Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 5 – 7
A Devotional Guide
by Rev. Joseph Smith, Lead Pastor
Blessing and The Kingdom of Heaven
Matthew 5:1-12 (ESV)
(1) “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
(2) “And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
(3) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(4) “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
(5) “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
(6) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
(7) “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
(8) “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
(9) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
(10) “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(11) “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
(12) “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
A Little Deeper:
At this point in Matthew’s narrative Jesus has just begun his public ministry and he is experiencing some gaining popularity. It is important to note that just a few verses earlier in chapter 4 we are told the specific message Jesus was preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (17). Chapter 5 begins with Jesus seeing the crowds and heading up on the mountain with his disciples. It makes sense that the first twelve verses of his teaching to his disciples would center on the “kingdom of heaven.”
In these twelve verses Jesus identifies a list of people who will experience the benefits of the kingdom. Those who are in need will have their needs met (3-6), those who live authentic lives for God will be rewarded with unfathomable rewards (7-9), and those who suffer for him will find joy in their reward, which has been promised (10-12). When the kingdom of heaven arrives, it will make right all that has been wrong.
A Parent’s Take:
Every parent at some point in their process has fallen into each of these categories. Parents mourn, are merciful (to a point), pure in heart (unless it is the middle of the night), and for those with more than one child, peacemakers! Jesus must have been specifically thinking of parents when he was teaching this list! Well, sort of, maybe not the way you and I are thinking about them.
When the Jews heard Jesus teaching these things they would have been reminded of the teaching that God gave Israel through Moses before they entered the land (Duet. 28). God gave a list of blessing that would come to those who inherited the land and honored him, as well as a list of consequences of disobedience. In the end we know that over many generations, Israel ultimately chose disobedience. This disobedience would result in the exile both from the land and from the presence of the Lord. Israel slowly stopped teaching their children the ways of the Lord and how to be obedient to him.
When I was young, there was a boy who lived down the street with whom I often played. When boys get together they tend to try and toe the line but can often end up in trouble. Each time we came close to crossing the line this boy would stop us and say, “we can’t do this, it’s just not right.” I thought he was just scared until I spent the night at his house one night. Before we went to bed his dad called us into the family room and sat us down to discuss with us a story from scripture. He asked us if we understood the story and if there were any specific ways we thought we could apply the truths to our lives. I was in awe of the honest discussion his family had about what was right and wrong with different situations the kids experienced at school and elsewhere. I found myself spending the night regularly at his house throughout my middle school years.
As parents we are responsible for the growth and training of the children that God has placed in our care. Our goal is not to raise our kids with the right attitude and personality to survive in our culture, but to raise them with the right attitude and heart described by Jesus of those who are children of the kingdom of heaven. Our culture cannot promise any of the things that Jesus does in this passage. Even to the point of persecution may our children hold on to the promises and lay claim to the rewards stored up for them in heaven.
Key Verses: “(11) Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (12) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Salt and Light
Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV)
“(13) You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
(14) You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. (16) In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
A Little Deeper:
Jesus often taught in parables like this one. It is important that we see these metaphors for what is really intended. The first metaphor is “the salt of the earth.” This metaphor can easily be over-analyzed. The mission of salt is to change the taste of food. If the salt becomes tasteless, it can no longer accomplish its purpose. The second metaphor is “light.” Most common Jewish houses were one-room houses. Some may have a guest room and/or a stable attached as another room. Jesus says that a light is lit and “it gives light to all in the house.” This is saturation language. It is important to note that Jesus uses language like “of the earth,” and “of the world.” This broadens the impact of the disciples to more than just Israel. This of course becomes very important for the gospels spread to the gentiles. The question then becomes, what do these verses imply about the definition of a bad disciple and a good one?
A Parent’s Take:
We are all disciples of Christ. With that being said, sometimes the hardest place to “keep our saltiness” and “shine our light” is in our home in front of our family. Our family is often privy to our break-downs, loud voices, and “angry eyes.” Sternness is by no means a bad thing, but how do we as parents shine our lights in front of those who know exactly where the cracks are in our lamps fuel tank?
Verse 16 defines for us specifically what the shining light looks like. Is it our temperament? Our momentary break-downs? It is important to have control over those things, but the real light is our “good works” that “give glory to your father who is in heaven.” We need to daily ask the Lord to give us the strength to serve him and serve those around us in a way that glorifies him. Our children will hold onto the examples we set, the way we serve, and the way we love over the course of their childhood more than they will the momentary lapses in emotion. Take a moment to think through “good works” your children see in you… Do they give glory to your father who is in heaven? Do they see your good works at all?
These verses not only apply to the way that we live our lives with our children, but they also speak strongly to our philosophy of raising children. God has given us all unique scenarios for raising our children. Some may homeschool, some may put them in private school, some may put them in public school, some may enroll in sports, and others may be artistic. This passage does not speak to the specifics of raising children. Rather, it speaks to the desire of every Christian parent to see their children become worthy disciples of their savior Jesus Christ. No matter what specific scenario we may find in our family, Jesus does not command us to hide from the world, but for us to do “good works” within the world so that they may all glorify God. This passage implies that good disciples can be measured by the impact or change they have on the world.
Key Verse: “(16) In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Real Value of The Old
Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV)
“(17) Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
(18) For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
(19) Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
(20) For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
A Little Deeper:
Jesus has been teaching his disciples up to this point, but this is really the beginning of his sermon. Many would have been wondering about these new teachings of Jesus. Is he bringing a new word? Is he tossing out the Law? Does what he preaches fit with the Law of Moses at all? Jesus is well aware of these questions and concerns. On the other hand, there is no doubt that Jesus is presenting something new.
