The Narrow Path

In the modern Internet of Consumers, everyone is treated as a profit center. Content, images, and themes are all engineered to attract the widest audience possible. If everyone likes your message, it must be good, right? This profit centered model has corrupted our media institutions and undermines our trust in each other. In 2018, everyone is in sales—even our universities—and it’s a catastrophe.

While the Bible was indeed written in such a way that the widest possible audience could understand it’s content, it was not written to be accepted by a broad audience. It was written to say what it has to say with no regard for its appeal. That is what it means to teach and the biblical teaching in Matthew is itself the narrow path of which Jesus speaks.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 7:13-14.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10992534/tbal%20episode%20261.mp3

Episode 261 Matthew 7:13-14; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Just Nasty” Kevin MacLeod (http://incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Ask, Seek, and Knock

Too often, the Lord’s promise in Matthew 7:7, that those who ask will receive, and those who seek will find, is reframed by a consumer mindset, as though prayer is the adult version of writing a letter to Santa Claus. But if we hear this verse in the context of Matthew, we’re stuck with a different reality: God’s will is immutable and dominant, he already knows what we need, and we are not allowed to ask for stuff when we pray. So why and what are we suddenly asking for and seeking in verse 7?

In a gospel that began with an overview of the Old Testament and a crash course in biblical Hebrew, Matthew is challenging us: whatever we need is already available in Scripture—so ask the Torah and seek its pages. Everything you need will be provided.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 7:7-12.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10974858/tbal%20episode%20260.mp3

Episode 260 Matthew 7:7-12; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Club Seamus” Kevin MacLeod (http://incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Dogs, Swine, and Pearls

Too often, teachers use Matthew 7:6 to cast aspersion on the unchurched, difficult students, or people who are not interested in what they have to say. In doing so, they twist the meaning of the Gospel to serve themselves at the expense of others. When the Lord warns his followers, “Do not give what is holy to dogs,” it is the believer, not the gentile “dog,” who is under judgment.

Those entrusted with the Gospel are responsible to abstain from defiling it with their lips. If you sit on the seat of Moses and proclaim your words in judgment and not the words of Scripture, you can’t help but be self-serving. Such words defile you and those who hear you.

Therefore, Jesus warns, don’t be surprised when the people you abuse with your lies “turn and tear you to pieces.” In that moment, Ezekiel proclaims, ”you shall know that I am the Lord,” (Ezekiel 11:12) the only Judge, whose throne is in the heavens.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 7:4-6.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10952668/tbal%20episode%20259.mp3

Episode 259 Matthew 7:4-6; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Chillin Hard” Kevin MacLeod (http://incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Only One Opinion Counts

Too often, we co-opt the prohibition against judgment in Matthew as a mechanism of our self-imposed fragility. We don’t want to be challenged with our sins, so when confronted, we blather, “who are you to judge?”

Fortunately, Matthew 7 renders this question totally non-functional. “Who am I?” I am exactly what you are and what St. Paul proclaims me to be: nothing, absolutely nothing. It the Lord’s teaching that is the “something” by which we are judged. Since we are nothing, I have no right not to read his judgment aloud and you have no right to cover your ears.

Make no mistake, there shall be no “safe spaces” in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 7:1-3.

Listen:https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10937400/tbal%20episode%20258.mp3

Episode 258 Matthew 6:31-34; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Retrofuture Clean” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Sufficient for the Day

When we step back to consider the full scope of any effort, even when the work in front of us pertains to God and not to mammon, it’s easy to become paralyzed by stress and anxiety. In Matthew, Jesus solves this problem by narrowing the scope of our worries yet further: yes, we must limit our concerns to the Master’s instruction for us, but that is not enough. We must also become far more deliberate and practical in the execution of our duties because it’s not the Master’s commandment in abstraction that we serve, but the Master’s demands of us now, at this very moment, when both the need and the task are within reach.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 6:31-34.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10922377/tbal%20episode%20257.mp3

Episode 257 Matthew 6:31-34; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Laserpack” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

The Lilies of the Field

Everyone loves Matthew’s passage about the lilies of the field. We love it because who doesn’t want to be consoled and encouraged not to worry about anything? But our enthusiasm is misplaced. We get excited about our freedom from worry in the same way that we misread our liberation from Pharaoh. In the book of Exodus, the Lord’s people were not set free from Egypt so that they could be free. As the Lord said to Moses, repeatedly:

“Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Let my people go, that they may serve me.” (Exodus 8:1)

In Matthew, the followers of Jesus are not set free from worry so that we can be free from worry. On the contrary, we are warned that our worries pertain to the wrong master.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 6:22-30.

