New Testament in 6 months – day 14

15 Apr

Matthew 18:1-35
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me, ’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant, ’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

This chapter talks about temptation and forgiveness.

The first half talks about temptation in 2 ways. The first is about those who cause others to sin, who tempt others with things that are not Godly. Jesus particularly highlights those who would cause children to sin. He points out that those who cause others to sin would be better off dying than living to cause others to sin and then suffering the eternal consequences. Interestingly, these very words by Jesus, “thrown into eternal fire”, would suggest that those who argue that Hell is not a place of eternal torment are wrong.
The second aspect of temptation Jesus talks about is referred to using the imagery of body parts. To be clear, whilst I am fully convinced that the description was allegorical I am also fully convinced that if a person’s body part did cause them to sin then it would very much become literal as well. However, since body parts do not ave a mind of their own, I believe it will remain purely allegorical. But it does mean that we must be on our guard, as I mentioned in my last blog, for the things in our life that cause us to sin. The TV programmes that cause us to lust or be envious. The people that we might spend time with who would influence our behaviour in a negative way. The bad habits that we have that might lead us to sin. Our use of the Internet that ends with us falling short of God’s standard.
All these are things that we can cut and gouge out of our lives because they are not essential to living. In some cases it can be a precision removal, so that the particular sin is dealt with. Sometimes we need to look at removal of an entire area of our lives because our interaction with it, even at a limited level, can cause us to all short. Far better to remove a part of our life than eternally remove ourselves from God’s presence!

But then we come to forgiveness. First Jesus talks about forgiveness being offered in the form of a 3 stage raising of the issue (personally, with friends and with the church), giving opportunity for the person who is sinning to admit their sin, reject it and return to living according to God’s will. Then He comes to how we should forgive, first by telling Peter that 7 times is at least 11 times too little and then by telling a parable. And the parable is very clear. The master (God) forgives a huge debt for us so we too should be willing to forgive the debts of others, for their debts to us will never add up to the debt God has forgiven us. The lesson is clear, forgiveness is not optional in God’s Kingdom.

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