The Pharisees created something called the “oral law.” Its simplest description is a practical commentary on the Law of the Old Testament. If the Law says, “rest on the Sabbath,” the “oral law,” instructs everyone on exactly what that means practically. Over the next several days we are going to be looking through many additions Jesus makes to the Law. These should be read not as in conflict with the Law, but as in fulfillment (17).
At the beginning of this section that will span over several days in this devotional, Jesus wants to make his stance on the Law and the Prophets very clear. He clarifies the importance of the Law as the foundation for the “new” commands he is going to make concerning it.
A Parent’s Take:
In modern Christianity we often teach the New Testament to believers as the most important thing because it tells the story of Jesus. We tend to see the Old Testament as a bunch of stories that tell us how bad it was without Jesus. If this is our approach, then we are in danger of teaching the wrong Jesus story to our children.
It is true; Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies and ultimately brings purpose to the Law. But that does not mean that those things are worthless. As a matter of fact, it should spark more interest and assign more value to those things. It is a shame that our generation has a habit of running to what is new and so easily letting go of what is old. We live in such a fast-paced society; we often blow by the things that are the most important things to know (even about ourselves).
Several years ago, I had my second child. I had been working at a church for several years and I was living life with no spare time for anything. I realized that my children were in danger of growing up and never knowing their great grandparents who were still alive and lived about five minutes from our house. Because I wanted my children to know them, I started to take them over there one morning a week to have breakfast. As I sat and talked to my grandfather week after week, he began to share stories I had never heard. These stories were the foundation for how I became who I was. These stories even shaped the very decisions I was making every day of my life. I realized that my life has great meaning today, because it has been built on great people who laid such a solid foundation.
The intent of that example was to connect us as parents closer to the meaning of this text. Jesus places so much importance on the Old Law because it launches the power and greatness of what he is teaching. The only place the analogy breaks down is the fact that it is Jesus who provides the true understanding and value to the Law that was given so many years ago, not the Law to him.
Hitting a little closer to home, parents sometimes tend to either reject or mimic their parents’ methods of parenting. When we hear new strategies for parenting we sometimes look back at our parents’ methods and deem them incompetent. Is it possible that through the lens of Jesus, there can be some great value to looking back through some of those old methods from your parents, grandparents, etc.? If not for parenting, there is sure to be some healing and maybe some respect and grace to be given. Just as Jesus provides value and worth to the Law, he can also provide it to other things we could easily let slip away.
Key Verse: “(17) Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Matthew 21-26 (ESV)
“(21) You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ (22) But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (23) So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, (24) leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (25) Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. (26) Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
A Little Deeper:
The beginning of Jesus’ teaching here would have sounded familiar to the Jewish ear. “You have heard that it was said to those of old,” was a typical introduction to rabbinic teaching on the Law. However, the second part, “but I say to you”, would have not sounded familiar. Jesus is boldly claiming authority of interpreting the Law. It is important to know that Jesus does not shy away from this authority. As we stated in yesterday’s devotion, Jesus verifies the importance of the Law, but he is claiming that his explanation of it has ultimate authority.
He begins with the law about murder. This law is one of the more obvious and easily kept laws. Of course you should not kill anyone. Notice that in verse 22 Jesus turns the tables on his hearers (and on you and me). Murder may be something that is unfathomable to most, but anger is fairly universal. He continues in verses 23 and 24 to speak of how important it is to deal with anger. This may seem like a ridiculous leap from murder to anger, but this points to the greater “righteousness” Jesus speaks of in verse 20 from yesterday’s passage. The sin has shifted from something committed on the outside to something committed on the inside. Jesus’ answer is, deal with it quickly before it becomes something bigger than you can control!
A Parent’s Take:
Associating this law against murder with anger has some very applicable lessons for families. It is important, however, that we understand that Jesus is not necessarily talking about brief moments of anger or frustration (these come with the territory of raising kids). As important as it is that we control our displays of these momentary frustrations, Jesus seems to be speaking about an ongoing, festering anger that has caused separation or brokenness.
This may begin a long road for us as parents. Family is one of the most popular places for anger to take root and cause separation that our pride will not let us restore. Some of us may be dealing with brokenness with our own parents or siblings. Please do not underestimate the impact that unresolved anger from the past can have on current situations. This goes for raising children, to marriage. Jesus communicates the infection caused by unresolved anger in verses 24-26. He tells us that it is so important to deal with anger that we should leave our gift at the altar in order to go deal with it immediately (23-24). Can you hear the urgency as he commands us to go deal with it now before it infects every area of our lives, including our offering to God?
One of the most important reasons for dealing with unresolved anger in our own lives is for our children. In order to effectively teach our children how to deal with anger, we need to have a good reference for doing so. Look back at the passage. Do you hear Jesus teach that we should not become angry? His transition from verse 22 to 23 seems to assume that the emotion of anger is unavoidable. Since we will experience anger, he gives us instructions on how to appropriately deal with it, so it does not fester and become more than we thought. We should keep this in mind as we raise our children. Anger is not something we are going to be able to eradicate from our children. Our efforts are better spent teaching our children how to appropriately deal with anger so that it does not end up plaguing their lives.
Key Verse: “(22) But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Lust from Within
Matthew 5:27-28 (ESV)
“(27) You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ (28) But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (29) If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. (30) And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
A Little Deeper:
Adultery is also one of the Ten Commandments that Jesus expresses authority over. Just like yesterday’s passage, Jesus turns the focus to the inside and in verse 28 tells his hearers that lust in one’s heart is just like the act of adultery. Adultery was a sin that was taken very seriously in Jesus’ day. The gentile world surrounding Israel was very familiar with adultery. For some it was just a normal way of life. Paul dealt with the issue of sexual sin multiple times in his teaching. Jews were by no means perfect, but they took seriously being righteous when the rest of the world around them lived lives saturated in sin. They did not just stress the physical act of adultery, but they were very concerned with the idea of taking/stealing someone else’s wife.
