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 (http://incompetech.com/) (http://incompetech.com/) (http://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 (http://incompetech.com/) (http://incompetech.com/) (http://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 (http://incompetech.com/) (http://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 (http://incompetech.com/) (http://incompetech.com/) (http://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/

Be Perfect

The United States is at a crossroads. Regrettably, all of us listened to our parents, teachers and Walt Disney, who conspired to convince us that we should believe in ourselves–and now, everyone believes in themselves. It’s a disaster. 

We believe in ourselves and thus believe that our ideas, preferences and personal beliefs hold universal authority. When daily life demonstrates that our beliefs are not universal, we push back–sometimes violently–to silence all those who threaten our mental perfection. Did I say mental? Yes, I did. We are mental. 

The problem with mental perfection is that it’s a fraud. We enshrine ourselves in a temple dedicated to self-serving ideals and declare ourselves the perfect example of the righteousness of these ideals. Religious people do it, liberals and conservatives do it, and those who seek power love it because you can ride self-righteousness like a tidal wave, all the way to the top. 

The perfection that Jesus demands in the Gospel of Matthew is different. It’s a perfection that shames us and strips us of power. It’s a perfection that makes clear—in no uncertain terms—that we are not to believe in ourselves; that we are a fraud; that we cannot accomplish the most basic requirements of human morality, let alone the demands of the Torah. It’s a perfection that can only be realized in our defeat on the cross, the symbol of a teaching that consigns all perfection to the dead. 

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:40-48.

Episode 251 Matthew 5:40-48; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Fearless First” 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/

Empty Promises

People love to talk about what they want to do, what they should do or what they believe is right. We love it. We go online to brag about it and to cajole each other. Everyone is a fake preacher. We give lip service to lofty ideals (lying to ourselves and each other) pretending to be people of great deeds, but our words, like our promises, are empty platitudes. No, they are worse than that, because when we cast our vanity on the world, we lift ourselves up at the expense of those whose suffering is actual. This is the banality of evil and we are living it.

Unlike our lofty ideals, the crisis of poverty; the vile stench of greed; the abyss of human ignorance; the plague of hatred; and the scourge of violence that now threaten our country are not theoretical. Those of us who hear the Lord’s teaching must not talk about what we want to do or what should be done. We must act as we have been commanded. For the Lord said, “Do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:39)

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:33-39.

This weeks episode is presented in loving honor of the victims of the synagogue massacre in Pittsburg. May they find rest with all the saints in the bosom of Abraham; and may their memory—in fellowship with the righteous teaching for which they died—be assuredly eternal.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10705803/tbal%20episode%20250.mp3

Episode 250 Matthew 5:33-39; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Dreams Become Real” 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/

Love is Not a Feeling

To our peril, we think about love and relationships in terms of how we feel about a person or how that person makes us feel. This attitude is understandable in children, but when adults think this way in marriage, the failure of their household becomes the failure of our neighborhoods, our communities, and, sooner or later, civil society.

In the Sermon on the Mount, the love that Jesus preaches has nothing to do with how we feel. In fact, through Jesus’ strict application of Torah, the worse the commandment makes us feel—the more uncomfortable pressure it puts on us—the better our chances of learning how to love others correctly. Yes, that’s right; in the Gospel of Matthew, not only is love not a feeling, but almost always, the love imposed by the Lord’s commandment goes against what we feel. It is only when our feelings are overrun by this commandment that we have any chance of acting correctly toward our neighbor.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:27-32.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10651357/tbal%20episode%20249.mp3

Episode 249 Matthew 5:27-32; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Hiding Your Reality” 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/

Every Last Cent

Christians come up with strange explanations as to the relationship between the Law of Moses and Pauline grace. Maybe, they argue, only part of the Law is valid—like the Ten Commandments—but the rest is draconian and Jesus came to rescue us from legalism. Others claim, maybe, because of grace, Jesus is saying that we can do whatever we want and trust that God will make it OK. My favorite explanation is what I call the combo platter: “You see, Fr. Marc, we need both grace and the work of our hands. It’s a deep partnership with God.”

Really? Partnership? Do you really believe that? Please, help me understand the way in which the creator of the heavens and earth is dependent on you for anything. If that’s true, then maybe Paul was wrong. Maybe you are something. Still, it’s more likely that Paul was right: that we are nothing when we think that we are something. Maybe that’s why Matthew compels us to give an account for every last minuscule detail of the Mosaic Law. Not so that we can get grace as a consolation prize (like magic pixie dust) but so that we can be humbled and broken with Jesus on the Cross into understanding that God of Moses has been graceful all along.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:19-26.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10595630/tbal%20episode%20248.mp3

Episode 248 Matthew 5:19-26; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “River Fire” 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/

Not One Iota

“Being instructed out of the Law,” are you “confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, [and] a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth?” (Romans 2:18-21) “Are you confident,” Paul asks in Romans, “Are you sure that you are a light the blind?”

When Jesus says that “you are the salt of the earth” or “you are the light of the world” do you really believe that you are the light? The Law, in which you boast, is the light to the blind which you yourself do not heed. “You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? [Indeed] ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’ just as it is written.” (Romans 2:23-24) So be careful when you boast. “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter [not one iota] or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18)

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:15-18.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10537823/tbal%20episode%20247.mp3

Episode 247 Matthew 5:15-18; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Miami Viceroy” 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/