The Sermon on the Plain: Happy are YOU

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From Mother Jones: “How We Won—and Lost—the War on Poverty, in 6 Charts” from 2014. Click image for article.

Jesus raised his eyes to his disciples and said:

“Happy are you who are poor,
    because God’s kingdom is yours.
Happy are you who hunger now,
    because you will be satisfied.
Happy are you who weep now,
    because you will laugh.

Happy are you when people hate you, reject you, insult you, and condemn your name as evil because of the Human One. Rejoice when that happens! Leap for joy because you have a great reward in heaven. Their ancestors did the same things to the prophets. (Luke 6:20-23, CEB)

There is so much here.

  • If you remember Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, you may remember Jesus saying, “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the Kingdom of [the heavens] is theirs.” Luke says, “Happy are you poor… because God’s kingdom is yours.” Luke’s Jesus is not talking hypotheticals or in third person. Jesus addresses his listeners directly. There is a world of contextual difference between “theirs is the kin-dom” and “yours is the kin-dom.”  
  • Matthew’s Jesus (Sermon on the Mount) first talks about the “poor in spirit,” which the CEB translates as “hopeless.” But Luke’s Jesus (Sermon on the Plain) isn’t talking about “poor in spirit,” just “poor.” As in, cash poor.  
  • Matthew’s Jesus talks about “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Luke’s Jesus talks about “hunger.” As in, empty belly, weak knees, and lightheaded. This is not metaphorical hunger, but poverty-related hunger.  
  • All of this makes Jesus’s solidarity with the poor and oppressed much more concrete. Luke’s Jesus is about liberation and good news for the poor. We Americans cannot spiritualize it or talk about metaphorical poverty. We cannot preach to comfortable middle- and upper-class people about how wealth is morally neutral, and that Jesus was just concerned about the state of people’s hearts. Jesus is talking about class and oppression here.  
  • Later on, when Luke writes Acts, he will talk about how the early church sold and gave away much of their material possessions in order to share things in common and meet collective needs. Luke’s Jesus and Luke’s church is concerned about the material conditions of human pain and prosperity.
     
  • Luke’s Jesus says “Happy are you who weep now, because you will laugh.” I love this active, concrete verb, laugh. By contrast, Matthew’s Jesus says of mourners, “they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Hear the difference?  
  • Luke’s Jesus also adds the word now. “You who hunger now, you who weep now.” The added emphasis indicates Jesus thinks this is a temporary state. A Great Reversal is coming.  
  • As in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus concludes his “happy” section with “Happy are y’all when you are harassed and vilified.” And as there, the implication is that the people he is talking to, his students and followers, are like one of the ancient prophetic guilds. We are a community of prophets.  
  • I love the way the Common English Bible translates “The Human One.” The traditional way of rendering the phrase is “Son of Man,” but that sounds too patriarchal to modern ears and it misses the power of the term. “The Human One” is the one who is coming into the world who manifests what God intended human beings to be. Jesus is the next step in our evolution, the one who demonstrates the fulfillment of being made “in the image of God.”  
  • Christians are used to referring to Jesus as the Son of God, but “Son of God” was a term used mostly for pagan emperors. Jesus’s own preferred term for himself is Son of Man or “The Human One.” I wonder how much of our theology would change if we followed Jesus as The Human One. Adam and Eve—and most religious folks—try very hard to be more like God. Jesus invites us to be more Human.  
  • In comparing Luke and Matthew’s version of the sermon, I honestly do not have a preference for one over the other. They both have nuance and power. My favorite one is whichever I am reading at the moment.

Prayer:
Lord of Love and Life, how do suffering and happiness coexist? Teach me solidarity with my siblings so that I may be truly happy. 

The Sermon on the Plain: The Setting

Gorge_Amphitheatre

Jesus came down from the mountain with them and stood on a large area of level ground. A great company of his disciples and a huge crowd of people from all around Judea and Jerusalem and the area around Tyre and Sidon joined him there. They came to hear him and to be healed from their diseases, and those bothered by unclean spirits were healed. The whole crowd wanted to touch him, because power was going out from him and he was healing everyone.

Jesus raised his eyes to his disciples and said…
(Luke 6:12-20a, CEB)

What time of day is it? Probably mid-morning. Jesus has spent all night praying, and made his important choice of apostles at dawn. Then he comes down the mountain to a “large area of level ground,” and a huge crowd of disciples and people seeking healing gather around.

This monologue is often called “The Sermon on the Plain,” in contrast with Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount,” but I suspect these are both true descriptions. People in Jesus’s day did not have microphones and loudspeakers, but they understood acoustics and the practice of speaking to large crowds. The Greeks had built amphitheaters all over their empire three hundred years earlier, so everyone knew that the optimal arrangement for public speaking is a bowl-shaped hollow.

