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Serving Jesus through discipleship

Archive for the category “Discipleship”

The Faith to Follow


Jesus Walks on the Sea

Jesus Walks on the Sea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a rabbi, Jesus prepared His disciples for everything. The way used to prepare His disciples was that they followed Him everywhere. They lived with Him, they watched as He met with friends, acquaintances, officials and enemies. It was the disciple’s (singular: talmid; plural: talmidim) responsibility to watch everything that the rabbi did in order to emulate him. The disciples consuming passion was to be like his rabbi.

An example of this can be found in Matthew 14:22 – 33 where Jesus walks across the sea of Galilee. You will recall that when Peter discovered that it was his rabbi walking on the lake, he said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.” Do you believe that Peter thought he could walk on water? Peter, after all, was a fisherman. He had been in and around the sea all his life and every time he got in the water he sank like a stone. Yet, he wanted to be like his rabbi so much that he was willing to risk drowning to walk on water like his rabbi. So when Jesus said to Peter, “Come”, he had the temerity to get out of the boat. Peter actually succeeded in walking on the surface of the sea. But, seeing the wind and the waves, he became afraid and began to sink. He cried out to Jesus to save him. Jesus reached out His hand, took hole of Peter and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Who did Peter lose faith in? He was walking on the water; he did it! Did he lose faith in Jesus? I submit that is not the faith that Jesus was talking about. After seeing that he could walk on water, Peter’s faith should have increased. I submit that Peter lost faith in himself. He did not trust that he, a lowly fisherman, could have the ability to walk on water. And so he began to sink.

I believe that we are like that. God has promised that His power is perfected in our weakness. So why don’t we see displays of God’s power in our daily lives. It is because we are even too afraid to get out of the boat. We have been called. Jesus has told us “Come”. Still we are too afraid of the embarrassment of failure, or even more of success. What will people think of me if I behave in this manner?

“Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Think about this. The Jews in Galilee generally had access to the Scriptures only in their local synagogue, so they memorized Scripture throughout their lifetimes because they were determined to know and live by the word of God and pass on their faith to their children. They were intensely spiritual people, and even those who did not advance to further study and interpretation of the Torah and the Prophets already had memorized far more Scripture than most Christians know today.

Because of technology, we do not need to memorize Scripture. We can carry printed versions of scripture with us. We can put the Bible on our smart phones so that it is with us all the time. We do need to be familiar enough with Scripture so that we know what it says and where to find it. We have all had that moment where a certain passage applies and we can’t find it. Remember, Satan deceived Eve by questioning the word of God; “Has God said, “You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” He also tempted Jesus by misapplying Scripture. Keep in mind God’s command to Joshua, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

Remember also the words of Jesus in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you.” You can say, “I will not be a disciple of Jesus.” But Jesus believes in you and your potential to be His disciple. That is why He chose you!

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The Rabbi as Shepherd


The image of the shepherd and his sheep is frequently used in Scripture as a metaphor for the relationship between God and his people. Not only that, God often chose shepherds to lead His people. Abram, Moses and Davie for example were all experienced shepherds. This image sent a powerful message to the people of Israel because even to this day, a flock of sheep in Israel is dependent on the shepherd for survival. Israel is not a land of knee high grass and abundant water. The shepherd must lead the sheep daily to graze on short tufts of grass an hillsides and to drink from widely scattered sources of water. Without the shepherd’s leading, the flock would die.

The shepherd/sheep image describes the intimacy, dependence, obedience and faithfulness that characterize the rabbi/disciple relationship as well. The rabbi walks ahead and leads his disciples by his voice. Just as sheep follow their shepherd without understanding why the shepherd leads where he leads, disciples follow the rabbi by faith, trusting him to lead them in the right way to the right place. Following the rabbi is just as much a matter of life and death for the disciple as it is for the sheep that follow the shepherd.

Shepherd

Shepherd (Photo credit: AfghanistanMatters)

In contrast to sheep who follow their shepherd, goats often wander on their own, away from the shepherd’s chosen path, the “path of righteousness.” Goats require extra attention from the shepherd because they think they know a better path.

In light of this, consider what Jesus taught in Matthew 25:31-46, particularly verses 32-34, 41: “He will separate the people from one another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on His right, “Come you who are blessed by my father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Then He will say to those on His left, “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire.” The key difference between the sheep and the goats is that the sheep obeyed the shepherd; they did what He would do. The goats on the other hand, had no interest in what concerned the shepherd.

