I don’t think it is a new phenomenon, but looking for an advantage seems to be magnified in the void of shortages. We see a world who is focused on being first, getting mine first, to the point of selfishness and disrespect of others. Why is it that we think we deserve to be first, or in some way treated differently than others? Our passage today reminds us that the rules written long ago still apply.
The world around us is out of order, to say the least. There was a brief moment in the middle of all this that we developed a kinder, gentler attitude. That seems to have evaporated just as quick as the supply chain dried up. How do we maintain some kind of order in the chaos? Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I liken it to being in a race, everyone wants to win. That desire to win becomes the driving force and things like kindness, grace, patience and goodness go out the window. Like racers, we are searching for an advantage over the rest. That in itself isn’t wrong, it is when that desire leads us to cross the line and compromise our integrity, the gray area.
Somehow, we think taking care of ourselves is our main priority. Somehow, we forget our first responsibility is to honor God. We are guilty of getting things out of order. Jesus introduced his discussion on the Ten Commandments with this passage. As we continue our Winter Bible Study, we will take a look at how this short passage has a big impact.
Matthew 5:17-20; “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Those commandments were written so long ago that we think they surely are outdated. Jesus makes it pretty clear that the law still applies. We tend to think that the rules and the law are for someone else. We are not that bad and surely God will understand. We look for a way to do what we want to do without the consequences.
Jesus used this passage as an introduction to his discussion about how the Ten Commandments should be interpreted. Jesus took the time to let us know how we were in error in our interpretation. Have we ever thought we were right, only to have someone point out the error in our ways? Remember the fruit of the Spirit? How if we do those things there is no error in our ways.
Rules govern the way we live. They give order in our lives. They provide a framework for us to live a rich and satisfying life. We, however, think they can be bent or broken if by doing so we gain something. It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, right? Read that passage again and see if that is the case.
Jesus didn’t come to remove our responsibility to follow God’s law. He came to complete the law, to show us how to live according to the law. He came to help us understand what the law means and how to apply it to our lives. Now we need to be careful here. Jesus isn’t talking about Jewish law. The laws the Jews derived from the Ten Commandments. He also isn’t talking about the laws created by other governments. He is specifically talking about the law that God gave to Moses.
Also, this doesn’t mean to say we can ignore or break the laws in place in society under the government. The Jewish leaders tried to trap Jesus on this point.
Mark 12:13-17; NLT; Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”
Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
“Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
His reply completely amazed them.
You see, much like today, man twists and turns the law, makes laws, trying to gain advantage and control. Their desire is only for power over others. They were leading the people in the wrong direction. Jesus makes reference to this when he says we need to live better lives, than those leaders, if we want to enter the kingdom of God. They only pretended to follow God’s law. They had an interpretation that benefited their needs. Their interpretation was not correct. Jesus set the record straight.
We need to understand what the law says and what it means. Jesus took the time to explain it and in the next few weeks we will explore how we need to live and conduct our lives. I encourage you to join us and learn what it means to order our lives according to God’s Law.