves into God’s hands and trust Him.
Matthew 6:26 – Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? NIV
This question is a continuation of the previous discussion. The premise is: if God takes care of the birds of the air, won’t he take care of you, a human who has more value?
This is an interesting discussion because there are individuals who believe that animals have just as much value as humans. In fact there are people who would not think twice about aborting a human baby and are extremely involved as animal rights activists. I’m not saying that we should be cruel to animals or that God doesn’t care about them; but they are not made in the image of God. The Bible doesn’t indicate that the have souls as humans do.
However, if our loving heavenly Father takes care of them, won’t he certainly provide for humans? Does that mean we won’t have to work? I don’t believe so; because we live in a fallen world. Does that mean we won’t have suffering, drought, or disease? It doesn’t seem to indicate that; but it does give opportunity for the Body of Christ to help and provide for people in those situations. That means that we in the Body of Christ have to be sensitive to the Spirit’s direction and willing to join Jesus in His mission in this world.
This question also introduces the idea of human value, self-worth. Do we as individuals attribute as much worth to ourselves and others as God does? What difference would that make in how we view ourselves and treat others?
# 3. Matthew 6:25 – “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? NIV
The teaching of Jesus that precedes this question is: Matthew 6:24-25 – “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. NIV
Jesus is encouraging his listeners to consider that there is more to life than just material things … the here and now. Humans are given a soul which needs more than physical food. If we limit our goals in life to just feed and cloth our mortal bodies, we have missed much of why God created us. In fact, we are probably not serving Him at all.
Matthew 6:25 – The concepts of life being more than food and the body more than clothing often need to be restructured if readers are to understand what is meant. Some ways will be to say “What is important in life is much more than food,” “There is much more to life than just food,” or “There is much more of importance to life than food.” Similarly the second part may be “There are things more important to our bodies than clothing.”
Of course, any one of these statements can be expressed as a question, as in the text: “Isn’t there more to life than just food?” “Aren’t there things more important to our bodies than clothing?” and so on. (from the UBS New Testament Handbook Series. Copyright © 1961-1997, by United Bible Societies.)
When we limit our worries and thoughts to just the material, we limit what God can do to, in, and through us. We are not serving God. We are merely serving our immediate physical needs. God knows our needs, and he is concerned about us. I don’t think that this means we totally disregard the stewardship of our bodies; but that it is not to be our primary concern. Feeding our soul and clothing it with righteousness is more important.
# 2. Matthew 5:47 – And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
This question is a follow-up to the previous one which was a follow up to this statement in the Sermon on the Mount … Matthew 5:43-45.
Here Jesus is urging his followers to take the first step in loving others … greet them, acknowledge their presence, and treat them as a person. It is easy to walk by other people, to avoid eye contact, to pretend that you are preoccupied or pondering, or doing something more important than the person you are encountering.
A majority of the time I tend to engage people as I pass them on the street, in a public place which includes church. I find their reactions interesting. Mp3 players and cell phones with earbuds make it easy to ignore others. You might get a smile and a nod; but it is easy to be engrossed into what’s on your device. Sometimes a simple greeting can feel awkward especially if there is a substantial age difference or a gender difference. It doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be attempted if we want to acknowledge that person’s worth in God’s eyes.
I have to admit that there are times that I avoid greeting people and even avoid eye contact. One of the times I do that is when I know that I am being “panhandled.” It could be at an intersection or walking down the street. There’s something in me that has problems with a sign that says “Will work for food,” and the person is just standing on the corner begging. I know people who do day labor, temp jobs, mow lawns, shovel snow, etc. They are “working for food.” I would greet them, encourage them, and help them before I would make eye contact with a person “panhandling” on a street corner. Sure, there are others … people substantially different from me … people speaking a different language … people that give off the “vibes” that they don’t want to be greeted or “messed with.”
So how can I be more like Jesus? How can I better affirm the worth of each person I encounter daily? I’m sure that the Holy Spirit will help me answer that question if I take the step to greet each person I encounter every day. With some people it will be more difficult for me to do that; but with the Holy Spirit’s help I can do it.
I’m reading the book Christ-Centered Coaching by Jane Creswell. In it she points out that good coaches ask good questions. Then she reminds her readers that Jesus often responded to his listeners with good questions. She notes that Gospels record over 150 questions that Jesus asked. I figured that these would be good for me to review as a coach and as a Christ-follower. So I am going to begin a thread on this blog called Questions Jesus Asked, and post my thoughts as I consider them. I’m beginning with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel.
Question # 1 Matthew 5:46 – If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? NIV
This question was was a followup to this statement made by Jesus that must have left may of his listeners responding with, “Say what?”
Matthew 5:43-45 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. NIV
It is fairly easy to love those who love us. We tend to overlook their faults and flaws because they love us; but it is a totally different thing to love people who don’t love us, perhaps despise us, or are our enemies. However, Jesus told us to love our enemies!
Reciprocating love is its own reward, but it closes people out. God rewards those who love like Jesus, who laid down his life for us while we were yet sinners! That’s tough love! It’s the kind of love God rewards. The verb here is a form of agape, the kind of love that is self-giving and self-sacrificing. It is not erotic or sensual love or even familial love. It is the kind of love that requires the Holy Spirit’s help to grow in and be consistent.