Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? (Matthew 6)

So, continuing the sermon in chapter 6, we come on a number of similar issues to what we had last chapter. In fact, I'm pretty sure we just covered the first issue, and I think the SAB is tracking with my explanation, since it marks the first several verses as "good stuff". Generally when it comes to doing good works and praying, it's good to make it a thing you aren't doing to show off. The SAB mentions school prayer and the National Day of Prayer in their note on verse 5, and I actually agree. It should be noted that prayer in public schools is not illegal, so long as one keeps it to oneself, which is the way it should be in my opinion.

On verse 9, the SAB asks the interesting question "Do Christians know how to pray?" which is another one of those odd moments when I feel it's really reaching for a contradiction, but okay. I don't think either verse is saying what the SAB is purporting it to say. The verse here in Matthew is, I suppose being an instance of instruction in how to pray, but I don't think that necessarily means that Jesus wants Christians to pray these exact words, nor does it mean that, having read this passage, one will automatically know how prayer works. On the other hand, I don't think the Romans passage is saying that people don't know how to pray, only that sometimes the exact words to say may escape someone, but that's okay, as the Holy Spirit knows what we really need even if we can't put it in words.

So, feeling a little more fresh than I was when finishing up the last chapter, I'll try to address the question of whether we are all God's children. This is a tricky one actually, as I think the Bible can play pretty loose with this issue. Let me dispense with a few of these by noting that some of these verses may say "X are the children of God" but that may not imply that "not X are not the children of God". Also, there are a lot of issues being made separate here that are not actually separate, e.g. one might want to assume that "them that believe on [Jesus'] name" and "As many as are led by the Spirit of God" refer to the same group of people. Still, there is a sense in which we are all children of God because God created the human race, as I think I touched on for a similar issue in Genesis 6, and that wasn't much clearer. I think in most of these verses, the sentiment is that spiritually you are the "children of" whatever or whomever you do the will of.

Is God's will always done in heaven? I have to hand it to the SAB for catching these slightly less-than-obvious details, but I don't think this will float. Verse 10 doesn't say "always", and while I don't think it would be wrong to assume that it's generally the case that God's will is done in heaven, the fact there was an exception to the rule doesn't make the rule wrong.

While I understand that the wording of verse 13 might lead one to question whether God tempts people, I don't think this verse in particular is meant to say that. I think the idea here is asking God to keep us from temptation, not that God would tempt us if we failed to ask, but that we may ask God for further protection from temptation that might come from other sources.

I find it interesting that the SAB marks verse 15 with "injustice" and then comments "Fair is fair!" I'm not sure what point was being made there, but yes, it does seem rather fair, and I think it's a principle that some Christians have lost sight of: if God has forgiven our sins, then what place do we have to be unforgiving?

Verse 23 is marked as absurdity, and I'll have to admit here I don't know what this verse means; it does sound rather odd.

In verse 26, Jesus makes an odd comparison between people and birds. The SAB points out that birds don't have it quite so good as Jesus seems to be making it out to be. While I suppose it's technically right about this, there's something to be said (for better or worse) about how bad people have it anyway. Back in the first century, the life expectancy was pretty low, and this was largely due to infant mortality. I suppose the real point here is that the average human doesn't live as carefree a life as a bird, but even though, birds that do manage to live a good healthy life do so without having struggles that people do. And I don't think Jesus is saying that birds don't matter, he's just saying that they matter considerably less than humans do.

I don't think that the last few verses are Jesus saying that one should simply not care in any way about material things. In fact, I don't think I even need to appeal to hyperbole as I did in most of the points earlier to say that this is merely a matter of comparison, that is, Jesus is saying that material things should be less of a consideration than spiritual matters.

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