“Verse Here” — Jeremiah 13:19-22
“Verse Here” — Jeremiah 13:19-22
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” — Matthew 7:6
Christians are told to be compassionate and longsuffering. The wicked have a need for God and we should persist in telling the gospel story, in the hope that it might take root in a wicked person's heart. And this is true – the apostle Paul displayed persistence in bringing his message to the stubborn Gentiles, as did Jesus to the people of his ministry.
But both Paul and Jesus showed that they had limits to how much time they would spend with extremely stubborn people. They both reached points in their ministries where they turned away from those who simply would not listen to God's calling. In the same way, today's verse teaches that there comes a time when we should take the pearls of the gospel and move on to the next opportunity. It is interesting that we are not told to be infinitely patient with unbelievers – to be sure, God will not be. Finding this balance is difficult, but it is part of learning to be a good steward of the gospel message.
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” — Matthew 6:31-33
To further reiterate my last post, God promises to care for those who seek His face. We see this over and over in the Bible – a prophet wanders in the desert and God feeds him, a man is beaten by robbers and is cared for by the most unlikely of people – a Samaritan. And the greatest example of all – God sees our sin and our failures and the apparent hopelessness of our situation, and He sends His Son to die for us, just so we might be rescued.
Notice the reference in today's passage to the pagans – who run after all worldly possessions as if they can save themselves. The difference between the pagans and the people of God is that we have a higher power to lean upon in times of trouble. The pagans have only themselves – and their “stuff”.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” — Matthew 6:25-26
I have often wondered how I would handle things if I suddenly found myself jobless, homeless, and penniless. My life has been richly blessed to this point, so that I have not had to worry about any of these things for long. But how do people cope with having nothing but what is before them from moment to moment? I think I would not know the first thing about how to deal with this situation.
Yet the Bible tells us in these verses that God will provide, just as He does for the birds, who don't have pantries or bank accounts. We may try to make our own security, and we may try to plan for a future setback (or hoard for an expected coming apocalypse), but the facts remain – God will provide. Do I have the faith to avoid worry about an unknown future? If God promises that He will take care of me and my family, why should I worry?
“Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:8-15
Here is one of those great paradoxes of faith in God – even though God knows exactly what we need and what we will ask for in prayer, we are, nevertheless, encouraged to go forward in prayer. Jesus then gives us an example of how we should pray.
He includes such elements as: praise to the Lord, asking for basic needs, forgiveness for sins, and protection from evil. This seems like a very good outline for daily prayer.
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” — Matthew 6:1-4
Jesus makes it clear that we should not do good deeds for the purpose of gaining favor from men. But a question occurred to me – is it acceptable to do these things in order to gain a reward from God?
At first look, that might seem to be a selfish motive. But the more I think about the topic, the more I think that it might be a very admirable goal. If our desires and actions are pleasing to God, and we know that God has promised to give good things to those who love Him, then doesn't it follow that a desire for God's reward is a good thing? I believe that Jesus gives credence to this idea, because he mentions God's reward explicitly. It is a lofty goal to do good solely because God commands it – but the promise of God's reward makes living a life of righteousness all the more pleasant.
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” — Matthew 5:48
The message of Jesus is certainly one of grace and forgiveness, as opposed to the rigor of law and sacrifice. But I keep noticing that he spends a great deal of time in the Sermon on the Mount talking about things we should DO and how we should ACT. It is a constant litany of forgiving, praying, being generous, and acting with grace. Jesus' words are a reminder that we should still spend time in an effort to do good to others, thus setting an example for others to follow.
And that is most apparent in these words today – “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We cannot achieve that kind of perfection without God's gift of grace, but likewise, we should not abuse it to the point of ignoring His commands. The love of our Father, and the appreciation we should have for his gifts demand that we strive to follow His ways. The formula – repentance and thankfulness first, followed by the gift of grace and being made righteous, which is then followed by the desire to live a humble and obedient life.