Over Correction

He is Lord Over all, Including Correction

Matthew 6:1-14

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. “When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. “And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. “Therefore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him. “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.(1.)]’ “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. “But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (1. This phrase is not included in the early manuscripts.)

Once again, we find ourselves with much context to consider. Since context is king, it is best to take a healthy dose of Vitamin C. and not a daily crumb. We’ll see an example of this very soon. Jesus, while still in his mountainous monologue, has slightly shifted his sights. Last time we saw Jesus presenting the perfect person, which is summed up in himself. Jesus distinctly demonstrates, though not completely comprehensive, the picture of perfection. Something to which men should aspire yet not strive for on their own accord. We need the Lord’s power to be made perfect, that is, as Paul writes to the Thessalonians, our sanctification. This perfection​ is personified in Jesus. Matthew presents Jesus and his words as the way in which to walk. That which Israel could not do, nor can any of us–Jesus is. We need not wonder why, the Lord’s name, over every name is, “I Am.” It’s quite apropos.

Context is King! Listening to a radio program this evening, a man with a ministry and a microphone, stated emphatically, that man is not justified by faith alone but also by baptism and works. He wholly had my blood boiling (metaphor used to amplify truth, though my blood didn’t literally boil). He quoted Romans 10:13; For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” He made the claim that since one must call on the name of the Lord to be saved, salvation is by faith and works. He neglected the first and foremost principle of the CAGED method, Context is King. Forget about genre, aspirations of author and certainly a proper exegesis, leaving zero room to even be able to attempt dividing rightly the word of truth, he ripped Romans 10:13 out of context and interpreted it in a wooden literal fashion, as Hank Hanegraaff says. He bounced precipitously around the Bible quoting a verse here and a piece of a verse there, never considering the context of said verses. Verses were added later for ease of reference, they were never intended to stand alone. The most disturbing part to me is that within the context of Romans 10, Paul uses the Old Testament Law​ and prophets to prove justification by faith. Yet this host ignored the context, author’s aspiration to audience and even the sub-genre found in Romans 9-11. All the while, I wished to call in, for that is the format of this program, and ask, “what about the thief on the cross, what about the thief on the cross?” He had neither works, nor baptism but was a criminal worthy of death. However he asked Jesus to remember him in his kingdom and Jesus replied that he would be in paradise that very day. But before I could pick up the phone another discerning brother called in and asked the same question that I had, “what about the thief on the cross?” 

The host hesitated, fumbling to find the facts to refute the question. Eventually he settled down and rested on his response, “umm, uh, well, (radio silence) you see uhh, umm, that was uhh, a different dispensation.” Had he never thought of this before? He reasoned further that, Jesus had not died on the cross yet and therefore the thief on the cross was under the Law. Problem: Jesus died before the thief and if the thief was under the Law, and was a thief, and didn’t sacrifice animals for his sin… I think we get the point; Jesus died needlessly. Had this host taken his vitamins and used the CAGED method to unlock the caged content that he himself had locked on the context, he would have understood that salvation is a gift, not something earned. He jumped back and forth through a few random pieces of verses in Romans but never once read anything in chapter four, nor did he manage to string two verses together in their context. He couldn’t, it would have devastated his argument. However, his lack of proper exegesis and claim that the thief was under a different dispensation does give us two things to consider. The first is obviously his lack of herminutical method. The second is the dispensation of the Law. God has but one condition for salvation from eternity, “and Abraham believed God and it was ‘credited’ to him as righteousness.” -Genesis, Romans 4, Galatians 3. Nevertheless, the followers on the hill during the mountainous monologue, were “under the Law.” There is an overlap between the old covenant and the new, we see this unfold in Acts. But not to God. God has always credited those who truly believe him with righteousness. Me, you, the thief, the mountainous monologue followers and Abraham are all justified in the same way, by the gift of faith, that is what Romans is all about. We therefore must understand the author’s aspiration to his audience. They were under the Law but Jesus expounds and expands the Law. Now, we see Jesus picking apart bits and pieces of the prevailing religious customs and traditions. His aspiration is apex in this particular passage. We have too many modern-day Pharisees with microphones. Not much has changed, we still desire to do religious customs.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” That seems simple enough, but Jesus is building.

“When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” Giving alms is equivalent to doing charity work. One time, my brother was on the local news where they filmed him giving money to the Salvation Army. I quoted him this passage and told him to expect no reward. It was a bad joke but a good illustration of this context. This context is a heart test. Does​ one give out of a heart for God our to be noticed by men? “Look at me, I am doing charity work.” The trumpet is used to draw attention to oneself so that all will see the one doing charity. Jesus calls people who do this type of thing, hypocrites–actors with different roles and masks. That is, people pretending to be something that they are not. Therefore, those that make a big to-do about their charity work, aren’t charitable at all. But they do get their reward in full, they are noticed by men.

“But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Impossible! I have tried to take this literally and it doesn’t work. The left hand not knowing what the right is doing is probably a proverbial picture, painted by Jesus to highlight the hyperbole. Jesus exaggerates the possible separation of the right hand and the left, to demonstrate how much we are conscience of our actions. His aspiration to his followers is for them to separate their thoughts from their actions. He highlights hypocrisy and double-mindedness, and exposes the condition of the heart. One is not to give to be noticed by men, or to feel good about themselves but because they love the Lord and people. The Lord will reward, who sees in “secret;” transliterated from Greek as kryptō; κρυπτῷ in the original Greek. It sort of sounds like a code or something to me. The goal is not the reward but the charity. Yes there will be reward, for those not seeking reward. The aspiration of Jesus is not to get them to do charity, but for them to become charitable. Now, once again Jesus shifts slightly but continues in the same theme, that is correction, or over correction. Jesus demonstrates his authority over his audience and the Law and the prophets–it is not-so-subtle.