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Me, at a 2nd century amphitheater in Jerash, Jordan

If Jesus is on top of a mountain, speaking down to a crowd, his words will be lost in the wind. But you can find bowl-shaped places today around Galilee that are perfect for speaking to large groups. One famous Bible story has Jesus preaching from a boat to a crowd on the shore. I’ve seen the traditional place with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears. It makes perfect sense if you are familiar with how sound can carry over the water, especially if there is a wall or natural amphitheater behind you to reflect the sound. In both the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain, I suspect Jesus found an optimal natural amphitheater, where he could speak up to the gathered crowds—not down to them.

This is why it says he “raised his eyes to his disciples.” He was literally looking up at them.

I think this visual image is important, because it is a sharp contrast to the way modern public speaking happens. Our pulpits and stages are usually above the gathered audience, and the speaker is literally speaking down to us. This is only practical in modern buildings with electronic amplification. In old churches and cathedrals, they used domes or vaults of stone to create an artificial amphitheater over the heads of the congregation.

So in the great outdoors? I picture Jesus speaking up to his disciples and the gathered crowds. He looks tiny down there, one person among our many. He looks so… human. Like anyone else. Like one of us. So when he opens his mouth and the first words are “Happy are you who are poor,” I get chill bumps.

Prayer:
Incarnate One, thank you for coming down to our level and being one of us.

The Sermon on the Plain: The Audience

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During that time, Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night long. At daybreak, he called together his disciples. He chose twelve of them whom he called apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter; his brother Andrew; James; John; Philip; Bartholomew; Matthew; Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus; Simon, who was called a zealot; Judas the son of James; and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Jesus came down from the mountain with them and stood on a large area of level ground. A great company of his disciples and a huge crowd of people from all around Judea and Jerusalem and the area around Tyre and Sidon joined him there. They came to hear him and to be healed from their diseases, and those bothered by unclean spirits were healed. The whole crowd wanted to touch him, because power was going out from him and he was healing everyone.

Jesus raised his eyes to his disciples and said…
(Luke 6:12-20a, CEB)

There is a lot going on in these two paragraphs, so we’ll spend a couple of days here. Today we’ll look at the audience.

Jesus has three audiences for his sermon. The first is his disciples. Not just the twelve who are named, but an unspecified large number of his disciples: a “great company” of them, in fact. Of these, Jesus chooses twelve whom he calls apostles (which means messengers, literally “sent ones”). These VIPs of the disciples are his second audience. (More on this in a minute.) The third audience is a “huge crowd” of people from all around who came to hear his teaching and be healed.

As in the Sermon on the Mount, we see Jesus has an indirect teaching style. He “raises his eyes to his disciples” before he starts talking. This teaching is meant for them, but the crowds get to learn by overhearing. So do we. Luke implicitly invites us to imagine which group we are standing in.

The night before this powerful sermon, Jesus spends all night in prayer. Was he praying about who to choose to be his twelve “sent ones?” The apostles are important to Luke. Luke uses the word more than any other gospel. It only occurs a couple of times in Matthew and Mark. Luke even goes on to write the Acts of the Apostles.

Here’s a note on why translations make a difference: Luke is a cheerleader for the apostles. Mark seems more skeptical of their set-apart status. But if you read Mark in the CEB (Common English Bible) translation, you’ll find that the translators insert the word “apostles” where it doesn’t actually occur in the Greek. The translators do this for clarity’s sake, but I think it obscures the difference between Mark and Luke’s opinion of Jesus’s students. 

For Luke’s Jesus, dawn brings a momentous decision. He calls the great crowd of his disciples together and picks his twelve. These messengers are going to carry Jesus’s Good News when he is gone, and this Sermon on the Plain is his first public lesson for them.

So to recap:

  • Jesus has already been in ministry, and tension is building between the way he and his disciples act versus the way other religious leaders and their students
  • Jesus has spent all night in prayer and chosen twelve to be his appointed messengers (apostles).
  • This is his first public event after picking his new leaders.
  • Jesus teaches them in full view of the crowds.

The characters are all in place. Tomorrow we’ll look at the setting.

Prayer:
Here I am, Lord; I am willing to be taught and sent.

The Sermon on the Plain: The Backstory

Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Disciples_Eat_Wheat_on_the_Sabbath_(Les_disciples_mangent_du_blé_au_sabbat)_-_James_Tissot_-_overall

In Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, Jesus doesn’t talk about hypocrisy explicitly as he does in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. But “acting religious” is still in the background. Just before Jesus delivers his sermon, he has two disputes with religious leaders. In the first, the religious leaders complain to Jesus because they saw his disciples pick some heads of grain on the Sabbath (Luke 6:1-5). They seem to say, “Jesus! What in the world are you teaching your followers?” In the second, they go after Jesus himself, because he heals someone on the Sabbath (Luke 6:6-11).