It is important to hear what Jesus is saying here. In verse 28 Jesus says, everyone who “looks,” this is a continual, focused looking. The important part here is the phrase “with lustful intent,” or “in order to lust.” Jesus says that when lust is the heart foundation behind why you look at a (certain or any) woman, you have already committed adultery.
This passage is paired with this interesting metaphor of “your right eye” and “your right hand” (29-30). These two verses could be separated into their own section, but the text means for them to be together. Ultimately, these sins must be quickly cut off from us and thrown away before they completely infect us and impact our final judgment.
A Parent’s Take:
This is just as serious of a topic today as it was thousands of years ago. Sexual sin has a way of corroding everything that is good in our lives. Paul tells the Corinthians to “flee” from sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18). He knew that sexual sin can eat at a person from the inside out. Jesus attacks the heart of the issue. He points to our intentions. Lust is that small seed that is planted in someone’s heart and before they know it, it has grown into a great vine that has wrapped itself around them. It is not enough to keep trimming the vine as it grows. No! Jesus says that we must get rid of it completely. So many marriages have ended because of this cancerous disease. Often, the person feels as if they have control of it, until one day… They Don’t!
It is well worth taking some time to analyze your heart and ask the Lord if there is anything that needs to be cut off and thrown far from you. Most acts of infidelity are not random acts of passion within the moment, they are a mountain of lust that has saturated the heart and prepared a path toward sin and destruction.
Lust also has an adverse effect on our children. Many children today are victims of lust torn marriages. A lot of the time children will blame themselves for the effects of what lust can do to a marriage.
Not only do we have to deal with this heart issue within ourselves, but also lust is a very real issue in the lives of our children. With the rise of pornography, many children are exposed to this seed very early in their lives. They no longer must work to get their hands on a magazine; all they need is a friend with a phone. Soft porn is something that we have become accustomed to that can place those seeds in our children as well. Whether it is a lingerie commercial or nowadays even a Hardees commercial, as parents we can choose to be ignorant, or we can begin to put into place safeguards that will help our children with accountability in this area.
On the Bright Side:
Sometimes these battles seem like they are too big for us to take on. In our culture it seems like lust comes with everyday life. These things may be true, but it is important to remember that Jesus has the authority and the power over every one of these things. We need to keep our eyes open and be active as parents, but as we point our children toward Christ we can be confident that he loves them more than we do and wants victory for them over all these things. As parents, sometimes we feel like control is slipping through our fingers, but as long as we can fall on our knees we can rest assured the Lord is working.
Key Verses: “(28) But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (29) If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”
Marriage Is Forever
Matthew 5:31-32 (ESV)
“(31) It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ (32) But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
A Little Deeper:
“Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” You may notice that this command is not found in the Ten Commandments like the last two passages were, but it is related to yesterday’s passage. Jesus is quoting from Deuteronomy 24. This law was originally given by Moses to protect marriage. The Israelites where supposed to take marriage seriously. If you marry someone it should not be easy to divorce him or her. Giving a woman a certificate also protected her. Do not think for a moment that the Law of Moses encouraged or condoned divorce. What we see here is that Jesus lifts up the marriage relationship even higher by implying that it goes beyond a certificate. Once again, this is something that affects a person on the inside, “Everyone who divorces his wife… makes her commit adultery.” Jesus reveals that those who are bound for the kingdom take their marriage covenant very seriously.
This passage from Deuteronomy was a very debated passage among the Jews. As a matter of fact, Jesus addresses this same issue a little bit later in Matthew 19. The most valued relationship created on earth by God is the covenant of marriage. Jesus makes this clear through these two verses.
A Parent’s Take:
One of the greatest mistakes that parents make is thinking that their “marriage issues” do not impact their children. Over and over again, when parents decide to call it quits, they will tell their children, “this is between me and your mother/father, but this does not change us.” I understand the sentiment behind this statement, but it is just not true. God designed the protection and cocoon of growth for a child to be within the arms of both their parents, together. A marriage falling apart changes everything. It is possible that one of the greatest victories of the enemy is making “broken homes” the norm.
After the previous paragraph, it is important for us to discuss a realistic view of marriage in a fallen world. It makes sense that the human relationship that is the most important to God would be one of the hardest relationships to do right. It is convenient that the things that Jesus has taught up to this point (how to deal with anger and lust) are so immensely applicable to this very relationship. No one is saying that your marriage must be perfect, but your children will respond positively to those who fight for family and negatively to those who give up. This is not the place for statistics or study results, may it suffice to say that the best thing for families are for parents to take very seriously and humbly their marriage vow.
This is a command that is more effective as a lifelong example to our children, than words from our mouths. It could also be argued that the way we conduct our marriage provides a foundation for the acceptance or rejection of the things we teach our children. As we teach and pray for our children to faithfully follow Jesus, it behooves us to remember how he exalts the marriage relationship within the kingdom of heaven.
The Power of Grace:
There may be some who read this devotion and find themselves mourning the already crumbled marriage of their past. It would be an unfortunate oversight not to mention the power of the cross in any of life’s situations, but specifically this one. God extends grace that is overwhelming. We have a responsibility to live with pure hearts and keep his commands, but let’s face it, there is a real enemy and we are sinners. The forgiveness power of Jesus is accompanied by the grace and mercy that each one of us needs to stand up, brush off and accomplish all that he (still) has planned for us. This includes raising our children with a relationship and healthy fear of God (even as a single parent). Thank God daily for his grace and continually ask for your daily portion.
Key Verse: “(32) But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
Did You Say Yes? or No?
