There are many lesser rules and human traditions which divide the Christian Church but one great and wonderful rule which unites us all. It was outlined by Jesus in Matthew 22:34-46. The Bible contains many excellent summaries of right religion. Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). Do what is just and right (Isaiah 56:1). Seek God and live (Amos 5:4). Live by faithfulness (Habakkuk 2:4). They are articles of faith. Jesus chose a couple of other Old Testament statements to summarize the faith. One was from Deuteronomy (6:5) about loving God and the other was from Leviticus (19:18) about loving our neighbor. These commandments were not even specifically from the Ten Commandments, though they are there in principle. They unite all of Christianity under one statement of belief.
Do we “give our heart to the Lord”? Instead of pop sayings, let’s see what Jesus said (Matthew 22:37). We love the Lord with our entire heart, soul and mind. This is the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:5), the central creed of both Judaism and Christianity. What that actually means is that we love God with all that we are and have. Is love "all we need"? Jesus said that differently too. Some forms of Christianity emphasize the heart and avoid the mind. Some varieties of Christianity are emotionless with very little heart. Some kinds of Christianity emphasize outward show but neglect the inner soul. Jesus summarized the entire Old Testament law as hanging from love. He also delineated that love as not just being empty emotionalism, but a love that includes everything in our lives: heart, soul and mind.
The command to love our neighbor as ourselves strikes at the root of human failure (Matthew 22:39). The seed of society’s evils is love for self and reckless disregard for others. It is also very shortsighted, because ultimately love of others returns long lasting recurring benefits to us and is therefore an act of self love. We were designed to naturally love ourselves. We want food, shelter, protection, health and happiness. As we appropriately bless others, crime and other evils should decrease. All this is impossible unless we first love God with all of our being. If there is no God and if we don't love him, we may as well act just like the animals, where survival of the fittest counts. Instead of acting like vicious animals, devouring and destroying, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Jesus asked some religious leaders whose son the Messiah was. His answer is called the Messiah Riddle (Matthew 22:41-46). The expression "son of David" was familiar. Jesus descended from King David. The religious leaders answered that the Messiah was the son David. Jesus knew their lack of belief and that they thought of the Messiah as a mere man. He asked them why David referred to his son or descendant as "my Lord." That passage reads, "The Lord (God) said to my Lord (my son)" (Psalm 110:1). Why would a father call his son, my Lord? Because that son, the Messiah is divine. But, Jesus did not always answer a riddle. Instead he asked, Since David called the Messiah my Lord, how can the Messiah be his son? No one could answer him. Jesus challenged people to think.
|Raising Children To|
Love Their Neighbors
|Think: The Life of|
the Mind and
the Love of God
|Love Your God with|
All Your Mind:
The Role of Reason in
the Life of the Soul
|Desiring God's Will:|
Aligning Our Hearts with
the Heart of God
|The Soul's Quest for God|
A Spirituality of Self-Surrender,
Love of God,
and Love of Neighbor
|Breaking the Bondage|
the Healer of the Sick:
A Study of Jesus As
the Son of David in
the Gospel of Matthew
|Honda: The Boy Who|
Dreamed of Cars
I Never Knew
What was the purpose of the Pharisees tempting Jesus (as the original language shows) with a trick question (Matthew 22:34)? Would Psychologists say that such vehement opposition comes from inner turmoil caused by a perceived threat? Was it perhaps similar to the motives that caused atrocities such as the Spanish Inquisition in which the Church was complicit? When the Church teaches dogmatically what Jesus taught his Apostles it carries Jesus’ authority. When the Church teaches dogmatically things that neither Jesus nor the Apostles taught, is it operating much like the Pharisees and Sadducees? How can the dogmas of a magisterium or doctrinal committee be declared infallible and inerrant teachings unless they agree with what was taught by Jesus? If he was physically present on earth today, would many church authorities accept him or also perceive Jesus as a threat?
Teacher: What is the most important command of all?
Evangelical Evie: Don't go dancing or play cards.
Catholic Cathy: The communion bread is Jesus. He said, This is my body.
Pentecostal Penelope: Tongues is the thang to show others that you’ve been filled.
Orthodox Orville: You gotta do the ancient thing. Modern stuff is unorthodox.
Fundamentalist Firfie: You gotta obey all the rules made by the elders.
Methodist Metcalf: Don't touch a drop of that demon alcohol or you're bound for hell.
Baptist Babette: You gotta be immersed. If you ain't dunked, you ain't really baptized.
Anglican Angus: Apostolic succession is the key. You've got to have the lineage.
Teacher: What if I told you that love was the real deal?
Class: Love???????????? What liberal Commie pinko said that?
