Matthew 7:7-12 Reading

Matthew 7:7-12

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

A few thoughts for meditation:

As Jesus brought the sermon to a close, we should be impressed by the crushing moral demands. It’s not that these standards are wrong or disagreeable, but that they are so high we are powerless to obtain them on our own. In answer to this weight, Jesus reassured us that all which God demands of us, he also freely provides to those who ask. He stressed this in three ways, “ask… seek… knock” all with the assurance that God will answer. It is important to keep this prayer in context though, and understand it in light of the Lord’s Prayer taught earlier. Jesus focused on the kingdom of God and our place within it. That is the “good” we are called to ask for and freely receive, not whatever our sinful desires may crave.. Whatever we need in the moment to be a more faithful disciple, God will freely provide to us when we ask. That is part of his generous Fatherly care for us.

Jesus illustrated the generous character of God by comparing it to the defective generosity of sinful mankind, arguing from lesser to greater. Mankind is “evil”, fallen, corrupt, in bondage to sin. And yet, even evil human beings know they should provide their children good things when they ask. In this case, the children ask for simple food, bread and fish, and most parents know they should not answer with stones or serpents. God of course is good and perfect and knows exactly what good gifts his children need, and will freely and generously give those good things when we ask him. This picture of the generosity of God is important to keep in mind. Too often, there lingers in the back of our minds a picture of a stingy God, who withholds good things from us. This was part of the temptation Eve faced in the garden. Satan caused her to doubt the goodness and generosity of God by asking her why God would hold back the forbidden fruit from her. That is often the fear at the heart of legalism, that God is holding back good things until we earn them. But Jesus painted the opposite picture here. God freely offers to provide “good things” when we keep asking, seeking, and knocking. These are acts of faith, acts of trusting God, who rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6). So as we seek to be faithful disciples, servants, and children of the Father’s kingdom, he promises to provide every good thing we need for that mission. Again, the “good” promised here is “good” as God defines it, not how we define it. Too often our definition of “good” is corrupted by our sinful or short-sighted desires. But our Father knows the good we need even when we don’t, and when he does not give us specifically what we ask for, it’s because he is giving us the good thing we should have asked for instead. When a child asks for carrot cake, the father may give him a carrot instead, not because he is stingy but because that is what the child needs more in the moment.

Finally, Jesus summarized the moral demands of this sermon with what is often called the Golden Rule, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” This closed what he began in 5:17, when he began teaching what it meant to fulfill “the Law and the Prophets”. The phrase forms bookends around the body of teaching. This idea of the Golden Rule is not unique to Jesus. Other ancient teachers used it, but it was usually stated in a more negative way, “whatever you don’t want others to do to you, don’t do to them”. In other words, if you don’t want people to steal from you, don’t steal from them, etc. But what is unique to Jesus here is that he stated the Golden Rule in a more positive form, whatever you want others to do to you, do to them. By this switch, Jesus included not only the sins of commission (i.e. stealing killing, lying) but also the sins of omission, withholding good to others which we should actively give. If you want people to be generous to you, be generous to them. If you want them to be friendly to you, be friendly to them. If you want others to help you in time of need, then you help others in time of need. In other words, it’s not enough to just refrain from outward evil, but we must actively promote goodness and love from the heart as God defines it. We cannot expect to wait for others to do good to us before we will do good to them. We must seek to live as Christ did, regardless of how others respond to us. This is true obedience to the Law and Prophets.

Matthew 7:1-6 Reading

Matthew 7:1-6

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

A few thoughts for meditation:

In this next section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed how we should confront one another (especially fellow believers) about our faults. The basic principle is given in vs. 1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” This is probably the most quoted and misquoted Bible verse in our culture right now. Many think that it means “don’t be judgmental” or “mind your own business”. That is not what Jesus said at all. He explained exactly what he meant in the following verses.