Matthew 5:33-37 (ESV)
“(33) Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ (34) But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, (35) or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. (36) And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. (37) Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
A Little Deeper:
What is an oath? Is it just a promise? Why is it so bad to make one? Doesn’t that just mean that you are serious about doing something?
An oath for people in this time period was simply calling on something external (usually a god) to bear witness of what they are saying or promising. The Law instructed the Israelites to make sure that when they take an oath, they do not do it falsely. They were to fulfill their oaths with more conviction because of who the Lord is. The God of Israel is not like the other gods that don’t really exist, therefore cannot follow up on a false oath. The God of Israel, on the other hand, is the God of Creation, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You do not swear falsely to this God.
Jesus says in verse 34, “Do not take an oath at all.” You definitely do not want to take an oath swearing by God (this knocks out the earth, Jerusalem, etc.). You also cannot swear by your own head, “for you cannot make one hair white or black.” Essentially there is nothing viable for you to swear by because you do not have control of anything other than the raw words and actions that come out of you heart. You are either truthful or not. Verse 37 clearly states the simplicity of Jesus’ message here.
A Parent’s Take:
Let’s be honest, kids have a supernatural ability to wear us down. I cannot tell you how many times I have given in and done the opposite of what I said I was going to do because of the sheer persistence. We have all been there. The problem is that when we set a precedence of this within our parenting, it becomes harder and harder to reverse the effects. We can almost see the power of our words slipping from us. Eventually, the only thing that works is when we reach a breaking point. We end up yelling or disciplining to simply get our children to listen. I am pretty sure it has been scientifically proven that children only push more when they grow and become teenagers (we don’t need science!). Some of us might even recall us swearing by something to try to help our kids realize that we are serious.
No one could ever proceed to say that parenting should be easy. That would simply not be true, but we could significantly help ourselves by spending some time meditating on these verses. If we can consistently speak truths from our hearts to our children that are directly connected to expectation, we could begin to pave a road of clear communication and respect. I want to be very clear here. This includes us not saying or promising things out of frustration that we do not intend on following through.
This takes self-control and wisdom. This is just what Jesus has in mind when he said, “let what you say be simply Yes, or No.” He does not mean that it will necessarily be “simple,” but when you say what it is that you say, it should be out of wisdom, thought and integrity of your heart and life. This is a parenting skill that is worth immeasurable riches.
Key Verse: “(37) Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
The Extra Mile
“(38) You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ (39) But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (40) And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. (41) And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (42) Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
A Little Deeper:
This idea of retribution, or one-for-one, goes back as far as we can trace. Existing in most ancient laws including Israel’s, this law helped keep people honest. In all honesty it makes sense. Don’t do something to someone that you are not prepared to have done to you. This is a good rule to follow. This rule, however, can quickly become about keeping people from committing overly excessive crimes, rather than encouraging people to treat others with respect and care.
Jesus draws a line in the sand and makes it clear that kingdom people always have a care and love that flows from their heart even in the face of adversity. Verse 39a would have pushed against his hearers “rights.” As a matter of fact, it still pushes against our natural sense of justice and fairness today. This is a hard lesson to learn. One can easily think forward to Peter’s question regarding forgiveness and Jesus’ response (Matt. 18:21). How much can one person take before they break? Jesus continues to imply that the job of kingdom people is to put forth forgiveness, kindness, and service. This may be hard to swallow, but things quickly become practical as we apply this to parenting.
A Parent’s Take:
When it comes to raising children, there is no such thing as one-for-one. Someone said that if things were “fair” and children had to pay their parents back for all that they had given, it would take him or her their entire adult life and they still might not be able to do so. As parents, we definitely understand what it means to go the extra mile for those whom we love. When it comes to our enemies, where do we stand? I know that sometimes it may feel as if your children are your enemies, but not really. Sometimes this enemy may come in the form of someone that is against our children. A teacher, a student, etc.… When it comes to our children we have an uncanny habit of leaning heavily on the fairness card.
My wife has worked within our local school system for the past decade. She has noticed a rise in entitlement issues among children. When asked where the root of the problem resides, she quickly will answer, “the parents.” I do not want to provide an out for anyone that may not be appropriately accomplishing their responsibilities (including the school system), but one thing we need to take to heart is what we could possibly be teaching our children as we fight for what is “fair.”
As stated above, this teaching is a hard teaching to swallow because Jesus challenges everything that seems natural to us. Essentially, kingdom people are going to have to create a new natural. One that not only does not seek retaliation, but seeks to go the extra mile, specifically for the ones who are against us. This could be one of the hardest lessons to teach our children, but it is easily one of the most beneficial. Our justice is in the kingdom, not here on earth. Retaliation does not define us, generosity does. We often say that we want to raise our children to be men and women of character. Well, these passages are a great place to start.
Key Verse: “(39) But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV)
“(43) You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ (44) But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (46) For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (47) And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (48) You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
A Little Deeper:
The past five days you have read about all the things that “have been said,” that Jesus is saying something else about. Well, today is the last one. Today’s passage acts as an obvious conclusion to the topic of loving/serving enemies, which began yesterday. Verse 48 also serves to wrap up the entire section from 5:21-47. You can celebrate as we bring this section to a long awaited close. I encourage you to hold onto and reflect often on the truths that so richly fill these very special commands that Jesus gives.
Israel is familiar with the command to love your neighbor (Lev. 19:18). They were also taught, however, to keep their distance from those who might cause them to sin (Lev. 19:17). Jesus reaches in and touches the heart of God when he commands to “love your enemies.” Why in the world would we love our enemies and pray for our persecutors? So that we might be “sons of your Father who is in heaven.” This same language is used a few verses later in 48. God loves and distributes life both to us and to those who are against us. Jesus boldly claims that kingdom people love and accept in a universal manner.
