Matthew 18:7-10, 11 being omitted
“Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! “And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire. “And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into the fiery hell. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven.
I can already see the struggle we’re going to have with this context, which is a continuation of the context in my last missive, as always. The context builds, it’s a book by God nothing is placed accidentally. Except maybe verse 11, because it is not in the original content.
Nevertheless, normally I wouldn’t touch verse 10 with a ten-foot pole because of our desperate desire for gaurdian angels. Actually this entire context contains controversial claims. Though to my reliable readers, I think we have put this controversy concerning the context to bed. While an idiom, “putting something to bed” is also a metaphor. Jesus used a million metaphors (hyperbole), ample amounts of analogies (understatement), a plethora of parables (overstatement) and an impressive amount of imagery (all are alliteration). Jesus used parables like Popeye used spinach (simile). Metaphors are to Jesus as Autotune is to Pop singers, they are inseparable (analogy). The use of parables by Jesus is comparable to the song-bird, singing his sweet song. To those of his species, it is a calling but to the other wildlife creatures, it’s nothing but noise. Many try to ascertain the meaning of the song, and others ignore it. Still others enjoy the sound, ignoring the source. While still others, such as the bobcat, use the noise to track down the source, to kill it (parable).
I need to clarify something that has clouded my missives from day one as I haven’t made myself clear;
JESUS SPOKE IN PARABLES!
It feels good to finally let that cat out of the bag. I’ve kept that locked in the vault of my heart for a thousand missives. If anyone is reading my missives for the first time, welcome, this one is soaked in sarcasm. They say that sarcasm is the lowest form of humor. “They” probably being most pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers. Nevertheless, we’ve seen that in the Kingdom, great is least and least is great, low is high and therefore, sarcasm is the greatest form of humor. Not buying it? It doesn’t tickle your fancy? It ruffles your feathers? Am I beating a dead horse?
We all use metaphors and figurative language without even realizing it. One of my pet peeves, yet I also enjoy it thoroughly, is when people, usually baby-boomers or millennials, say, I am literally [insert metaphor meant to be taken figuratively]. My generation, generation X, lived by the metaphor and simile. Have you ever listened to 80’s-90’s hip hop, country, rock? Name a genre, pick up compact disc and you’ll hear music made with metaphors-similes mostly. I can’t explain why there is generational divide, but it is clearly there. Maybe it’s Shakespeare, is Shakespeare still required reading? I could venture a guess as to the reason for the generational divide but it would be dubious at best–merely speculation. Also, I am overgeneralizing, not all millennials and boomers are illiterate, but you are all easily offended.
Now that I have primed the proverbial pump
‘Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks![that is the key] For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into the fiery hell.”
Is “stumbling block” literal or figurative? Is it an actual block, over which actual people, will actually stumble? Does Jesus mean woe to the world because people will inevitably stub their toes? Or do we see the figurative language used that says, there are things in this world that will cause people grief, pain and sin? Now that we understand the metaphorical meaning and sense in which Jesus spoke, we can consider the context in it’s genre.
“And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into the fiery hell.” Without the proper context and Exegesis a myriad of meanings multiply. We must not assume anything other than the Bible as a whole. We need to let Scripture interpret Scripture. We have to let the context unfold.
I don’t know if I have the strength to continue writing about this context because I can hear the arguments made to me previously, they are in my mind, reverberating: “This is meant to be taken literally. It is absolutely better to live with no hands than to be in hell with both.” “We need to takes this just as Jesus said it, that if our eyes cause us to sin, we should pluck them out.” These are real arguments from real people. Ironically enough, they’re from real people whose real eyes have caused them to sin but didn’t pluck them out. Please don’t pluck out your eyes to prove to me that Jesus is to be taken literally. But whether literal or figurative, we still have a problem, contextually speaking. If literal, the problems are insurmountable, you wouldn’t finish life with any body parts left–enjoy life-long immaturity, to those who take this literally. And here in lies the problem with the metaphorical meaning.
Based upon my sarcastic statement, in which I tell the person who stumbles over the metaphorical meaning to “enjoy life-long immaturity.” Said person will not actually be an immature christian but a lost soul, according to the context. That is, if one thinks in any way that they can do anything about their sin, they don’t understand the Gospel, nor have they become as a child, wholly dependant upon Christ’s atonement. If taken metaphorically, without the entire, proper context, a myriad of meanings can be found. Ripped out of context, even when understood metaphorically, the person who stumbles in any way, over anything, is doomed for hell. That is, unless one has dealt with said stumbling. That is the plucking out of one’s eyes, which is again, not accounting for the atonement of Jesus.