Practicing Faith in Community


They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one having authority, not as the teachers of the law. – Mark 1:21-22

Originally the synagogue was not a specific building but a place where God‘s people gathered in His presence around His Living Word. It was sometimes called a place of prayer, because in the Jewish mind the verb translated pray means worship as well as prayer. Synagogue began before Solomon’s temple was destroyed, but the practice became essential to the Jewish faithduring the exile.

Ruins of the ancient synagogue in Kibbutz Bar'...

Ruins of the ancient synagogue in Kibbutz Bar’am in Northern Israel. The ruins are located within the site of the ancient village of Kfar Bar’am, about three kilometers from the Lebanese border. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As exiled Jews returned to the land of Israel, they brought synagogue – the practice of coming together as a community to study and worship in God’s presence – with them. by the first century in Israel, larger community buildings were built to serve as meeting places for synagogue. Soon the name synagogue was applied to the buildings where community study and worship of the Scriptures took place. So, during Jesus’ time, the synagogue was both a place and a group of people engaged in seeking God through the study of Scripture and prayer.

Synagogues played an important role in the lives of religious Jews who lived along the north and northwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee. Although the Jews traveled to the temple in Jerusalem to worship three times a year, they worshipped regularly with family, friends and neighbors in the local synagogue. The Torah scrolls were kept in the synagogue, so people went there to read and study the scriptures and listen to the rabbis proclaim their interpretations of the text. Their children attended synagogue schools where they learned to read, write and memorize the text. Thus the community worship, expressed in a handful of small synagogues in Galilee, contributed greatly to the disciples’ preparation to follow Jesus, their Rabbi and become like Him in every way.

Christians today tend to think that the theology and teaching of the Pharisees was all wrong, but it was not. The Pharisees were faithful Jews who worked hard to obey God in all they did. That’s why they had so many applications of Bible texts: they were trying to obey God! Jesus called some of the Pharisees hypocrites because they didn’t practice their own teaching (and some of their own writings criticize this as well). Some other Pharisees were so set in their interpretations of the Scriptures that they refused to consider the interpretations of others – including the interpretations of Jesus. Despite their imperfections, the Pharisees made knowledge of the Scriptures and obedience to God top priorities in life.

Although many Christians today think that Jesus called His disciples away from the Jewish faith and community, that is not the case. Jesus and His disciples continued to participate in community life, including synagogue worship, throughout His ministry. Even when His disciples went out into the world beyond Israel, they sought out and continues to be a part of the faith community of the synagogue. This is not to suggest that you must join a synagogue to follow Jesus, but active involvement in a faith community is necessary.

Living by the Word


Jesus came to people who knew the Scriptures. They expended great effort to study and memorize the text, to debate its meaning, to teach it to other people, and – above else – to obey it. As you take a closer look at Jesus Ministry, consider how essential the text was to all that He did and said.

The front side (recto) of Papyrus 1, a New Tes...

The front side (recto) of Papyrus 1, a New Testament manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew. Most likely originated in Egypt. Also part of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (P. oxy. 2) Currently housed in: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the Jews in Galilee, knowing and obeying the Scriptures was as essential to life as food and water. They memorized significant portions of Scripture in synagogue schools. They heard it read aloud during synagogue prayers and when the rabbis read and discussed it. After all, how could one rightly interpret and obey God‘s commands without knowing the text? How could one walk with God without knowing what He said? Not to know the text was unthinkable!

A study of the Gospel of Matthew reveals that in that book alone, Jesus quoted the Hebrew Scriptures at least thirty-eight times. Read the following passages and notice how easily the text flowed from His lips as He spoke: Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43, 9:10-13, 12:1-8. Could Jesus have shared the Scriptures effectively if He had not memorized them?

In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish then but to fulfill them.” In the statement, Jesus used technical rabbinic terminology. Abolish meant to interpret Scripture so that it would not be obeyed as God desired. Fulfill meant to interpret Scripture so that it would be obeyed as God intended. So when Jesus used these terms, His audience would have heard Him say, “I did not come to misinterpret Scriptureso you would not keep it correctly. I came to interpret it so that you will know how to keep it correctly.”