A Parent’s Take:
Thinking through this command can cause a parent to have a small panic attack. We are supposed to be putting up boundaries and roadblocks to protect our children, right? We filter whom they can hang out with and whom they can’t. We guide them, direct them, and protect them from influences that could potentially knock them off course. Do we throw these things out the window and open up the floodgates?
Let us be careful to understand what Jesus is saying here. Jesus does not have a problem with living holy lives and surrounding yourself and your children with others who are going to encourage these things. There is a fine line between protecting our children and teaching them to look down on and not accepting others because of their differences, or even because of their hatred. The latter is what Jesus is combating here. It takes work to love those who hate us. There is already a line drawn, the job of kingdom people is to reach across that line and love those that are not easy to love. Those who hate others because of their differences cause great pain and ruin in the world, but those who love both their neighbor and their enemy make a great difference and bring growth to the world.
It is interesting that Jesus does not promise immediate benefit or even that your enemy will turn to love you. These things may very well happen, but the motivation for kingdom people is to be sons/daughters of God. We should labor to teach our children how to be real sons and daughters of God. Our children face adversity on a daily level. Let’s begin to look at each one of those as an opportunity to shape our children’s hearts toward the Lord’s.
Key Verses: “(44) But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Matthew 6:1-4 (ESV)
“(1) Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
(2) “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (3) But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (4) so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
A Little Deeper:
This passage introduces us to another section. Our last section was introduced by 5:20 and was concluded with the ultimate greater righteousness in 5:48. This section begins with the introductory verse 1 and will not conclude until verse 18. The theme that these verses will pick up is expressed clearly in verse 1, “practicing your righteousness before other people.” Each section provides a caution, then a negative example “as the hypocrites do,” and a positive example we are to follow “but when you.”
The first instruction is about giving to the needy. The act of giving to the needy was typically an unavoidably public act. It was a perfect way for those who sought the approval of men to publically receive it. Once again, the focus on inward motives and integrity is easily seen. It is easy to receive applause from men. It is not as easy to do what is right from the secret motivation of your heart.
It should be noted that there could also be an opposite extreme attached to this. Some can reject recognition so adamantly that they place on themselves a false humility. This is not any different than the original problem. We must remember that Jesus is speaking to pure motives and heart condition.
A Parent’s Take:
Children naturally want to please their parents. Is this a bad thing? No! Not at all, as a matter of fact it is a great picture of Jesus’ point. We should be concerned with pleasing our heavenly father and no one else. So how do we teach this to our children?
Well… First, our children learn most of their behaviors from observation. If we want our children to have certain character qualities, we had better start living them out in our own lives. The most ridiculous phrase that a parent could ever utter is “do as I say, not as I do.” This does not work! Some parents naturally pick up on this truth. I cannot tell you how many times I have talked with parents who are telling me about their radical, promiscuous life, then say, “it all changed when I had kids.” Well why is that? Because they knew that they could not live their lives this way and expect their child to turn out the way they wanted. If our children watch our lives and observe our life desire to please God alone, against culture and the world, they will learn a tremendous lesson about from whom we seek our approval.
Next, regarding giving to the needy, our children must be exposed to the realities of the world. We give to the needy, serve the homeless, bring relief, and counsel out of our love and commitment to God, not because others will give us a pat on the back. The simple act of bringing your children with you to learn how to make a difference in the world for the Lord, goes a long way when teaching children how to serve with God as our motivation.
Finally, at some point parents must begin directing their children’s desire for their approval towards God. This can be done gently and wisely. One of the greatest ways to do this is to simply sit down with your children and teach them the words of Jesus in the passage above.
Key Verse: “(1) Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
How Do You Pray?
Matthew 6:5-15 (ESV)
“(5) And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (6) But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(7) “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. (8) Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (9) Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. (10) Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (11) Give us this day our daily bread, (12) and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (13) And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (14) For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, (15) but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
A Little Deeper:
This is a very familiar passage. As familiar as it is, let me encourage you to think about it as fitting in with yesterday’s passage and tomorrow’s. The beginning of this passage looks identical to the passage on giving to the needy from yesterday (vs. 5-6). This passage then breaks into an expanded section, which includes another caution (7-8) followed by an example (9-15).
Right in line with the last passage, Jesus encourages his listeners that prayer is a private matter. This does not mean that prayer should not be done corporately. If you were to separate this passage from the larger context you may come to that very conclusion. This passage is not speaking for or against corporate prayer; rather, it speaks directly against prayer that gains the envy and applause of others. Prayer is meant to worship, align, and present our requests to him. Making prayer something to be applauded by others immediately nullifies its purposes.
A Parent’s Take:
There are two very important ways to take this passage as a parent. First, the greatest way we can serve our family is by developing an authentic prayer life. Second, one of the greatest life long skills we can teach our children is how to pray. We will take a few minutes to work through both of these. At the end of this section, take some time to pray to the Lord asking him to teach you the depth and intimacy that authentic prayer brings.
It is easy as parents for our prayer life to fall into a pattern that becomes focused on prayer over meals and before bedtime. Sometimes it is a time issue. It is true that this does not make you “like the hypocrites,” but it does speak to Jesus’ point about prayer being something that is from the pure motives of your heart. Not only does this pattern affect our time for prayer, but it also has an impact on the quality of our prayers. In our culture it is easy to fall into popular prayers that call on God to show up and take care of our needs and do something that we need him to do.
This has the ability to overflow to how we teach our children to pray. At nights our children would pray for a list of things in which they knew they needed God’s help. This is not at all a bad thing, and of course it is very cute. It does serve our children, however, at a young age to learn that praying to God is more than just asking for things.