Jesus was confronting the problem of self-righteous attitudes toward others, confronting their sins as if you had none yourself. He continued to confront the problem of pride and hypocrisy which he addressed in the previous chapter. The attitude with which you judge others will be used against you. That does not mean you remain silent when your brother has a problem. That is not a loving thing to do either, is it? Why let your brother suffer needless without any warning? But it does mean you must confront him in humility, aware of your own faults as well. You approach him as a fellow patient on the road to recovery, not as an unstained superior correcting a stupid inferior. Jesus used a comical picture to explain this, trying to remove a speck from your brother’s eye, while you have a log in your own eye. Removing a speck from someone’s eye requires a delicate and patient touch to avoid damaging the sensitive eye. And it’s near impossible to do if you are blinded by a log in your own eye. You must remove the log from your eye so you can then “see clearly” to remove the speck from your brother’s. So again, Jesus is not at all saying you can never confront or “judge” someone for their faults, but must do so after first taking into account your own faults and struggles and letting your own struggles with sin moderate your attitude and tone towards your brother. Very often, those who are the most critical of “judgmental people” are themselves the most judgmental and most careless with their words as they “say it like it is”. Confronting someone requires humility, patience, tact, and wisdom. It requires a sincere desire for their good. Sometimes blunt forceful correction is needed in an urgent situation. But most often, patient and calm conversation is better. We must pray for wisdom to know how best to approach every situation.

Jesus finished with a final warning about this need for wisdom when confronting others. Good advice and sincere concern can be rejected if not applied at the right time. People must be in a receptive posture. “Dogs” or “pigs” were not considered domestic animals or pets in the ancient world like they are today. They were usually considered wild and vicious animals. If someone is acting like a dog or pig in the moment, your “pearl” will be trampled and ignored and they may even retaliate against you. Timing is important when we try to remove the speck from another’s eye. Some people are receptive to correction from God’s Word, others are not. The idea Jesus is teaching here is the same idea taught in Proverbs 9:8, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” Just because something needs to be said, does not mean it needs to be said “right now” or in the heat of a crisis moment. Again, wisdom is needed and must be asked for from the Father, wisdom not only in how to help our brother, but in how to remove the log from our own eye. What is your attitude when your brother confronts you? Are you patient and receptive? Or are you like a vicious dog or pig?

Matthew 6:25-34 Reading

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,  29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

A few thoughts for meditation:

After calling his disciples to serve God instead of money, Jesus addressed the heart of the matter. Why do people trust in money? Usually it’s for the illusion of security. Money buys food, drink, and clothes. Money provides a buffer of comfort between you and some of teh hardships of this world. But can it really keep you secure? No. Jesus was clear that wealth can be stolen, destroyed, or lost. Most importantly, it can’t save you from sin and death. Only God can do that. So Jesus turned our attention instead to God, who alone can provide for our needs.
He first pointed to how God provides for creatures in nature. He feeds the birds. He clothes the grass with intricate flowers. Are not redeemed his children more valuable to him than such creatures? Jesus also pointed to the sovereignty of God over our lives. He has numbered our days. He knows the course of our life and when we will die. Worrying will not add a “single hour” to your life. That is in God’s hands just as much as your physical needs.
Jesus then pointed to the example of the Gentiles, those who do not know God. They served idols to obtain these possessions.They spent their lives pursuing food, drink, and clothing, thinking that if they had them, their lives would be free from worry or anxiety.  And yet how often does that prove to be a lie? Look at how miserable many of the wealthy are; plagued by drug abuse or drunkenness, broken families, and the fear of losing their wealth. The comforts of wealth do not cure the evils of the human heart. In some cases, wealth enables the sinful heart to access even greater forms of sin or greater causes for worry.
But God knows what we need already. None of our needs ever escape his attention. As a good Father, he knows how to care for his children and provide them exactly what they need when they need it. That assurance should relieve the anxiety created when the crutch of money is removed. Rather than propping up on weak crutches of wealth, we are held up by the strong hands of God as our Father. And that frees us to devote our time and energy to seeking “the kingdom of God and his righteousness” rather than our needs. The “kingdom” refers to the saving reign or power of God which broke through with the arrival of Jesus. We are called to seek God’s saving power in every sphere of our lives, and work to spread the message of his salvation to others. By seeking “his righteousness”, Jesus referred to a life of obedience to God and submission to his will. What we prayer for in the Lord’s prayer (vs. 9-10) we labor for with our actions. As we seek to know and please God, God promises to provide all our needs. That does not mean our lives will be full of wealth or free of trouble. Jesus already warned about the dangers we face for righteousness sake. In the very next verse, Jesus said each day already has “enough trouble”. But we do not need to be anxious about our needs because God will provide us all that we need to do what he has called us to do in every situation he puts us in. Just take each day, one at a time. And just to stress that point again, how many times did Jesus say “do not be anxious” in this short passage? We live in very uncertain times when so many of our worldly crutches are being shaken. If these things are pushing you into anxiety and worry, it’s time to lean on your good Father and get back to seeking his kingdom first and let him handle the rest.