Jesus came from a community that knew the Scriptures, and He expected His disciples to follow His example and become like Him. He expects no less from His followers today. Yet many of us do not know much about the text He knew and loved, and we have memorized even less of it.

How can we do what Jesus commands if we do not know His word?

Is it time to dedicate yourself to knowing your Bible and using it as the foundation for your life and witness? How will you begin?

How would memorizing Scripture reinforce your desire to live by its truth in your daily life?

If you are serious about being a disciple, ask God to fill you with His Spirit and give you a desire to become more like Jesus who knew and loved the Word of God.

The prophet Jeremiah memorized so much scripture that he literally could not stop mentioning God or speaking His name. How passionately do you want God’s word to burn within you. A good place to startmight be to memorize the following:

But if I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. – Jeremiah 20:9

Pray for the same love for the word as Jeremiah had!

Profile of a Rabbi


English: Rabbis Brown and Mayer talking with R...

English: Rabbis Brown and Mayer talking with Rabbi Aharon Feldman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Jesus day, a rabbi was not the head of a formal religious community or a synagogue as we think of a rabbi today. Instead, rabbi was an honored termof respect given to one who interpreted and taught the Hebrew Bible. Rabbi meant “my superior” or “my master” and came from a Hebrew root meaning “great” or “many”. Disciples and others used this term to refer to great scholars and teachers of the Scriptures who were also known as “sages”. After the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in AD 70, rabbi became a formal title for sage.

Rabbis played an important role in the Jewish spiritual culture because there were no formal seminaries at the time of Jesus. Each rabbi taught his disciples how the Torah should be interpreted and obeyed, and his disciples willingly submitted to that interpretation. A rabbi then was an honored teacher who was well versed in the text of the Hebrew Scriptures. He was highly respected for his knowledge, interpretation, and teaching of Scripture as well as for his personal righteousness. Following a rabbi required a deep commitment on the part of the disciple who would live with and follow the rabbi day in and day out for years in order to learn to be like him and live in obedience to God as the rabbi did.

For the Galileans, walking with God took priority over everything. So a rabbi and his disciples were highly respected by others in the community. A family or extended family group usually provided housing and food for a rabbi and his disciples. Because of the high respect for the study of the Torah, and the fact that the rabbi was leading other people to the kingdom of heaven and the life to come, each disciple was expected to honor his rabbi even more than his own father. It is difficult for Christians today to imagine such love and commitment to a human teacher, but that was the norm in Galilee.

All teaching by the early rabbis attempted to explain, interpret, and apply some portion of the Hebrew Bible. To the audience, the validity of the teaching depended on the rabbis ability to use a variety of passages in new and creative ways to illustrate the teaching with parable or metaphor, and to ground the teaching in text. whether they wanted to or not, people who heard Jesus teach recognized that He taught with authority.

In fact, Jesus best fit the type of rabbi believed to have s’mikhah, the authority to make new interpretations of the Torah. Most of the teachers of the law could only teach accepted interpretations. Teachers with authority, however, could make new interpretations and pass legal judgments.

Educated as a Rabbi

The Mishnah describes the educational process for a young Jewish boy during Jesus time.

At five years old [one is fit] for the Scripture, at ten years the Mishnah [oral Torah interpretations], at thirteen for [the fulfilling of the commandments], at fifteen the Talmud [making rabbinic interpretations], at eighteen the bride chamber, at twenty pursuing a vocation, at thirty for authority [able to teach others].

This passage clearly describes the education of a n exceptional student, because few students became teachers. It also indicates the centrality of the Hebrew text in the education of Jews in Galilee. A comparison of this description to Jesus’ life shows that He closely followed the customs of his time and place.

Why Galilee?


Sea of galilee, near Capernaum

Sea of galilee, near Capernaum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After being tempted by Satan for forty days, Jesus returned to civilization and discovered that John the Baptist had been taken into custody. Upon hearing this, He withdrew into Galilee; leaving Nazareth He settle in Capernaum, which is by the sea in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles — The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

We know that Jesus came, not to the Gentiles or to the Samaritans but to the Jews. His message included healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, and casting out demons. When the Canaanite woman approached Him near Tyre and Sidon, He admonished her saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

When Jesus’ message was not received, He denounced the cities that he was in and described a horrible fate for them.

