The Narrative Lectionary points us to Matthew 7:1-14, 24-27 and Psalm 37:16-18. I’ve noticed that I didn’t post last week on the Lectionary. Here’s my map for February preaching: Consider Your Life.
In February I’m going to urge some contemplation through these texts using the term “consider” (taking my cue from Jesus, consider the lilies). The four sermons for the month are
Consider Your Day (MT 6:7-34)
Consider Your Neighbor (MT 7:1-14)
Consider Your Influence (MT 13:31-35)
Consider Your Faith (MT 14:13-33)
Last week I preached on the subject Consider Your Day:
*Pray Today (7-13)
*Forgive Today (14-15)
*Fast Today (16-18)
*Devote Yourself Today (19-24)
*Seek Today (25-33) (Audio and Notes HERE)
This week we are considering our neighbors in light of the Kingdom Life to which Jesus has called us. It seems to me that the passages in chapter 6 related more to personal discipleship and the passages in chapter 7 are directed more outwardly. Thus, we read this chapter in light of looking for ways to consider how we relate to our neighbors in the marketplace, school, workplace, and neighborhood.
The chapter begins with an oft quoted statement of Jesus, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” I like The Message for this verse:
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults – unless, of course, you want the same treatment.Matthew 7:1, The Message
What seems like a simple statement is pretty complex. Judging is a part of human perception – we judge all the time. The trouble is that we can judge people unkindly and without regard to the human being we are judging. Jesus says we will be judged in the same manner that we judge others. Will that be at the judgment or does that play out in some other way? However it is, we should learn a lesson about how we treat others who are different than we are in some manner.
The problem with judging another human being is that we have so much about ourselves that can be judged. In other words, it is hypocritical. Instead of judging our neighbors we should try to help them – remove the speck out of their eye. It is humorous, as many point out, that Jesus gives his disciples the ‘beam in the eye’ and others the ‘speck’. He may be saying that having a judgmental spirit is, in itself, a beam (plank, NIV).
Verse 6 seems, at first glance, an oddball in this chapter.
“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 turn and tear you to pieces.” (NIV)Matthew 7:6
I am thinking that this still relates to how we treat our neighbors. I admit, I may be wrong on this, but I do think that Jesus is saying we should not continually try to push the Gospel on the unwilling – they just disregard it and ultimately disregard you. There are some people who do not want you to take the speck out of their eye. They don’t want to hear the gospel. We do more harm when we are pushy with it than if we just backed off. But we still care about their souls, right? So we…
Pray. Verses 7-11 instruct us to be in prayer. If Jesus is still considering our neighbors, then we should be praying for them. Pray for them to ask, seek, knock. There’s a little booklet called Praying Evangelistically for the Lost. I like it because it encourages us to be in prayer for those who might not want to hear the gospel now – but in time might embrace its truths. And when we are praying we can be assured that our God knows how to answer the prayer in a way that is a blessing. Our Good Father can help bring about the conversion of those who previously were disinterested.
If you think I’m stretching this theme of neighbors thin, check out verses 12.
“Therefore, you should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets.”Matthew 7:12
This is the second greatest commandment restated. I know how I want to be treated. I want to be judged kindly, treated with consideration, prayed for and loved. This is our direction for considering our neighbors.
Our text ends with the familiar builders. One whose foundation was sand, the other whose foundation was rock. These days everything seems like sinking sand, but faith in Christ is the solid rock upon which we can build a life that honors God. A life that lifts up God by being an excellent witness to its neighbors.
These principles are far from easy, but they are a part of the path of discipleship.
You are invited to join my Facebook group called Narrative Lectionarians. We will share resources on the text of the week.