“And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites…” Who are these two-faced actors to which Christ constantly refers? Context is King! “For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners; in order to be seen by men.” Jesus is taking an early shot at the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes. As his earthly ministry continues to increase, his harsh words for the Pharisees also increase. Jesus is attempting to correct the followers from following the Pharisees. He is about to give them a model to demonstrate the way in which one should pray. Notice also that the hypocrites have their reward in full–they are noticed by men. Jesus is ripping off the veil of the heart set on self-gratification.

“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him.”

Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers have done a series of sermons on these few words, and for good reason. Expository exegesis of examples helps enlighten the context. We however, don’t have that much time to explore, nevertheless, we shall consider seemingly antithetical analogy.. Paul writes to the Thessalonians to, “pray without ceasing.” This seems to contradict what Jesus says about repetitive praying, using many words like the gentiles do. However, Paul does not say to be repetitive and use many words. “Without ceasing,” literally in Greek represents praying often; or, not neglecting to pray. And when one prays, Jesus indicates for it to be personal between the Lord and the one praying. He uses the symbolism of one going into his innermost room, shutting the door and praying to the father who is unseen or secret. One may rightly say, get alone with God. Once again, the aspiration of Jesus to his audience is correction. Don’t be like the two-faced actors or the wordy, repetitive gentiles because God knows what you need. Kierkegaard wrote, “Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.”  God already knows and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray–we should pray more. It’s not for the Lord’s benefit but ours.

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.]’”

“The Lord’s Prayer,” also found in Luke 10ish, I forget. Nevertheless, I believe Luke’s account differs in content slightly and in setting. Matthew gives us the model from the mountainous monologue. We are not concerned about whether or not Luke and Matthew’s accounts are from the same mountainous monologue because we’re using the CAGED method–we are focused primarily on Matthew’s aspiration to his audience. Exegesis explores Luke’s account–it is similar enough to corroborate Matthew’s method, yet distinct enough to demonstrate effectively a different episode. Quickly we will walk through said model. After all, Jesus does say, “pray in this way,” not, “pray this prayer, in church, together.” Go into your innermost room and shut the door and recite this prayer with the entire church. Sorry for the sarcasm but sometimes it seems we are highly Pharisee-like, in our customs. I think of the context–the words of Jesus and wonder why do we literally pray this prayer as a group, when Christ suggest that one be alone with God? Using the CAGED method we understand that which Jesus conveys. Yet here we are, reciting verbatim his words publicly and ritualistically, the very thing he sought to correct.

“Our father;” that is our true and ultimate father, who gives all things, created all things, rules and is sovereign over all things and is in oneness with the son and the Spirit. “In heaven;” a place greater than this. Hallowed, or holy, or set apart is your name. The name above all names, the name sovereign over all. This places the person praying in his proper place and the Lord in his. We find that we are to be in reverence of him. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We are to want what God wants. We are to pray that earth would resemble heaven, it seems.

Give us our food for the day. How many people in America pray in this way?

And we have forgiven, also forgive us our sins and shortcomings and offences and all the debts we accumulate daily. Again American assemblies, when is the last time you prayed or heard another member pray in this way? The only time is when it’s recited verbatim, or very close. Yet perhaps that’s exactly why Jesus tells the followers to go into their innermost room and be alone with God. God’s much more forgiving than people are.

And please don’t lead us towards temptations. James writes that God doesn’t tempt anyone, based on the context–tempt and test being the same word in the original Greek. Another fine example of context being king. God will test but will not dangle the proverbial carrot in front of one’s nose. Lead us not into temptation is a figure of speech used for the person praying. It’s a form of saying, keep me from temptation, which he will, but it’s also a heart test for the person praying. It is a confession that temptations exist and the person praying truly desires to follow the Lord’s will. It is a generic statement meant to be filled in with the person’s​ praying specific temptations. “For yours is the kingdom and power” statement, is probably not found in the original writing and is self-explanatory nonetheless. It’s a recapitulation of the opening statement, giving the glory to God.

“For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” For, is a conjunction indicating this is the summation to the prayer passage piece of the mountainous monologue of Jesus, which is now concluding. And this is huge: If one seems and expects to be forgiven, one must also forgive. I have said the following before and the reaction received was horror, as I write it now, you will probably be horrified: but I thank God for my sin. Now–don’t lose it–let me give you the context without giving specifics. More than once, a fellow christian has wronged me in serious way and I didn’t want to forgive. Day, weeks and months went by before the thought occurred to me–Russell (that’s what I call myself), how much forgiveness, in total, have you required? How much forgiveness do you require now, at this very moment? How much will you require in the future? Being the foremost of sinners sure satisfies the forgiveness format displayed by Jesus. That is, I have needed a thousand times more forgiveness from the Lord than any one person has needed from me. There is a good reason Jesus sums up prayer with the correction on forgiveness–name someone to whom your forgiveness is owed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s