Knowing that the people in the land of Galilee were religious people and that Jesus’ message to them was repent, What do you think His message to us would be today?


The Call of Christ


By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:
the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2: 3-6

These verses out of 1 John clearly identify the need for discipleship. If you don’t agree with me on that, I’ll have more on that later. For now I want to answer the question “Why did Jesus choose His disciples and start His ministry in the region of Galilee? What was it that captured his attention above all other places in Israel?

Cities in Contrast

Some of the cities in the region of Galilee are Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, Bethsaida, Capernaum, Jezreel, Scythopolis and others. Let’s first take a look at Scythopolis in southern Galilee. Scythopolis was a city about 15 miles from Nazareth. It was a city of temples, stadiums, theaters, and university. It was a city of wide streets, sewers and running water. Yet Jesus didn’t choose any of His disciples from here.

A first century insula

In contrast, Jesus recruited His disciples from a small fishing village in northern Galilee called Bethsaida. This is the area that Jewish religious folks lived in the first century. People that were passionate about following God. Passionate about obedience. Passionate about the text of Scripture. Bethsaida in contrast had narrow dirt roads if any streets at all, no running water, no temples, no theaters and no university. The people lived in large family units called insulas, a Latin word for island. An insula could be compared to an apartment building today. Most of the lower and middle class people lived in insulas. It was from this village that Jesus chose five of His disciples: Peter, Andrew, John, James and Phillip.

The Building Blocks of Discipleship

  • Community

There were several building blocks for discipleship in Jesus day. The first was Community. The common people of that day relied on each other. Imagine, if you can, an extended family unit (brothers, sisters, cousins, grandparents, etc.) living in an insula. They ate together, worked together, played together and worshiped together. Their life with God was a community life! Coming from this type of background, it was only natural that the people wanting to be disciples would live with their rabbi in a community of disciples. But not every person living in the community was a disciple.

  • Scripture

The synagogue was a central part of the lives of the people living in Galilee in the first century. It was a community gathering place. A place to worship, a place to come and hear the rabbis teach. It was the place where the Torah (the books of the Law) and the Tanakh (the books of the prophets and the writings) were kept and taught. The Tanakh, as the Bible today, was considered the very words of God and was revered and loved on a par with God. The second building block of discipleship then is Scripture! In order to obey the law one must know the law. The better you know the law, the more likely you are to correctly apply and obey that law.

  • Beit Sefer

An important part of the synagogue was the school (beit sefer, literally, ‘house of knowledge’). This is where the children came to learn to read and write. Obviously, the text they used was the text of Scripture. So by the time that the children were 11 or twelve years old, they could recite large parts of the Torah. They had studies it, they knew how to interpret it and they knew how to apply it.

Upon finishing beit sefer, most children started working at the family business if they were boys and the girls would start learning to become a good wife and mother.

Some of the children (men typically), after finishing beit sefer, if they had the ability and the passion, would continue their scriptural education at beth midrash (literally ‘house of interpretation’). It was here that the Tanakh was learned. By the end of this part of their education, the student could recite large parts of the Tanakh. It was at this time that the really passionate could become what was called a talmid (tal MEED) or disciple. It is important to know the connotation of the word talmid. A talmid is a person who wants to be what the rabbi is! This person wants to be like the rabbi at any cost. He has an all consuming passion to be like the rabbi. He would give up everything to follow his rabbi.

The Cost of Discipleship

As a Christian, are you willing to be a talmid? Is your passion for Christ such that you are willing to give up everything to follow him? (Does this sound familiar?) I will bet that the required scriptural knowledge in most of us is severely lacking and thus preventing us from becoming a disciple.

After acquiring the building blocks of discipleship, the aspiring talmid searched for a rabbi that was willing to disciple the student. The talmid lived with the rabbi, studied under the rabbi, observed all that the rabbi did in order to become like him. Usually this required committing the entire scriptural text to memory, being able to correctly interpret and apply it. This required an unbelievable level of commitment and passion.

Most people, could not find a rabbi willing to accept them as talmid. Once you did find a rabbi willing to accept you, you could still be rejected because you did not possess the requisite level of passion.

