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/

Salt of the Earth

If an author writes the words, “red lead,” is she directing a person named Red to lead a group of people or is she referring to a lead based substance that is colored red, as in, “red lead?” If she is speaking and we cannot see the spelling of her words, is she informing her audience that she read a book about leadership, or was it an essay about lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan’s water supply? You get the point. Context is paramount for understanding.

When Jesus says, “you are the salt of the earth,” and then talks about a loss of flavor, what does he mean? Actual salt cannot lose its flavor, but according to Jesus, his followers are definitely at risk of losing their flavor. If we can lose our saltiness, that means that whatever made us the “salt of the earth” was put into us. How are we to discern what this thing is and how it works? How are we to understand the phrase, “you are the salt of the earth?” The answer is context.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:13-14.

This week’s episode is presented in honor Fr. Paul Tarazi’s 75th birthday. May God grant him many years.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10480181/tbal%20episode%20246.mp3

Episode 246 Matthew 5:13-14; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Thinking Music” 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/

Blessings and Insults

The suffering of others should make us feel ashamed. When we see a neighbor in need, in poor health, overcome by calamity or besieged by violence, their burden is both a call to action and a check on our ego. Honestly, what right have we to complain about anything in the face of our neighbor’s misfortune? Regrettably, we routinely appropriate such shame as a means of influence. Politicians spin suffering to promote anger and a spirit of self-righteousness while victims point to misfortune as an excuse for cruelty. So what are we to make of the words of Jesus, “Blessed are you when people insult you?”

“Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5)

According to St. Paul’s sternly-worded instruction, the question as to which suffering is worthy of Christ’s blessing cannot be determined before the judgment. In Matthew, the criterion for this final test is not whether or not you suffered, but whether or not your suffering was for the right reason.

You may want to hold off cashing in your blessings before the time.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:9-12.Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10420535/tbal%20episode%20245.mp3

Episode 245 Matthew 5:9-12; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Zap Beat” 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

Clarity of Purpose

Hunger and thirst are clarifying. When you are desperate for a drink of water, or you have not eaten in days, your biological needs control your actions. In turn, your actions reorder your thoughts, and you acquire clarity of vision—you know what you want, you know it when you see it, you know what you need to do, and you see the world around you in these terms. Now imagine that your biological need for food and drink is co-opted by the obligation to hear and obey God’s teaching. Your hunger and thirst for this teaching lead you to act with mercy toward others, which, in turn, organizes your mind. Your mind, now clear of distraction (a phrase usually translated as “purity of heart”) is wholly conformed to this teaching, allowing you to see God in the world around you.

“Blessed [indeed] are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 5:6-8.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10360460/tbal%20episode%20244.mp3

Episode 244 Matthew 5:6-8; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Mystery Sax” 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/

The Fruit of the Spirit

When we hear the Beatitudes for the first time, it’s tempting to philosophize—about poverty, humility, sadness, etc.—as though the Beatitudes themselves are a bunch of Greek platitudes. But if you’ve been with our podcast from the early days, you know a couple of things: 1) that Scripture refers to itself, interprets itself, and does not look outside of itself for meaning, and 2) that Scripture is written in opposition to Greek Philosophy. To treat Jesus like a philosopher who spouts philosophical platitudes is anti-Scriptural. So what is Jesus talking about in the Beatitudes? What is he teaching? The very same thing everything in the Bible teaches and refers to: the Law of Moses.

Richard and I discuss Matthew 5:1-5.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10304031/tbal%20episode%20243.mp3

Episode 243 Matthew 5:1-5; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Twisting” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Direct My Footsteps

When we talk about behavior, we imagine that a degree of separation exists between our thoughts and our actions—as the saying goes, between mind and body—but this is incorrect. Just as a muscle integrates with fat and bone, our thoughts (themselves biological) fully integrate with our behaviors. In the Bible, there is no distinction between mind and body; both are flesh. As such, Biblical healing comes not from discussion but through obedience. Like a chiropractor, the Lord’s commandment corrects the position of your bone, and your muscle falls in place. That’s why the priority of biblical wisdom is to correct, protect, and direct your footsteps. If you can do what the Lord instructs you to do, the rest will take care of itself.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 4:23-25.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10247106/tbal%20episode%20242.mp3

Episode 242 Matthew 4:23-25; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Werq” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Nets of Our Own Making

Man toils in his service, acts on his behalf, and slaves for personal gain. Even when he strives to gather food for his family, the human being does so selfishly—for his family—a community readily exploited to fulfill his personal needs. The act of gathering food, which should be a gesture of unselfish love toward those in need, is reduced to a selfish act ensnaring man in the net of his own making.

When Jesus approaches the Pillars (Peter, James, and John) with the addition of Andrew, he calls them to a new kind of service, one that has the power to make their labors productive for an unselfish purpose—a purpose that obliterates the distinction they draw between the needs of their family, and those of the entire human family.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 4:18-22.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10187602/tbal%20episode%20241.mp3

Episode 241 Matthew 4:18-22; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Loopster” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

On the Margin

The first three chapters of Matthew portray a confrontation between the God of Abraham and the many false gods and kings that rule the earth. Even as these kings—represented here by Herod—struggle to cling to power at the visible center, the Lord moves the center of power to the invisible margin. This move deludes the powerful, allowing them a false sense of comfort, since, in their minds, out of sight means out of mind. But the Torah is on the move in Matthew—and it moves with force—disempowering rulers both inside Jerusalem and beyond. As David proclaims in Psalm 14, “The fool says in his heart, there is no God.”

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 4:12-17.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10108665/tbal%20episode%20240.mp3

Episode 240 Matthew 4:12-17; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Morgana Rides” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Jesus Does Not Speak

When a child reads a letter of St. Paul aloud in church, it does not matter if the child himself understands the reading, it only matters that he pronounce the text correctly. When the words of the letter are pronounced correctly, it is as though Paul himself is speaking to the church. It does not matter that it happens to be a child. The words of Scripture speak for themselves.

That is exactly how Jesus handles the Devil in chapter 4 of Matthew. Jesus himself does not speak, he merely recites the text of Scripture, and without ever making an argument—let alone lifting a finger—the full power of his Father’s authority is brought to bear through the written content of Deuteronomy.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 4:1-11.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10046266/tbal%20episode%20239.mp3

Episode 239 Matthew 4:1-11; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Twisting” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/