Consider the context, it is king. Based upon what Jesus says, there can be no hope because one will not pluck out one’s eyes because they cause stumbling, nor is it effectual in removing or stopping sin. Everyone stumbles, therefore, “if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” Look at the context–we are doomed. Let me state it this way, have your eyes ever caused you to sin? How about your mind? Will you rip out your brain? Let me attempt another rhetorical, analytical approach. What is the punishment for sin? Correct, death, not the removal of the offending appendages. But we are not there yet because Jesus is progressively and fully revealing Himself, but he hasn’t yet.
Now consider the greater context, where Jesus tells his disciples that they must become as little, unpottytrained, wholly dependant, children, if they are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Literally or figuratively, these demands of Jesus are impossible without Jesus. Without fully revealing Himself as almighty God, Jesus is laying that foundation. Jesus is not presenting a way to live but condemning the world and especially the way in which we teach and treat the “children” of the world, metaphorically speaking. The reason that this passage is difficult to understand is we are like the disciples, we focus on earth. We want Jesus to tell us how to live and prosper. Hence the emergence of mega-church pastors and preachers, pledging health, wealth and happiness. But Jesus doesn’t tell us how to live he shows us. What Jesus tells us is that we are thoroughly corrupt. Look at the metaphorical meaning in the context. Look at the greater context and consider the sublime string. And I don’t know about you but I have to remind myself that the Bible was written by the simple man, to the simple man; Keep it simple stupid.
Jesus started with the little children and he ended with the little children. With the child presumably still in hand, Jesus says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven.”
La hija de mis amigos y mis hermanos, Ricardo y Darita, su nombre es Christie.
I previously stated that I wouldn’t touch this verse with a ten-foot pole. That is a literary device that I call, “a big fat lie.” The reason why I placed a picture of my friends’ daughter, Christie is not to promote myself as the “Children’s Advocate,” which I am, notice my cover photo, but that is not what this passage is about. Jesus is not proping up a child to represent children alone but as a visual aid for us to remember that there are “children” in the world that will have unthinkable stumbling blocks. Christie is one of those children, but so am I and hopefully, so are you, the disciples were. She most likely will grow up in a communist country, where God is not welcome, yet he is kicking butt and taking names. She has been dedicated in a church that while having a humble and faithful pastor, also has many in leadership that are like our American, Mega-church pastors, who can’t string two verses together. She will be oppressed from every direction–her stumbling blocks appear insurmountable (from her government she will be told there is no God; in school, that she will be forced to attend, she will be taught to think as the world thinks; if she claims Christ in the market places, which I am sure she will, she will suffer persecution and be denied bread, if there is any bread at all); without Christ. Looking through the lens of the prosperity Gospel, she is doomed. Looking through the lens of the Bible and the Gospel, her life looks abundant. Christie’s struggles suggest the struggles of all God’s children.
Does the very young Christie have a gaurdian angel all to herself that is continually looking at the face of the Father? Exactly; pragmatically speaking, that wouldn’t make any sense if taken literally. How could an angel, which is niether omnipotent nor omnipresent, be beholding the Father’s face and gaurding little Christie at the same time? We consider the CAGED method where Context is King, Author’s Aspirations to his Audience are Apex, Genre is the General, Expository Exegesis of Examples Enlightens and Dividing Rightly the Word of Truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. Where in the Bible do we find gaurdian angels? Or is Jesus presenting an even deeper theological truth?
Remember what led up to all of this metaphorical mayhem? The earthly minded disciples wanted to know who would be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus gathers up a little child and indirectly answers, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” This is the sublime string of the context, it must be remembered to unlock the metaphorical meaning.
Little Christie is wholly dependant on her parents as we are to be wholly dependant on Christ Jesus. The key word in the response of Jesus is “humble.” I have to humble myself while writing. I struggle with trying to explain things that should be simple to explain. Stumbling blocks, while not literal, are all too real. If ever there was a scripture that is caged, it’s this particular passage. And this context continues into what may be the most taken-out-of-context part of the Bible, other than, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'” This is the quintessential example of a verse ripped out of its context. Like Revelation’s genre is Revelation, the sub-genre is an epistle, or; letter. This verse in Jeremiah also has the sub-genre of a letter.