Jesus, unlike other rabbis, chose ordinary people, fishermen, tax collectors, etc. to be His disciples. Many of the people that Jesus called were rejected by other rabbis. Many more were not willing to pay the price to become like Him. The price? Self denial, total devotion. This is what the rabbi asks of us. Have you come to know Jesus? (read 1 John 2:3-6). The only way that we can get to know Jesus is by His words. Where are His words? The Bible!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses ; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time ; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. – The Gospel of John

Let’s Talk Discipleship


Obey and Teach the Commandments

Obey and Teach the Commandments (Photo credit: Fr. Stephen, MSC)

Discipleship was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry. Saying that, it is not surprising that the word disciple is used more than 250 times in the New Testament. In fact, the New Testament is the story of disciples, written by disciples who wanted to make disciples. An those disciples dramatically changed their world.”

Today in western culture, the disciple making mission of Jesus and His followers is not as clear. Contemporary Christianity does not always make discipleship central to the faith. Many who call themselves Christians don’t even know what a disciple is. While we readily agree that it is essential to believe in Jesus as our Savior, we tend to treat His Lordship in our lives as a desirable option. If we don’t recognize the importance of discipleship , we tend to think that obeying God‘s commands is a worthwhile goal but less important than being saved. We view discipleship as a goal that only a few “all-star” believers can attain!

Jesus and His disciples had a very different view of discipleship. They made no distinction between “being saved” and living in obedience to God. To be saved was to be totally committed to a life of obedience – to walk as the Rabbi walked, to become like Him. They did not do this in order to be saved, they did it because they were saved. Thus the goal of the Christian community is not to make converts but to make disciples.

Dietrich Bonheoffer said, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” James, the brother of Jesus and the author of the book of James, said, “… faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”

Since few of us know what discipleship is, let’s examine what discipleship meant to Jesus and the apostles. In the next few posts, we will examine the practices of first century rabbis and their disciples – their love for and knowledge of Scripture and their passionate desire to give up everything in order to obey God as their rabbi did.

Peter Pan Christians


Today I heard a new Term on the radio. The term? Peter Pan Christians!

This is also the name of the Sermon of Dr. David Jeremiah which I heard on his program Turning Point. The summary for this broadcast is listed below:

Have you matured from adolescence to adulthood? Or would you characterize yourself as having the “Peter Pan Syndrome,” refusing to grow up? Dr. David Jeremiah warns that the Peter Pan Syndrome can also reach into our spiritual lives as immaturity and lethargy keep us from growing in our Christian faith. As David continues his series from the book of Hebrews, he challenges us to mature in our Christian faith.

This message references: Hebrews 5:11-14

Are you a Peter Pan Christian? Find out by listening!

Choose This Day Who You Will Serve


A Treatise On Matthew 6:19 – 34

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.
But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,
yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I referenced Matthew 6:19-34 so that you could follow along in your translation of the Bible. I use the New American Standard Bible (NASB) in almost all of my Bible quotes. If I use another translation it will be noted.

The Open Edition of the New American Standard ...

The Open Edition of the New American Standard Bible. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The topic of the first section (verses 19 – 24) is wealth; the topic of the next section is anxiety or worry.

Jesus point in verses 19 through 24 is that earthly treasure, whatever that may be is at best temporary. If your treasure is money, thieves can steal it! Your own lustful desires can cause you to misspend your wealth thereby depriving you of both your treasure and probably the thing you spend it on.

But let’s say you wisely spend your money (by earthly standards) on houses, stocks, cars, art, etc. The houses require constant maintenance to preserve their value. Even then, ups and downs in the market can cause you to lose your equity if not your whole investment. Then there are natural disasters like floods, fires, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes that can destroy your house and potentially wipe you out. The same is true for the other investments! None of them is lasting!

Another thing you have probably forgotten; none of them are yours! We are reminded of this in Psalm 24, “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” So by attempting to amass treasure for yourself you are stealing from God! You need to ask yourself these questions: “What would God have me do with what He has given me?”; “How can I use this to honor God?” If you ask yourself those questions, answer them honestly, and then act appropriately on the answers, you will be storing up treasure in heaven! Jesus then declares that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. He makes this declaration so that you can assess yourself; is your treasure on earth or in heaven?