Teacher: Jesus. (Matthew 22:34-46)
How outspoken ought we to be? We all struggle with this issue. Should we speak our mind or hold our tongues? Some societies are very outspoken but tactless; others are tactful but filled with pretense and fake civility. Is civility always an act of love, or is it occasionally very unloving to suppress the truth under a veil of phony politeness? If someone flattered you with insincere words designed to trap you, how would you answer them? Beginning in Matthew 22:15, the Pharisees tried to sweet-talk Jesus by calling him an honest and impartial man. What would you have said? Would you have given a courteous reply or an outspoken one? Jesus was forthright in his answer. He did not mince words, nor get entangled in polite pretense. His reply was, “You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trick me?”
A false dilemma is a predicament that implies that there are only two choices. It is also called a false dichotomy, suggesting that we may only choose from two answers. The two choices may not be mutually exclusive. They may both be right or wrong at times. Politics may pretend there is no alternative or that truth is only on one side. Not every choice between two alternatives is a false one. Both choices may be right, both wrong, or one right and the other wrong. In Matthew 22:17 the Pharisees’ disciples tried to trick Jesus by putting forth a false dichotomy – pay taxes to Caesar or not. The lesson for us is that the truth in a false dilemma sometimes lies in a third option: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.
What is our duty to country? Is it right to mix Christianity and national idolatry! Would God want us to make an idol of country? What is the balance? Why does love for country so often seem to automatically extend to bigotry, jingoism, and xenophobia? What ought to be a Christian approach to national duty? In Matthew 22:21 Jesus was asked if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar. His answer came in the context of idolatrous Roman Emperor Worship. To the Jews Caesar’s image on a coin was very offensive. Yet, paying Caesar his paltry tax was a rather insignificant claim in comparison to God’s claim. God required their entire lives. That is the difference. So, when it comes to duty to country, Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.
|Jesus and Empire|
|Jesus and Empire|
|Render to Caesar|
|Health Security for All:|
Dreams of Universal
Health Care in America
|What does God|
want from Me
|Acts of Conscience:|
Christian Nonviolence and
Modern American Democracy
Managing the Growing Risk of
Fraud and Corruption
|How to Win Friends|
and Influence People
|Watch Your Mouth:|
of Our Words
|Render Unto God:|
and Pastoral Theology
The parable of the wedding banquet reveals that many are invited but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14). This parable reveals heaven as a selection process in two stages: 1) the invitation and 2) being chosen. It also reveals two steps to being chosen: 1) accept the invitation and 2) wear the right clothing. It is no use just going to a weekly celebration of salvation. Faithful church attendance alone is not enough. We must put on Christ or clothe ourselves with him (Romans 13:14). When we are baptized we put on Christ (Galatians 3:27). Salvation is possible in Jesus Christ and those who ultimately refuse him refuse salvation. I say “ultimately” because some may have never even heard the truth about him and may only have an opportunity to even know who he really is later on.
Common views of hell see it as a place of fire and sulfur or eternal darkness. One view is of eternal suffering in fire. Another is of a lake of fire where people are thrown and burned up to become ashes under the feet of the righteous. Other Bible verses seem to describe people separated from God forever, cast into outer darkness, crying and grating their teeth (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Jude 13). Does God cause their agony or is it the result of their own sins and the absence of God’s blessings? Does black darkness contradict bright fire, or are both metaphors picturing a horrible destination? Some have even tried to harmonize fire and darkness as “black fire.” Was that even the intent of the original writings? Bottom line: Don’t choose hell.
Many people don’t enjoy royal weddings. They seem like shallow affairs of families who got their power by the plunder of the weak and helpless. Sycophants paying fawning attention to a selfish, wealthy elite can be a complete turn off. Many of us may have difficulties with the picture of the kingdom of God being like a royal wedding in Matthew 22:2. We may even understand why some people shrugged their shoulders making light of the invitation. When Jesus spoke this parable, royalty had an even worse reputation than it does today. Royals terribly abused the citizens they were supposed to be serving. Yet, unlike most royalty in all human history, this was no invitation from a self-serving king to a list of snobs, but an open invitation from a self-sacrificing king who would die to save his people.
|So You Don't Want|
to Go to Church Anymore
Some people rarely or never go to church. What’s wrong with that you may ask? Is the habit of avoiding church, with obvious exceptions for the sick and elderly, a bad one? Is it not an invitation to a heavenly celebration? In the parable of the wedding feast the king became very angry with those who refused his invitation (Matthew 22:7). How long will we go on refusing God’s invitation? We have many excuses to avoid church attendance: people or musical style we don’t like, preaching, rituals, being with fellow hypocrites, or getting out of bed. Has not God invited us or is church just a club? The greatest wedding of all history is being celebrated. It is our choice to attend or not and it is God’s choice to act upon our decision. Will we accept God’s invitation?