Today I had an acupuncture appointment with Mor at Myrrh Acupuncture and Herbs. Then Karen and I met Jackie at Classic Quiche in Teaneck. I met Jackie once before in person. She looked me up on Facebook and we became “friends.” This is the first time we were able to have a significant amount of time to converse. She is a delightful person. I hope this will be the beginning of a real friendship.
Assuming you’ve been following my journal posts, jump with me now to the other side of Matthew 6:1-18 (the center passage of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”):
In the first part, 6:19-34, Jesus seem to suggest that worldly treasure and even worries over basic needs are only distractions from the reality of the Divine is enough. In 7:1-4 Jesus tells us to lea ve judging to others, and in 7:5 to instead pay attention to ourselves. In 7:6 Jesus takes the gain from verse 5 and repeats the warning of verses 1-4. In 7:7-11 Jesus speaks about prayer, I think in relation to all that he has said, but perhaps specifically how we are to accomplish verse 5.
At once we should notice that Jesus is continuing on the theme that we need to live before God—as if God is real and the reality of God matters with respect to my “real” (material) needs. We lay up treasure in heaven by giving away our treasure on earth. We can only consider our earthly loss to be real gain if we are valuing what is in God’s sight, God’s own measure of things. Likewise, once we have given up our worldly security, our treasure on earth—I think this is the assumption when we come to 6:25—it is difficult for us to give up our worry about bodily needs unless the reality of God’s providence overwhelmed our sense of insecurity.
Not judging others is the other side of loving others. For us to love as God loves we need to leave all judgment up to God. We cannot both love as God loves and judge as God judges. Rather, we need to not only let God love us but we also need to let God judge us. This means that we need to “consider the beam in our own eye” and remove it. Then that abrasion in our soul will become a pearl, something beautiful. Using that pearl to judge others is like casting it before swine. It has become something holy; for God only. This, then, is what we should ask for and seek and knock, that we may be beautiful in God’s sight.
In 5:21-48, we are to love others as if we are being compared to God and not others (5:21-48); and 6:12—7:11, we are not to compare ourselves to others (by judging them) but we are to compare ourselves to God and judge ourselves. At the center of this is 6:1-18, which says that we are to live in God’s sight and not in the sight of others. At the heart of the Sermon on the Mount is the reality of “Our Father who is in the heavens,” and the Sermon is the application of, “as in heaven, so upon the earth.”
When we enter into the relationship with Jesus of discipleship, he brings us into his own relationship to the Divine. In his presence we are in the presence of the Divine, and in his presence we are where there is an open window or door between the unseen reality of heaven and the seen reality of earth; Jesus is where they meet, where what is in heaven is also on earth. He, as faithful to the Divine, becomes then this place of blessedness, the Promised Land God promised to Israel when it became at last faithful to the Divine. Discipleship to Jesus means, then, that out of love for God we place ourselves in the sight of God, before God’s judgment, acknowledging the rightness of God’s judgment of us, and—as penitents—discover there the unbounded love of God. It thus becomes, in this place of poverty of spirit, the place of joy.
Matthew 5:17-20 and 7:12
If we take another step further out from this center, we will be considering the words in 5:17-20 and 7:12 or possibly 7:12-14. But between the two, 7:12 and 7:12-14, which is it? The words, “The Law [or Torah] and the Prophets,” appear in both 5:17 and again in 7:12, making them a bracket that includes what it between them. Let us continue next time.