Legalism? (Part 2)Yesterday we saw how the crowd must have, at first, been depressed when Jesus started talking about the Law saying "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets..."
They would have said to themselves: "Here we go... another lecture on how bad we are..." So, I can only imagine their delight when the finger-pointers (the Pharisees) were also indicted. If I were in the crowd that day, I would have leaned in to what Jesus was saying, just because He was indicating very clearly that the finger-pointers weren't any better than me.
What comes next would be depressing if we don't take to heart what we referred to yesterday: Jesus is changing the landscape completely: The Law is not external, but internal.
And so Jesus offers us some examples:
- The physical act of murder (not manslaughter or self-defence) starts when we store up hatred in our hearts. The word "Raca" was Aramaic and it was dismissive and contemptuous in the extreme (It could roughly be translated as "Empty head".) We can witness a murder and indict the murderer, but only the individual can curate the attitudes of hatred in our own hearts. Law is internal.
- When we are standing in front of the altar to make an offering, our gift is worthless if we have broken relationships in our lives. Loving God means caring about what God cares about and God cares about people. The tithe or offering that we bring is merely a symbol of our love, respect and worship - but the real gift we give is ourselves and if we are not in good relationship with those God cares about, then this needs fixing.
- Jesus third example seems out of place: He urged the crowd to settle with someone who was taking them to court, otherwise they would end up in prison. At first glance this looks like we're back to the old "big stick" interpretation of the Law - "do right or get zapped". When we reflect on it though, Jesus is still saying the same thing: "If you're on the way to court, then there has already been a string of conflicts. If you let conflict fester, it will drag you on a path that ends up in the courts where no one really wins.
- Adultery doesn't begin with the physical act, but with unchecked desires and a dissatisfaction with self and others that causes us to treat precious people as sources of satisfaction rather than individuals to be treasured.
When it comes to Jesus, His approach to the Law is always "inside out". He's much more concerned about what goes on inside us.
Pay careful and prayerful attention to some of your inside attitudes today...
|"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.' 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. |
23 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
25 "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny
27 "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew5:21-28)