You are Invited!

Today’s Bible Reading – Matthew 22 and Genesis 43 & 44

What was the best party you have ever been to? How did you get invited? What was your relationship with the host? With the guest of honor? Who else was there? What did you wear?

Or, maybe there was a party you were invited to that you didn’t make time for? Perhaps you didn’t really know the guest of honor that well so you weren’t too interested. Or maybe you were mad at the host so you stayed away? Or you figured it would be boring since they didn’t have (insert hobby/entertainment of choice). But then, come to find out – you missed out on the party of the century.

Jesus knew we like to talk about parties. Wedding receptions are particularly exciting – and royal wedding parties top the charts. So what a perfect parable and analogy for the Kingdom God is preparing. God is the King – and as host of the party he decides who to invite to this event of all events which will honor His Son – Jesus.

The guest list starts out somewhat small and elite which is very fitting for a royal party. The Jews were the first to be invited to the party. They could trace their heritage back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the fathers of the faith. But, they ignore their invite and the God who sent it. They don’t even RSVP. God sends his servants out as messengers (the prophets and those who speak for God) to remind God’s people of the graciousness of their host and the splendor of the party. But, the potential guests of the party are too deep into other things – their fields, their businesses, their homes, their selfish pursuits, their false gods. Most just ignore God’s messengers – but some decide the best way to decline the invite is through violence. In rage they attack God’s messengers, even killing some. For a time they may have thought they got away with it. But, God knows and delivers judgment.

The guests didn’t show but the party isn’t cancelled. God sends his messengers again. They hit the streets with new invitations. “Invite them all,” says the host. It no longer matters who your great great great grandfather was. It doesn’t matter who you were or what you did. Old, young, rich, poor, men, women, children, black, white, and every color in between. You are invited! And all your neighbors in the world are invited! Let the party begin.

But, wait – that’s not yet the end of the parable or God’s expectations. The host has indeed invited all and is ready to receive all into His Kingdom Party. But, you must come dressed appropriately for the party so you aren’t tossed out. No, God won’t check to see if you have a designer label – but He will check to make sure you have clothed yourself with salvation. To accept your invitation accept God’s Son as the only way to salvation. And then put on the robes of righteousness – seek to live the life that will bring glory to the Father and the Son. There are many passages that continue the analogy of being properly clothed with righteousness, not stained with sin – some are Job 29:14, Isaiah 61:10, Jude 23, Revelation 3:4 and 19:8).

The greatest party ever to come is about to begin and you and all your neighbors are invited. Don’t turn down the invite because you are mad at God or don’t know Jesus well or are busy at home and work. Accept His invitation. Come to the party. But don’t make the fatal error of trying to sneak in unprepared. Accept His Son and clothe yourself with righteousness. Make sure your neighbors know they are invited and help them select their proper attire.

And then – let the party begin!

-Marcia Railton

It’s a Trap!

Matthew 22

its a trap

In this chapter of Matthew, we see many ways in which people are trying to trap Jesus. It turns out that Jesus is a masterful logician and manages to find the perfect response to all the questions that he is faced with. Let’s look at how we can use these same tactics in our life.

The Loaded Question – Matthew 22:15-22

The first trap in this chapter is the one laid out for Jesus by a group of Pharisees and Herodians, Jews and Romans. They ask Jesus if it is right to pay taxes to Caesar. If Jesus says that you should pay taxes to Caesar than the Pharisees can come after him for collusion with the Roman government (the Jewish oppressor). If he says not to pay taxes, then the Herodians can go after him for tax evasion. This is a loaded question. It comes with certain assumptions that put the person being asked into a lose-lose situation. A common example that most people are familiar with is, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” If you answer yes, then you admit to beating your wife in the past. If you answer no, you admit to currently beating your wife. The correct way to answer a question like this, as Jesus does, is to reframe the question and tear down the underlying assumption. Essentially, he gives a non-answer. “Give to Caesar what is Caesars’ and give to God what is God’s.” He implies that you should pay taxes but also suggests that the money belongs to God in the end anyways (see psalm 24:1). He also gives the impression that he is neither for nor against the Roman government. In the same way you should respond: “I have never beaten my wife.”