Matthew 6:19-24 Reading

Matthew 6:19-24

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money.

A few thoughts for meditation:

In this next section on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turned his attention to perhaps the most common idol of humanity, wealth. First, he called disciples to make a new investment decision, to store up treasures in heaven, rather than on earth. Earthly treasures will perish for one reason or another. And even if you succeed in gathering all the treasures you want in this life, you will leave them behind at death, and they will be dispersed to others. Better instead to store up treasures in heaven. This builds on what Jesus said earlier about “rewards” for sincere worship. You store up heavenly treasure by investing your time and energy in what has eternal significance before God; a life of obedience and good works, suffering for Christ’s name, working toward forgiveness and reconciliation, etc. You strive to make your own contribution in serving the kingdom of God with the gifts and opportunities that Christ has invested in you. You strive to be the faithful husband, wife, parent, worker, church member, and neighbor that God calls you to be, trusting that whatever hardships you endure will be far surpassed by the joys of being with God and his people in the end.

Jesus then singled out the heart behind the pursuit of wealth or God. You will pursue what you treasure most. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What you value most is the true object of worship in your heart, no matter what you say with your words. We saw before how Jesus confronted the “hypocrites” about their false worship. They claimed to worship God but really were worshiping the praise of men. Here, Jesus made a similar point. You may claim to worship the Lord and even publicly give thanks to him for all the wealth you have, but if you are living for your wealth, that is your true god and master, not the Lord. Jesus then explained the implications when you try to divide your loyalty between God and money. It’s like trying to put one eye on God and one eye on money. It divides your vision and basically makes you blind. Rather than having “good eyes” focused singularly on the Lord, your eyes are dysfunctional, causing blindness and darkness within. Your love of money is going to hinder your professed love to the Lord. For example, you will be selfish and stingy when you should be generous and compassionate. Or you will be reluctant to give up earthly wealth for the kingdom because you trust it too much to give you comfort and security rather than God.

Jesus then finished the point moving from the pictures of treasure and vision to slavery. You cannot serve two masters, money and God. The tension creates problems in your heart. They offer different wages and require different standards of faithfulness that conflict with each other. For example, if you are serving money, then you will be tempted to work on the Lord’ Day unnecessarily and compromise your obligations to the Lord in order to make that extra effort for more money. You will despise the Lord for getting in the way of your pursuit of money. Or the opposite can be true; you will hate your money-making venture for getting in the way of your worship of God. You can’t love and serve both. One must be subservient to the other. Your money must serve God or your will try to make God serve your pursuit of money. It’s important to note that Jesus portrayed both here as slave-masters, not just employers. You are in slavery to one or the other, whether you like it or not. If you love money, then you are a slave to money. If you love the Lord, you are a slave to him instead. Paul used the same picture in Rom 6:19; slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. There is no middle ground. You cannot serve both with the singular whole-hearted devotion that each requires.

So, who do you love more? Jesus or money? Who do you trust to meet your needs? Who do you trust to keep you secure when trouble comes? When making career choices, what pursuit drive you more? What treasures are truly more important, the earthly or the heavenly? Which master truly loves you?