When He states that the eye is the lamp of the body he is using a metaphor. The Greek word for eye is ‘ophthalmos’. One of the possible translations for this is ‘envy’. Doctor Donald A. Hagner’s commentary on Matthew says, “… is the ‘evil eye’ of Near Eastern cultures – an eye that enviously covets what belongs to another”. Dr, Hagner’s translation of verses 22 and 23 is:

The Eye enables a person to see light. If, therefore, your eye is generous, your whole person will be full of light. But if your eye is covetous, your whole person will be full of darkness. If therefore, the very organ that should bring you light is the source of darkness in you, how great is your darkness.

As is typical in the Bible, light is a metaphor for the truth or God (God is a source if spiritual illumination and strength) and of course, darkness is a metaphor for the opposite. It seems to me that what this is saying is that if your treasure is physical, you are chasing a false treasure!

Finally, it is impossible to be the slave of two masters. Make no mistake, you are the slave of that which you serve. You were created by God to serve Him! Again I refer to Psalm 24 referenced above. You must either be the slave of God or of earthly wealth. You can’t do both or divide your time. One of your masters will appropriate your affections. Your actions will show everyone where your desires lay.

My NASB Bible inserts a heading at this point which I decided to leave out. The heading is “A Cure for Anxiety”. My New King James translation’s heading is “Do Not Worry”. My New Living translation’s heading is “Jesus teaches about Worry”. My point is that the heading leads the reader to believe that a new topic is being introduced. But is it?

In some translations, the first word in verse 25 is “therefore”. I believe we have all heard a preacher say “When you see the word ‘therefore, you should find out what it is there for!” The Encarta Online dictionary defines therefore as “and so, or because of that”. It stands to reason what follows is an extension of what was said previously. In a nutshell, what was Jesus’ point? Jesus’ point was that either you serve God or you serve yourself, your covetous nature.

My NASB starts off “For this reason, I say to you, do not be worried about your life”. I believe what Jesus means can be phrased like this, “If God is your master, why do you worry about the temporal things? Things like “What will I eat?” or “What will I drink?” or “What will I wear?” I will paraphrase verses 26 through 32.

Doesn’t God take care of the birds? They don’t sow or reap or gather crops into a storehouse, yet they are fed by your Heavenly Father! Does this mean that some birds don’t go hungry? No! Does this mean that some birds don’t die of starvation? No! But they don’t shorten their lives with worry, either!

Consider the flowers. They don’t have to work for their attire. Not even Solomon was clothed as beautifully as one of the lilies of the field. Your Heavenly Father bestows this beauty this beauty on flowers which are here today and gone tomorrow. Does this mean that all flowers are beautifully decked out? No! It does mean that God has given to each what He wanted them to have.

Aren’t you more important than flowers and birds? So, if God takes care of the flowers and the birds, won’t he take care of you also. Does this mean that you will never be hungry? No! Does this mean that you will never be thirsty? No! Does this mean that you will never be poorly clothed? No! Will working hard and worrying about what you will eat and what you will drink and what you will wear mean that you will never be hungry or thirsty or poorly clothed? No!

So if working hard and worrying produces the same result as having faith and trusting in God, why worry? Live by faith!

In verse 33, Jesus is telling you how you should live to produce the heavenly treasure. Wait, didn’t we talk about that in verse 24. He who serves God will have treasure in heaven. To serve God, the most important thing you can do is make the kingdom of God and the righteousness He demands your number one priority. If you do that and let God take care of the necessities of life, you just may find that God will take care of you. You may get hungry or thirsty or become naked, but if that is God’s will, nothing you can do will change that. Don’t forget that God may test your faith!

English: Biting one's lip can be a physical ma...

English: Biting one’s lip can be a physical manifestation of worry. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember how God tested Abraham’s faith. When Abraham was a young man, God told him that he would be the father of many nations. Abraham trusted God! Abraham had his first child when he and Sarah were well past child bearing age. Later when God told to sacrifice Isaac, the son of the promise, Abraham by faith obeyed. He was fully prepared to sacrifice Isaac and was in the act when God stopped him. Abraham didn’t know how God would fulfill His promise through Isaac if Isaac was dead, but Abraham believed that God would do what He promised!

Don’t make the mistake of the “Christian” who believes that verse 33 means that if you seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, you will never be hungry or thirsty or naked. That is not what this verse is saying!

Finally, verse thirty-four reiterates the imperative “don’t worry” about things that you have no control over. It detracts from your kingdom work!

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