Reductio Ad Absurdum – Matthew 22:23-33

The Sadducees try to get Jesus by using a logical argument called reductio ad absurdum. They took Jesus’ position, that the dead will be raised to life, and pushed it to its extreme limits to prove that it must be false. This is a technique that is often used by people outside the religious community. One example of this is when people argue for abortion. They will inevitably ask you if it is acceptable for a woman to have her baby aborted if the baby was conceived through rape. They are trying to take the pro-life position that it is wrong to kill babies in the womb and push it to an extreme example to show that the position is wrong. However, this tactic shouldn’t work on you, nor did it work on Jesus when the Sadducees tried it on him.  Jesus pointed out that their understanding of the resurrection was fundamentally flawed. They didn’t understand what would take place, that men and women will be raised to be like angels in heaven, without being given in marriage. First, he destroyed their absurd argument: men and women won’t be married at all. And secondly, he proceeded to school them on the explicit statements in the Scripture: God is the God of the living, not the dead. In the same way, you should respond to these types of arguments. First, everyone acknowledges that rape is a horrible act and the perpetrator should not go unpunished. Secondly, one sin does not elicit another; killing children is always wrong.

The False Premise – Matthew 22:34-40

Once again, the Pharisees try to trap Jesus with a question that they believe has no sufficient answer. They ask, “What is the greatest commandment?” This question can’t be answered. No matter the answer that Jesus gives, the Pharisees will not be satisfied. However, Jesus can tell that they are trying to trick him and call them out on it. He knows that the question relies on a false premise: there is a single commandment that is greatest. Jesus refuses to answer the question on their terms and gives them an unexpected response. He says that all scriptural law can be based on two commandments alone. This is a technique that I like to use when people ask me, “How can a good and just God allow children to suffer?” My response is actually quite simple and similar to Jesus’ response to the pharisees. I reject the presupposition that God allows those children to suffer and respond with “God is good and just. And people suffer.” The questioner assumes that those two statements are contradictory when they really aren’t. Rather than going along with their assumption that God is responsible for suffering, you should reject their premise outright.

-Nathaniel Johnson

matthew 22 15

 

A to Z

Psalm 119

p119-lamp-to-my-feet

Monday, January 16

If you live in the United States, you are subject to millions of laws.  There are so many laws at the federal level, that it would take lifetimes to count them all. There are possibly 20,000 regulations placed upon gun ownership.  The Internal Revenue Code is over 7,500 pages long.  There are over 300,000 expressions of criminal offenses you could possibly commit.  All of these numbers do not include the laws you must abide by at the state or local levels.  I do not tell you all of this to make you rummage through law books before every action, so you will fearfully stay at home (there might be a law against that, too), or even as some kind of backhanded political statement, but to make the simple point — even when you want to follow the law, it can be hard when there are so many.

 

“Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.  Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart — they do no wrong but follow his ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.” – Psalm 119:1-4

 

“How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word.” – Psalm 119:8

 

Psalm 119 is a reflection on the following: the laws, statutes,  precepts, and words given by God to men through an acrostic.  What is an acrostic?  You have most likely done something similar with your name at some point in your school career:

 

Artistic

Ambitious

Relaxed

Objective

Nearsighted

 

The first letter of each word spell out the theme of discussion.  By using the Hebrew Alphabet to begin each stanza, David, our author, literally covers everything from “A” to “Z” (or “Aleph” to “Taw”) to thoroughly tell about the favor or folly that comes from obeying / disobey God’s commandments.  The ABC’s of living a life for God is closely clinging to His commands – all 600+ of them given in the Torah that make up the Levitical Law? For David, yes.  Thankfully, Jesus Christ simplified the commandments to two guiding principles that encompass them all:

“‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?’ Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40

Does reducing these many laws to two make it easier to live within the law? Absolutely not.  There are no longer loopholes, gaps, or technicalities to exploit which are the reasons for chastisement of religious leaders in the time of Jesus and the ever-increasing amount of laws today.  These two laws encompass every part of our lives. A-to-Z. From Actions with our enemies to the Zeal which we have for His kingdom, these laws apply.  When we commit to following His law, we have blessing, direction, fulfillment, and hope.  Is it an easier life? No. Is it a better life? Absolutely, yes.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again:  I will obey your righteous regulations.” – Psalm 119:105-106

-Aaron Winner