Jesus actually gives his disciples an example of how to pray (9-13). Jesus’ focus is on the content of this prayer, not necessarily the exact words (that being said, this prayer is a great prayer to pray). Notice that the first two verses of this prayer focus completely on God and his purposes. When we pray to God it is not birthed out of our pride but on the desire to know him intimately. If the first two verses of this prayer are prayed from the heart, it directly impacts the last section of this prayer (11-13). As we align our hearts with the desire to worship our God for who he is, and resolve to desire his will to be done over our own, then what we ask for ourselves flows from a different spring. “Give us today our daily needs,” this part of the prayer has a similar direction as the old teaching of Proverbs 30:8-9. All we want is what we need. There are traps to both extreme need as well as extreme prosperity. The last two verses of this prayer focus on the desire to be in right relationship with God. Each of these becomes the most important things when we pray for the desire of intimacy with God. May our children learn the benefits of having a right relationship with God early in their lives.
Key Verse: “(6) But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Fasting from The Heart
“(16) And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (17) But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, (18) that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
A Little Deeper:
This passage wraps up the three-piece exhortation by Jesus for us to live out our religious lives privately as opposed to publically for the glory of others. Just like giving to the needy and prayer, fasting is another discipline that should be done from a heart with motives purely for God unseen by those around us. Each of these things were ways that the Pharisees could display how committed they were to the Jewish religious practices. Some of them may have felt that if they displayed this lifestyle then maybe they could invoke God with their radical obedience. Jesus attacks this practice by pointing out that if these things are public displays of piety, they cannot also be intimate authentic acts. The condition of the heart is what provides value to any of these disciplines.
Jesus turns to the specific discipline of fasting. The basic idea behind fasting is the idea that God is the most important thing in life, even over basic sustenance. It is supposed to remind the believer that their life is totally dependent on God and his provision. The fasting of the Pharisees had become a public display of piety that was empty.
A Parent’s Take:
Fasting is one of the hardest disciplines to make a regular part of our lives, especially for mothers. When children are a certain age a mother feels like her sole existence is to prepare and put food in their children’s mouths. The fact that this is an extremely difficult discipline also reveals the significance of it in our Christian lives. Is it possible to teach our children fasting as a regular part of life? Honestly, unless there is a specific medical issue, fasting does not have an adverse effect on our bodies. Many would argue that fasting is a very healthy discipline. There is even a modern movement of people that fast once a week just for health reasons. This also exemplifies wrong motives behind fasting. Throughout the book of Deuteronomy Israel was commanded often to hold regular fasts to the Lord.
It may only be realistic to fast through one meal with young children. The opportunity to teach them dependence and the prominence of God is too good to pass up. Teaching our children to fast privately to the Lord is something that we do not hear much about in today’s culture. Again, I emphasize that there is value in teaching our children about fasting using good judgment. It may serve us to start educating our children about God’s prominence by giving up something other than food.
Key Verse: “(18) that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Treasure in Heaven
Matthew 6:19-24 (ESV)
“(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 Little Deeper:
The last three passages (over the past three days), Jesus has talked about the crucial concept of the vertical relationship. Piety is not for others to perceive, but for God only to receive. Jesus makes a notable shift here in this passage as he talks about the disciples’ relationship with material things. The previous section and this section fit nicely together. Both still place the emphasis on focusing on God as the center of what we do/whom we serve.
At first glance it might seem like the passage above has three separate parts 19-21, 22-23, and 24. Really, these passages all go together. Jesus is making one point. The first section (19-21) Jesus urges his disciples to understand that choosing to store up treasures here on earth is condemning. This is not because God hates wealth, but rather, because where our treasure is, that is where our heart will truly be (21). The middle section (22-23) tells a parable of an eye. This parable is a bit confusing, but within this context it seems to point to the idea that the healthy eye can see the light and fill the body. An unhealthy eye cannot see the light and the body is consumed with darkness. This parable supports those verses surrounding it by amplifying a glorifying focus of the heart, or a condemning focus of the heart. The last verse (24) is a popular verse. Essentially, the disciple must choose one or the other. Just as one can not give to the needy, or pray, or fast both to receive praise from man and God, the disciple cannot both have their heart hear and there.
A Parent’s Take:
This passage touches right at the heart of the purpose of parenting. We know from experience that this world is filled with broken promises and “moth and rust” destroyed things. Yet we often continue to surround our children with things of this world that we think will make them happy. Unfortunately, this ultimately trains the hearts of our children to cling to things of this world to bring them a false sense of comfort. Living in modern day United States, this is a sad reality that we as parents need to take think about. The reality is that most of us can afford to give our children nice things. A lot of the time these luxuries are even demanded by schools and other activities for kids to “keep up.” These are tough things for parents to keep a handle on.
Jesus appropriately pushes the issue back into the heart. It is possible for someone who has nothing to be so focused on having something that their hearts are dark toward the Lord. It is also possible for someone to have everything and not care about one penny but live their life with the light of the Lord within them (and vise-versa). Once again, it is the position of the heart that brings blessings or judgment. In a society that glorifies material possessions, how do we raise our children to “lay up” for themselves “treasures in heaven?”
This is a worthy question on which to reflect. It may mean making some hard decisions as a family about the type of lifestyle you live. It may mean making more of a conscious effort to educate your children about the dangers of seeking temporary treasures. Jesus speaks strongly enough about the right placement of our hearts that we should take some time to think through exactly what this means for our family.
Key Verse: “(21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV)
“(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 Little Deeper:
This is a great passage! Yesterday’s passage walked through how to deal with material possessions and the focus of our hearts. On some level, this passage speaks to the other side of that same coin. Yesterday’s passage used the phrase “treasure,” todays passage will use the phrases “worry” and “anxious.” There is almost a natural progression. If the disciple no longer strives for earthly treasures, which many of them gave up all they had to follow Jesus, then it makes sense that anxiousness would raise about how they were going to provide the basics.
