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SOTM #14: Worrying, Judging, ASK’ing

September 22, 2010

In our church community we have been working our way through Jesus’ Sermon On the Mount since the beginning of the summer. Over the past 3 weeks we had two other members of our community preach in this series; it’s always great to have additional voices helping us to hear this Word.

Worrying: Matthew 6:25-34

25 “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? 26 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? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life [e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

A member of my congregation preached this sermon, and he did a great job, giving us some good questions to think about. It was a shame that this was the last week before our sermon discussion class started up again for the fall (we have missed this opportunity during the summer and have been reminded of how fruitful this time of conversation and further study often is). I also found this post from Scot McKnight to be a helpful commentary on this passage.

Judging: Matthew 7:1-6

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person’s eye.

6 “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.

This was one of the hardest sermons I’ve ever preached. For a couple reasons: No one in our culture wants anything to do with being “judgmental”; It’s a difficult teaching that calls for difficult action; And what in the world is the dogs/pigs/pearls stuff all about! We had a good discussion class on this text. In the class a number of times the story from John 8:1-11 was mentioned-the scene where Jesus stood with a woman accused of adultery, and Jesus’ response to the crowd determined to stone her was, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” This disarms the crowd (ie there were no stone-throwers without sin). The idea was mentioned, “Well, unless I’m free of sin I can’t judge.” The problem is that I don’t think that is what the John 8 text is teaching. The John 8 story isn’t about simple judgment, but rather judgment plus a death sentence. I don’t believe Jesus meant “Don’t judge anything/anyone ever”, but rather, “Don’t carry out this sentence of death. That’s not your job-it’s God’s.”

However, this usurping of God’s judgment responsibilities is a connection with the SOTM text. From how I understand the Matthew text, Jesus wasn’t saying…

  • it’s wrong to have the occupation of Judge;
  • it’s wrong to make decisions (another meaning of this Greek word meaning “to judge”)

But he does seem to be saying that we shouldn’t make judgments that are reserved for God (See 1 Corinthians 4:5). Essentially: We shouldn’t try to play God. But as followers of Jesus we absolutely must make decisions (use discernment, in community, listening for the Spirit), it’s ok to be a Judge (which is good, since I have a retired one in my congregation!), and sometimes this kind of judgment requires the hard work of deciding right from wrong, or at least the most life-giving way forward. In verse 5 there’s some encouragement: Jesus seems to believe that we can actually make this kind of judgment (after log removal). I’ve been seeing v.6 as both a comment on judgment (make careful decisions about where you cast pearls or what is “good”), but also perhaps another comment that continues the theme of chapter 6 (use good things properly).

Asking, Seeking, Knocking: Matthew 7:7-12

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened.

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Our Associate Pastor preached on this text, and I think did a great job at bringing out a vital point: These actions (A.S.K’ing) are a continual thing. It is a daily practice of relying on God and trusting that God is good.

Next time we move on to Matthew 7 and the story about the “narrow gate”. Thanks for reading!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 25, 2010 10:42 pm

    Thanks, Chris. Good teaching here, and I appreciate it. Such a key and challenging text always for us in Jesus, and never the more so than today. I so much appreciate the solid Anabaptist perspective I can get here. Keep it up, and Blessings on your church and its ministry there in Pennsylvania.

  2. September 27, 2010 1:02 am

    Ted, I appreciate the kind words. Your encouragement means a lot-thanks brother!

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