Episode 256 Matthew 6:22-30; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Lobby Time” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10901687/tbal%20episode%20256.mp3

Treasure in Heaven

“Those who want to become rich,” St. Paul writes, “fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. “For the love of money,” he continues, “is the root of all evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, O man of God, flee from these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” (1 Timothy 6:9-11)

Make no mistake, when St. Paul attacks the love of money, he is attacking money—point blank—because everyone knows (even though most will never admit) that everyone loves money.

As an alternative to wealth, Paul proposes the pursuit of the righteousness that comes from God, which Matthew explains, is the “treasure in heaven.” To gain this treasure, the one who labors must attribute all credit for their deeds to the Father of Jesus and take no credit from anyone other than him. This is the only wise choice, because—according to both Paul and Matthew—since the Heavenly Father does not die, the hope of credit from him is the only worthwhile investment.

“For,” St. Paul explains, “We have brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” (1 Timothy 6:7)

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 6:16-21.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10879947/tbal%20episode%20255.mp3

Episode 255 Matthew 6:16-21; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Basic Implosion” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

The Lord’s Prayer

When Mr. Miyagi, the eighties era fictional Karate master, set out to teach his disciple, he asked him to paint a fence, wax cars, and sand a huge floor using inefficient, repetitive motions that made the work difficult and tedious. Sick of repetition and exhausted, the disciple rebelled against his master. Mr. Miyagi confronted his student with a new lesson, demonstrating that seemingly pointless directives had produced knowledge in his disciple, who, without realizing it, had mastered the basics of self-defense.

In similar fashion, the Matthean Jesus demands obedience of his disciples. When they pray, they are to pray in a specific way, using the exact words assigned by their master, day after day, until the difficult and tedious burden of biblical study and repetition produces wisdom in their actions.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 6:7-15.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10852195/tbal%20episode%20254.mp3

For those who have not seen the eighties film, The Karate Kid, make sure to watch this youtube clip of the teaching scene: https://youtu.be/Bg21M2zwG9Q.

Episode 254 Matthew 6:7-15; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Send for the Horses” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

It’s Not Hyperbole

When someone makes a statement that is difficult or unreasonable, human beings rationalize in order to ignore or moderate their words. Maybe the person didn’t mean it, or maybe they have some hidden strategy that explains their otherwise irrational position. Unfortunately for deniers, what a person says is what they mean. The duty of science is to be accountable and to hold each other accountable to what is actually said, not to appeal to an imaginary “intended meaning” or purpose. Demagoguery is the bastard child of Plato, enabled by the tolerable meanings we create behind or above the stench of what is actually said.

In the case of Matthew, the difficult words of Jesus are also unbearable. Beginning with Matthew 5, the Lord presents an explanation of the Law of Moses that makes it literally impossible for anyone to claim that they are righteous. Some scholars argue that Jesus is exaggerating to make a point. Why? Because if Jesus meant what he said (a tautology for Semites) then, literally, no one is righteous. No, not one.

Jesus decimates the hope of human righteousness, even as the demagogue counts on our faith in the same. That’s why the words of Jesus, unlike human words, are a sweet fragrance in the Father’s nostrils.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 6:5-6.

This week’s episode is offered in honor of Kathryn, an Alzheimer’s patient who entered hospice this week. We give thanks with her to him who remembers us in our low estate, for his mercy endures forever.

Episode 253 Matthew 6:5-6; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “ZigZag” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10815564/tbal%20episode%20253.mp3

False Humility

The expression “false pretense” is very strange. By definition, a pretense is the act of giving an appeance. In the Bible, anything that presents an apperance is already a lie, the depth and breadth of which is evident without the use of a modifier.

In Matthew, the pretense of humility amplifies human arrogance, even as the appearence of charity faciltiates selfishness. Are you humble because you look humble? Are you generous because people saw you giving alms to the poor? Since all pretense is false, it’s hard to say. But Matthew, like the Apostle Paul, won’t enter the debate since even humility and generosity—no matter how sincere—are rendered unrighteous by the credit your pretense earns in the sight of men:

“But to me, it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted, but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-5)

For Matthew, whose teaching reflects the wisdom of Paul, the only sure fire way to avoid fueling our innate hypocrisy is to avoid appearances altogether, doing everything in secret until the Lord appears on the day of judgment.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 6:1-4.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10779179/tbal%20episode%20252.mp3

Episode 252 Matthew 6:1-4; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Cottages” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/) (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/