Overall, the answer is once again the same, set your heart on God and his provision will ease your anxieties. There is a connection between this verse and 6:11 where in Jesus’ example of how to pray he says, “Give us today our daily bread.” Learning to trust God will both relieve our anxieties, as well as, help us keep an honest grip on reality. Jesus does not relieve disciples of their responsibilities; rather he lays upon them the task of storing up treasure in heaven and seeking the kingdom.
Jesus gives an overall command not to worry (25). Then, he gives two different examples of why we should not worry (26 – 30). These two examples were visibly obvious to the disciples. Jesus was being very clear with these examples to communicate how God takes care of those who are dependent fully on him. He then ends with a command again not to worry as the pagans do (31-32), as well as a command to seek first the kingdom (33-34). The kingdom is worth seeking and laboring towards, not wealth or worry about daily needs.
A Parent’s Take:
This passage not only applies to what we will eat? Or what we will wear? But also “how will my kids turn out?” The term “parent” is almost synonymous with the term “worry.” Telling a parent, “don’t worry about it,” is like telling a dog not to bark. It does not matter how hard we try, as parents, we are going to worry about our children. That is why every parent should memorize this passage of scripture. Since worry is such a normal part of a parent’s life, every doctor that delivers a baby should hand out this passage.
Children also learn to worry about the same things we as parents worry about. They also come with natural worries of their own. Their first day of school, they may worry about other kids liking them. My son worries about not being able to do his homework. There are so many opportunities to teach our children how to lean on God’s provision through both the way we lean on God, as well as, talking and praying with them through each of their own anxieties. Verse 33 tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” If our children could learn to seek God’s kingdom first before any other thing in life, our lives as parents would be complete. It is an amazing comfort to know that God is concerned about the things we need as well.
Key Verse: “(33) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Matthew 7:1-12 (ESV)
“(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.”
A Little Deeper:
This passage is actually a subset of a larger group ranging from 7:1-12. Jesus has taught through his commentary on some of the Law. He has set the stage by demanding a greater righteousness (5:20). He has cautioned us against practicing our righteousness publically. And he has taught us to focus our hearts on God alone. This brings us up to today’s passage. Jesus puts together a series of, what might seem random, commands. These commands communicate how to relate to those within the community and with those from without. Jesus turns now to social relationships.
This first passage deals with relationships from within the community. “Judge not,” is a command here that in this context makes sense to understand it as “look down on,” specifically with a lack of love and concern. It is essentially the opposite of the way God has treated you. The analogy of the “spec” (3-4) speaks to this fact. This shares in the theme of our hearts. We should be quick to look within and deal with sin in our own lives, even seeking forgiveness from God (6:12). This humility of forgiveness should lead us to looking at those next to us with love and compassion not judgment.
A Parent’s Take:
Within our home we are given the responsibility of looking within our children’s lives and guiding them toward the Lord. As we stated several days back, this passage also speaks to the importance of us as parents making sure that our relationship with the Lord is right in order for our children to have a working example. Because of our family relationship with our children we have a certain authority to speak into their lives. It is possible, however, for parents to move beyond caringly directing their children to judging and disapproving of who they are. Because we have a special voice in our child’s life, we should be conscious of the power that our words and judgments have over them. This passage guides us as parents in our relationships with our children to take our responsibility of building them up in Christ seriously.
Outside of our home this passage would apply directly to the relationships we have with those in our community. Even if things are going well within our home and everything seems to be in order, we never have the right to look down (as if from lofty position) on someone for the way things are working out in their family or life. We must allow our hearts to treat people with love and care, regardless of their life situation. As Christian families, how we treat people and how we accept them will speak boldly the love of Jesus. Our lives must be more about people than about the rights and wrongs that we think we know so much about. This being said, as strongly as this passage speaks to not judging, there are times when it is wise to make judgments for the sake of the gospel, the community, and our families.
Key Verses: “(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.”
Matthew 7:6 (ESV)
“(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 Little Deeper:
It is important that we see this passage as directly following yesterday’s passage. This passage provides the other side of the coin from 7:1-5. Some might even think that it is contradictory. This is not the case. 7:1-5 was concerned with judging those within our community for small things that we should seek to eradicate within ourselves. Verse 6 speaks of wisdom in giving to the ungrateful outsider things held with great value, namely, the gospel.
The Jews often referred to gentiles as dogs. I would caution you in setting this verse as Jew being good and gentile being bad. More than likely this verse implies our mission mentality. Jesus is telling us to use wisdom and caution against those who would trample what has been entrusted to you.
A Parent’s Take:
There is no getting around the fact that throughout scripture we are exhorted to tell others about the good news of Jesus Christ. Many times, we think that it takes a trained missionary to do something that radical. The thing that is interesting is that some of the greatest evangelists I have ever seen are children under the age of fourteen. When children are convinced of something they will blurt it out with no apologies.
As children grow older something happens. Working with teenagers and college students I have learned that they become timid about sharing their faith in front of people. Why does this happen? Well as children grow, there comes a point where they are criticized, even made fun of for what they believe. Many students have gone away to college and had professors attack what they believe.
On some level this comes with the territory of being a Christian. Christ tells his disciples that if the world rejected him, it would surely reject them. The idea of this passage is not to be timid about sharing the Gospel, rather, have wisdom to know when it is received and when it is time to move on. This is a hard lesson for Christians to learn, especially young students. It is wise for parents to help their children learn these truths early in their Christian life, so that they might be better prepared for those teenage years.
Key Verse: “(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.”
Seek God’s Wisdom
Matthew 7:7-11 (ESV)
“(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!”