Did you know that? Jeremiah 29:1; “Now these are the words of the letter which Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the rest of the elders of the exile, the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” To whom was this letter written, people in the Compaq Center on Sunday morning or to the people in the Babylonion exile?
Did you know that this same letter also reads; “For thus says the LORD concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your brothers who did not go with you into exile— thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Behold, I am sending upon them the sword, famine, and pestilence, and I will make them like split-open figs that cannot be eaten due to rottenness. And I will pursue them with the sword, with famine and with pestilence; and I will make them a terror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and a horror, and a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them?”
Sarcastically–I can’t figure out why many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers apply, “I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope,” but not, “Behold, I am sending upon them the sword, famine, and pestilence, and I will make them like split-open figs that cannot be eaten due to rottenness.” It’s the same scene and context, after all.
Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers cherry pick verses not considering their context and that is precisely the problem we face in Matthew 18. We try to get doctrines to live by and life-lessons from verses that are not telling us how to live but who we are, compared to who we need to be, and how the world is. Jesus is exposing the heart of the disciples’ question, “Who then is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus tells them how to live, humble, like a small child depends on his parents, they are to be completely humbled and rely on Christ. That’s the life lesson–not to pluck out one’s eyes or that each child has its own gaurdian angel, and here’s the kicker: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Problem: we do wrestle against flesh and blood and we do wrestle with the Bible because we don’t consider the context, aspirations, genre, examples or divide rightly the word of truth. So now that I have muddied the proverbial waters, let’s let the silt settle and see the sublime string.
First, let’s tackle the term, “Gaurdian Angel.” Is it found anywhere in the Bible? No, it is not. This content contains the closest claim concerning angels that gaurd, but is that what the context is claiming, that each child has a gaurdian angel? Many commentators, pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers claim that they do. But what does the Bible say about angels? Hebrews 1:14, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” Some silliness: did baby Adolf Hitler have a gaurdian angel? If so, did he fail?
How about some context? “God [what a great place to start, what an opening word], after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they…” Read Hebrews. Angels are literally messengers, they don’t sing and if fallen, will not be saved. But they are ministering spirits, that are sent from God in times of need. They wage war with the fallen angels and the devil. But the most important thing to remember about angels is that they are not Jesus. We know that they ministered to Jesus in Matthew 4 and elsewhere, but it appears to me, based on the Bible, that we need to be very, very careful to not elevate angels to deity. Our fascination with angels is actually earthly. We must remember that angels are created beings, ministers, helpers, but that the source is Christ. For more reading; consider the context of Hebrews, Colossians and Ephesians.
Therefore the questions concerning “Gaurdian Angels” are irrelevant. But if you must know, no, there are not Gaurdian Angels but there are angels that gaurd through the foreknowledge, power and strength of Jesus Christ. Does Christie literally have her own guardian angel who continually sees the face of God or is Jesus teaching a greater truth through the metaphor?
Christie’s birth could have been very difficult. The medical personnel wanted to send her mother hours away, over rough roads for her delivery. But many people were praying for her. Biblically, it is possible that a thousand angels were sent to her and her parents in this time of need. Who knows, maybe while you were sleeping, your gaurdian angel was sent to her. We can’t get a doctrine concerning angels from the metaphorical meaning of this response from Jesus to his disciples. That being, the child in the hands of Jesus, is metaphorically the disciple of Christ and all the context goes to that metaphor.
Therefore, the world’s stumbling blocks, man’s stumbling blocks, angels, etc. all pale in comparison to Jesus Christ. The world is corrupt, our minds are corrupt, our eyes and ears, our limbs and our souls are corrupt down to the way we think. We must empty ourselves like little children and be wholly dependant on Christ. Woe to the world that gets in the way of God and his children. Governments, Social media, books, newspapers, cable news networks and many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers–modern-day Pharisees. Woe to them that hinder the true, pure, unadulterated word of God. Those that cause God’s children to stumble, making money off false promises of prosperity. Jesus, though answering the disciples inderectly, was directly focused in on the Pharisees. At every turn they were hoping to hinder the ministry of the Messiah–the One in whom their hope lay. Beware of the modern-day Pharisees. Beware of a preacher who has two, top-ten podcasts. Beware of the pastor who has his own 24 hour radio station. Beware of the teacher who has written many books but can’t string two verses together. He’s no theologian, so I don’t have to go there. God’s true children empty themselves. Woe to those who make millions peddling the prosperity promise.