Today we read the passages that tell us of three teachings of Jesus. They are so simple that most of us remember them. They are:
- “Judge not, lest you be judged.”
- “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.”; and
- “Enter by the narrow gate… “
As is common with many things in the bible we often remember the sayings but loose some of the nuance. That is why reading scripture is a vital part of our spiritual development. Repetition, informed by the Holy Spirit, helps us learn again the subtle but important distinctions Jesus is making.
Take first. “Judge not, lest you be judged.” This has become a dogmatic rule in our society. To judge the failings of another brings swift and harsh backlash. However, Jesus doesn’t really prohibit judging. In fact, he will teach elsewhere that if you fail to tell another of their sin brings responsibility for that sin onto you. Here He concludes the teaching by saying, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye and THEN you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” In the “judge not…” passage Jesus is saying that when we Judge we create for ourselves the standard by which we will later be judged by God. He says, “…the measure you give will be the measure you get.” Jesus is reminding us that we are all sinners and we must first deal with our own sin. Of course, in dealing with our sin, we will be shown mercy and we can then extend this mercy to our brother and “help him with the speck” in his eye. By then helping our brother with a inclination of mercy, we will be shown even greater mercy when we are judged.
What of the, “Ask and you shall receive…” passage? Some read this passage in a material way and graft onto it a “prosperity gospel”. While others read into it a meaning that God will only give you patience and perseverance in replace of anything material you might ask for. However, look again at the last line of this passage, which is usually forgotten, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father, who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him. SO whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so them…”. Jesus is not just saying that the Father wants to give good things to his children – rather, He is at the same time subtly defining who the Father’s children are. The Father’s children are those who do the Father’s will – in this case follow the golden rule. It is those children who God will provide answers to prayers.
Finally, we are reminded to “Enter through the narrow gate”. This is the most straightforward the of the three teachings we are focused on today. We all intuitively understand that with God, the easy path is the wrong path. It is the more difficult path that will lead to eternal life. In our modern context the important part of what Jesus say is that there are “many” who follow the path to destruction and “few” who enter through the narrow gate that take the hard path that leads to life. There are big theological debates that look at the question of whether many (or most) will be saved and they involve more than we can do here. Suffice it to say that the important thing is that we can choose the path that we are on. We know if we have chosen the easy path and we can, at any time, choose the harder path. Jesus’ warning should not make us anxious (see above) but it should make us informed and desirous to seek out the narrow gate.
Tomorrow: Matthew 7:15-29