A Little Deeper:
The first passage we had in this group talked about not judging your brother. This passage leads us to the conclusion that we respond to those around us with love and compassion without “looking down” on them. How can we think we are better than anyone else when we have a “plank” in our own eye? We are in danger of being judged as harshly as we have judged. The next passage warned us to be careful about throwing our pearls to swine. It is not wise to place ourselves in a situation where we are going to be ridiculed and attacked. With these two passages next to each other, it is obvious that the disciples were going to need supernatural wisdom to get it right. Naturally today’s passage is about asking God for that very wisdom.
When we ask God, we receive (7-8). Jesus then uses an analogy of our love for our own children as an example. We are nowhere close to being on the same level as God. We naturally give good things to our children, even though we are evil. Of course, God would give his children what they ask for. He is God!
But for what are we asking? A new car? A million bucks? If God is promising to give us all these things, count me it! This passage sits firmly within its context. Jesus has called the disciples to live a greater righteousness, with a more convicting take on the Law, a piety that will not benefit them on this earth, and a love that reaches out to their enemies without judgment. What do you think the disciples are asking?
A Parent’s Take:
When we read this passage, we can immediately relate to what he is talking about. I can tell you that when my children ask me for anything, all that is within me wants to give them exactly what they want, especially when what they want lines up with my desires for them. There is great comfort in knowing that our father in heaven, to a greater degree, has the same desire for us.
When we seek the Lord for the wisdom to fulfill the commands that he has laid before us, he will respond. Remember in chapter 6 Jesus taught us how to pray. This is important at this point. When we have labored to align our hearts and desires with God’s, we ask for different things. When I have prayed that “his will be done,” or that God “give me my daily bread,” my heart has changed. I no longer want the selfish things of my heart but am thinking like a kingdom person. From the depths of my heart I want to see God’s love, mercy and grace show up here on the earth. The most frustrating thing for a parent is when you feel like your children are manipulating you to get what they want. The most rewarding thing, on the other hand, is when you know that your children understand with all their heart and they truly want what you know they should want.
Our prayer today is that we along with our children would grow closer to the Lord. Closer to his will. May our children be served an extra portion of wisdom to handle each situation of life in a way that honors the Lord.
Key Verse: “(8) For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
Matthew 7:12 (ESV)
“(12) So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
A Little Deeper:
We know this concluding verse as the “Golden Rule.” Does the “Golden Rule” have more meaning now that you have completed most of this devotional? Can you look into the phrases and see the commands and exhortations wrapped up within them? Do to others what you would have them do to you. This statement is kind of an ongoing motto for the disciples of Jesus. This was not intended to be a one-time thing, but an ongoing universal action accepted by all the disciples.
This verse brings to conclusion the previous three passages. It also in some way brings some conclusion to the entire thing all the way back to the beginning when Jesus said, “I did not come to abolish the law or the prophets.” Everything that he has said up to this point is a part of this statement.
A Parent’s Take:
I think most of us would agree that this is something we try to teach our children everyday. The question is, has the way we taught it reflected all that is behind it. We usually have a meaning of retribution behind the Golden Rule when we think about it. “Be nice or you’ll get what’s coming to you.” This idea would not stand up very well in the context of this passage. It seems to be saying that regardless of how we are treated, we should treat others the way we know we should be treated. This is a little bit of a harder lesson to teach our kids.
This is also a great reminder for us as adults as we engage in our normal relationships, but especially those that are in the realm of our children. It speaks volumes for us to go out of our way to make sure that we are treating others appropriately. If you have ever had your children play little league, you have experienced the worst example of this passage. The bad example is not from the kids on the field, but the parents in the stands. I am amazed at how people treat each other at a children’s sporting event. Leading by example will always be the most powerful when it comes to our children.
Theme Verse: “(12) So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 7:13-29 (ESV)
“(13) “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. (14) For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (15) “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (16) You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (17) So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. (18) A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. (19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (21) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22) On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ (23) And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
(24) “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (25) And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. (26) And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. (27) And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (28) And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, (29) for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.”
A Little Deeper:
This entire section deals with decision. Jesus has finished his sermon. He has explained that his disciples / kingdom people, are called to live by a greater righteousness, filled with a higher standard for the heart. He has explained how kingdom people treat others including their enemies. He has taught about kingdom people’s response to material possession, and how they should function within community. Now, Jesus, in a powerful way, concludes by teaching that there is no in between. You are either all in, or not at all.
In this passage Jesus speaks of two paths, one leads to the “gate, and the other leads to destruction (13-14). The first analogy used to communicate this is the good tree and the bad tree & false prophets (15-23). The final analogy is the two builders (24-27). One way is the way to prosperity with the Lord in heaven, while the other way leads to complete destruction.
It is obvious to see that this narrow road that few can follow is paralleled with these hard teachings over the past few chapters. The wide road is any other choice but to follow them. Jesus could not be clearer as he leads his disciples to make a decision. The final two verses tell us that the crowds were in awe of his authority (28-29).
A Parent’s Take:
In the end this is what it is all about. Even though we are the parents of our children, we cannot make eternal decisions for them. We can lead, guide, and nurture, but we cannot make them follow the Lord. This is a decision that everyone must make for themselves. It is obvious from this entire sermon that this decision is not an easy decision to make. Each one of the disciples were counting the cost of following the authoritative teacher.
It can be easy to downplay the extreme cost attached to following Jesus when we teach our children. We usually tell them that Jesus loves them (true), that he died for them (true), and that he wants the best for them (true), but we conveniently leave out the messy parts. When our children reach an age that they are ready to decide to give their lives to the Lord, we should not shy away from reading this entire sermon to them and helping them understand what Jesus is asking of them. If you as a parent have never taken the time to count the costs of following Jesus, I encourage you to read back through this entire text (Ch. 5-7) and contemplate the kingdom that Jesus is speaking about. What do kingdom people look like? What do I need to do to align myself with these teachings?
Key Verses: “(13) Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. (14) For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”