Tuesday, March 04, 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
The parallels to these verses in Matthew are spread out in three different chapters of Luke: Mt 6:22-23 = Luke 11:-35; Mt 6:14 = Luke 16:13; Mt 6:25-34 = Luke 12:22-31.
v. 22-23. The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.
We have already been reminded that the lamp gives light to all in the house (5:15); similarly, the eye gives light (insight) to the whole body: whether you are a seeing man or a blind man depends entirely on your eyes. In what sense is Matthew using this parable? “Sound” is “haplous”, which as we have seen means both single and generous; “not sound” is “poniros”, and “the evil eye” means “grudging”, “mean”, “stingy”. If the disciple is generous towards God, he will be full of light (perfect, as his heavenly Father is perfect 5:48). If he is mean, he will be full of darkness (like the devil). The next saying expounds the other sense of “haplous” = single or simple. The disciple must keep his eye on one master, not on two.
v. 24. No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
The man with the eye which is not sound is attempting the impossible—to serve two masters; the man with the sound eye has chosen God. Mammon is an Aramaic word, meaning “wealth”, “property”. Devotion to God cannot be combined with devotion to mammon, because, as we have seen already, there will be occasions when the former will demand the sacrifice of the latter (5:29. 30. 40). A choice is therefore necessary between God and mammon; or between faith and anxiety (see following verses).
v. 25. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
The disciple who is told not to serve mammon may well reply, “But I must have enough to live and to clothe myself. To this, Jesus replies that God who has made life and the body will certainly look after those things which are less than these - viz. food and clothing.
v. 26. Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?
Moreover, he feeds the birds: how much more will he feed men.
And anxiety cannot increase a man's span of life (or stature [margin], “helikia” can mean both). Cf. 5:36 for our inability to control the colr of our hair. These things are in the hands of God.
vv. 28-30. Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
The same type of argument as that in v. 26 above is used with regard to anxiety about clothing. God clothes the lilies, even better than man can clothe himself; the lilies are of less value than man: therefore God will take care of man's clothing. To think otherwise is to be men of little faith (“oligopistoi”, a rare word, which Matthew uses four times: here and 8:26, 14:31, 16:8; the only other occurrence of it in the New Testament is Luke 12:28, the parallel to this passage: did Luke take it from here?).
v. 31. So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?
Repeats v.25 in order to round off' the passage - an example of Matthew's use of inclusio.
v. 32. All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
The Gentiles (who live without faith in God, cf. 5:47) are anxious about these things. The disciples, on the other hand, are to trust God as the Father who knows all their needs before they ask (cf 6:8).
v. 34. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.
The final futility is to be anxious about tomorrow: tomorrow is completely outside our possible control today (cf. 5:36 and, 6:27). There is a possible set of verbal links common to vv. 33, 34, and vv. 10, 11 in the Lord's Prayer: kingdom, righteousness, tomorrow, this day; kingdom, [God's] will, this day, and tomorrow.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect
v. 38 - You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
See Ex 21:24; Lv 24:20; Dt 19:21
v. 39 - But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.
The mention of the right cheek implies that the blow is made with the back of the aggressor’s hand. This was a particularly insulting assault and was subject to a specially heavy fine.
v. 40 - If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.
Tunic (Gr., chiton) is the undergarment while the cloach (Gr., himation) is the outer garment. The former may be demanded as a legal fine or pledge. Cf. Ex 22:25f and Dt 24:13f.
v. 41 - Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.
The Romans followed the Persian practice of requisitioning privately-owned horses, etc. for public service. The word “press” (Gr., angareuein) is the technical term for such requisitioning. Cf. Mt 27:32 where Simon of Cyrene is compelled to carry the cross of Jesus.
The disciples are not only to be liberal with their possessions – their time is also to be available.
v. 42 - Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
They are to give to beggars and to lend to borrowers. They are to have no anxious care for their property in this world. Cf. Heb 10:34.
v. 43 - "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
The first part is a quotation from Lv 19:18. The second part is not found in the OT. The Jews did limit the interpretation of neighbor to fellow Jews. They may in practice conclude that Gentiles were to be hated. In one of the Dead Sea scrolls we find written: “…(it is the duty of the members of the sect) to love everyone, whom he (God) has elected, and to hate everyone, whom he has rejected….’
v. 44 - But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you….
The disciples are to be indiscriminate in their love, and love those who hate them, and pay for those who persecute them. It is not enough to be persecuted. They must meet their persecutors with love and prayer.
v. 45 – “…that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”
The indiscriminate good of the disciples is a reflection of the goodness of their Father.
v. 46 - For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?
To return love for love is another form of an eye for an eye. It does not involve doing anything more that what those who are outside even the old Israel (e.g. tax collectors) do. Therefore it merits no reward.
v. 48 - So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Compare this with Lv 19:2.
Under the old covenant, holiness had involved separation from those outside Israel; and there is still a sense in which the disciples are to be distinct from the world (salt of the earth and light of the world). But the separation must not take the form of refusal to love.
The perfection of the disciples is a perfect love – this is the final truth about the new righteousness, which exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees. And in fact, this is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets (Mt 5:17). Cf. Rm 13:9ff.
The law of Jesus is impossible because it puts before us a perfection that is beyond our capability. His law is not a set of detailed set of instructions. It is reducible to one word, “love”.
The law of Jesus is simple and yet demanding and by it the disciples are made entirely dependent on God because only the grace of God can enable us to keep the law of Jesus.