There is a brief story in Genesis about Isaac’s herdsman digging wells. The first two wells strike water and meet with resistance from other herdsmen. Instead of fighting over water, Isaac’s group moves to the next site and strikes water again. After the first two wells are given to other groups, they finally strike water; this time they are able to use the well. Then they strike water again, so after giving two wells away they have two wells to use. The interesting part of the story is the day that Abimelech and his advisor Ahuzzath and his army commander Phicol (Genesis 26:26f) come to meet Isaac. Isaac is not amused, claiming that Abimelech hates him because Isaac was kicked off the land. Yet, these men have come to Isaac to enter into a covenant with him, a treaty… And why is this? Verse 28 reads, “We can plainly see that the Lord is with you…”
In this Old Testament story, Isaac’s trust in God could be plainly seen by the way Isaac’s group behaved and in the way they were resolute in building wells.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus climbs into a boat and went back across the lake to his home town in 9:1. There is a group of people who meet Jesus with a paralyzed man on a mat, obviously carried to Jesus for healing. Matthew records Jesus’ reaction to this situation, “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘Be Encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.’” Later in the story, Jesus heals the man and he can walk home.
In this New Testament story, Jesus saw the faith of the people through their determination to carry their friend to Jesus.
Is there a contemporary story from our lives, in which our faith and trust in God is made known to others because it causes us to be more resolute, or causes us to behave differently than expected?
Oh, that Jesus and the world around us would take notice of our faith…
In Mathew, Jesus teaches the people by telling them, “Do not judge others…” and I think most contemporary uses of this passage tend to stop quoting at this point. Surrounded by the Pharisees and Sadducees, everyone trying to get back to the righteousness of God, it just makes sense to warn potential followers about their judgments. But the passage is more than the first four words, it goes on. Let me remind you of the full passage (quoted from the NLT):
7:1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.
3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
6 “Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.
While I agree that this is a warning about how we treat other people by imposing our own biases and prejudices on them, I think we need to be careful if we think that Jesus is teaching us against discernment and against practicing a process that separates what is righteous living from the type of life that would be considered evil or wrong by Jesus.
The insight comes in verse 6, because how are we uncover “people who are unholy” if we are not to “judge” them. Now, let’s be clear that the contemporary use of “judge” often is expanded to mean that we are not supposed to critique, correct, or discipline another person. Yet, I think Jesus is talking about judgment that dismisses a person and loses belief in a person. Judgments are often final assessments, and that is what Jesus is warning against. How can a person help remove an eye irritant from their friend when their eye is impelled by a debilitating object?
It seems they might need each other’s help to truly resolve the issue. Yes, community and fellowship are needed, but judgment expels a person from community and fellowship. So we are warned not to judge, but encouraged to discern. While we refrain from making final assessments, we are free to help each other develop a holy and healthy life of faith.
I have been fortunate to have good people in my life who did not cast me aside when I failed to live a holy and righteous life, but I was blessed by them because they also were not afraid to confront my offenses and deal with the unholy parts of my life. I believe the true difference in Jesus’ teaching is whether or not we choose to walk through the mess with a person or not. Jesus walked into, through, and redeemed our mess. He didn’t stand aloof and condemn us, but showed us the way. As we remove the logs and specks from each others’ eyes, we can clearly see the way so that others can was in the way. Interestingly enough, the next passage after this one reminds us of the “Golden Rule” and then points us to the narrow way!
I was reading in Matthew 6 and came upon the familiar passage that includes the Lord’s Prayer. You know it and have prayed it. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” But this time I was reading the NLT, which I sometimes do precisely because of the changes in wording. It read:
“Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.”
Hallowed by thy name…may your name be kept holy. I have always been told that the word holy means “other than” or “above the normal standards.” While holy can also mean consecrated and pious, since we are talking about the name of God there is no action attached to the idea of holy in the passage. Well…not God’s action anyway.
In this passage, we hold the action. What we say and how we use the name of God plays into the concept of keeping God’s name holy. When I hear a “God damn it” or an “Oh my God” there is a cringe that happens in me. So, we always need to be careful to invoke the name of God cautiously in our language.
But I’m not convinced that is the whole lesson in keeping God’s name holy. I think it goes beyond what we say and also includes what we do and eventually settles into who we are. When Jesus prays this, we recognize his devotion to the Father, not only in his language, but in his actions and very being. We call Jesus the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. And Jesus teaches us to pray this prayer. Therefore, in this prayer we, as God’s people, reflect on our actions as work that keeps God’s name holy. We reflect on our character and reputation as a people who carry the name of God in us, and we strive to keep the name of God holy. Often we pray for many things; wants, desires, miracles, blessings—but Jesus teaches us to ask God’s help in keeping his name holy, and that is the first line of the prayer.
In the opening chapters of the book of Proverbs, Wisdom is personified as a woman who invites young men into a special relationship with her. Wisdom stands in contrast to the “Loose Woman” or “Lady Folly” who also issues an invitation to young men to enter into a more carnal relationship with her. Wisdom promises peace, serenity, and a long and respectable life. Folly promises a good time and pleasure beyond compare. In chapter 1:29-33 Lady Wisdom displays her concern for those who are taking the invitation of lady Folly. She speaks and says…
1:29 For they hated knowledge
and chose not to fear the Lord.
30 They rejected my advice
and paid no attention when I corrected them.
31 Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way,
choking on their own schemes.
32 For simpletons turn away from me—to death.
Fools are destroyed by their own complacency.
33 But all who listen to me will live in peace,
untroubled by fear of harm.”
Let’s notice a few things that Wisdom is lamenting here.
1. These people were satisfied in their ignorance
2. These people made a choice to neither take God seriously nor respect God
3. These people were not open to sound advice
4. These people were offended by reproof or criticism
Wisdom goes on to say that these people must “eat the bitter fruit of living their own way.” Are we harvesting the fruit of living our own way? Is someone close to us harvesting bitter fruit? Let understand the way of wisdom that continues to issue the invitation to all of us…
We must want to understand and gain knowledge
We must respect the Lord God and trust His way of life
We must open ourselves up to sound advice from godly persons
We should expect reproof and criticism that helps us GROW
Wisdom promises that those “who listen will live in peace, untroubled by fear or harm…” Give me some of that life…please!
I was reading in Matthew 5, we call them the Beatitudes but I would want to call them the "stay-awayattudes." I was using the New Living Translation and I want to list the attributes that Jesus claims God blesses…
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.