Jesus delivers his Sermon on the Plain against this background. He knows the religious authorities find him offensive. He wants to impart to his disciples how they are supposed to be different from typical religious people. Jesus seems to be saying to religious leaders, “I wish y’all cared as much about human beings as you do about being right!”

Two reflections on this:

  • One of Christianity’s enduring problems is anti-Jewishness. Even though Jesus was a Jew, and all of his first followers were Jews, and even though the Hebrew Bible is largest part of our Bible, many Christians still traffic in antisemitic stereotypes and speak disparagingly of Judaism. Christians still use the word “Pharisee” to describe religious hypocrites, for example, unaware that such use is offensive to modern Jews.

    I try to use the phrase “religious leaders” instead, because hypocrisy—or “acting religious”—is just as much a problem for Christians as anyone else!
     

  • We are in the middle of a Reformation today. Many public religious leaders have revealed themselves to be nothing more than political climbers who “act religious.” People who have left the church in disgust have done so not because they dislike Jesus and his teachings, but because they see so much of the institutional church is against Jesus’s teachings and way of life.

    I have seen this thrown into sharpest relief a) politically, in the election and support of Donald Trump by white evangelicals, and b) theologically, in the schism of the United Methodist Church. “Acting religious” has seldom been as obviously harmful to human beings, to organized religion, and to the health of the planet. Again, this is not a Jewish problem. This is a Christian problem, and a problem with religion in general: “I wish y’all cared as much about human beings as you do about being right!”

So when Luke’s Jesus delivers his version of the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Plain, we hear an explicit contrast: “Happy are you who are poor, because God’s kingdom is yours,” but “how terrible for you who are rich, because you have already received your comfort” (Luke 6:20, 24).

I can’t think of a message the church needs to hear more right now. God is not pleased with the status quo, with people “acting religious” while supporting policies that make the rich richer and the poor poorer. People who act religious worry about nominal protocol violations or gay marriage. People who follow Christ have other priorities.

Prayer:
God in whose image we are made, help me to love people more than people’s praise.

The Sermon on the Plain: Contradictory Gospels

Critical and Devotional Readings
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Matthew has a Sermon on the Mount. Luke has a Sermon on the Plain: “Jesus came down from the mountain with them and stood on a large area of level ground” (Luke 6:17).

If you pick up Luke’s story from this point, you will hear Jesus say many of the same words in Matthew’s story, only slightly different. In one story he’s sitting down on a mountain. In the other, he’s standing on a level place. What gives?

One preacher I knew asserted that Jesus, like any good preacher, re-preached his sermons. This preacher harmonized the differences by claiming that these are two separate events. This is certainly a reasonable theory. I’ve heard amazing speakers reuse their material.

But most scholars of the Bible have a different theory. It’s unlikely that Jesus had a stenographer among his disciples, furiously scribbling down everything he said. It’s more likely that someone compiled a list of “Jesus sayings,” and that Matthew and Luke both reconstructed their stories around these sayings. This hypothetical “sayings gospel” has been lost to history. Scholars refer to it as “Q,” which stands for source in German (quelle). 

Some literalist Christians are shaken when they learn that the gospels were not beamed directly by the Holy Spirit into the authors’ heads, guiding their hands regarding historical accuracy, and that there may be contradictions or discrepancies in the authors’ accounts.

I’m not a literalist, so I LOVE the contradictions. I love seeing the way different people see Jesus differently. The early Christians had the chance to compile all four gospels into one consistent account, and they rejected that option. They wanted a diversity of perspectives! For me, that is a far more “inspired” view of scripture than boring, artificial consistency.

So when I read the Sermon on the Plain and compare it to the Sermon on the Mount, part of what gets revealed is how Matthew and Luke see Jesus differently. And their different perspectives have direct implications for how we view Jesus today.

Any good story requires a bit of background. We’ll look at that tomorrow.

Prayer:
Great Mystery, play with us in paradox.

Weird Easter Stories

The resurrection account in the gospel of Matthew has two stories that we don’t usually include on Easter morning, because they are so weird. These are stories only found in Matthew.

The gospels don’t all agree on the details of the resurrection, and the discrepancy causes distress in some people. But I think we have four gospels for a reason. The early authors and editors had the chance to harmonize them and make them consistent, and they resisted that temptation. That diversity of perspective and opinion was important to the early church. The differences are important because they all have something different to say. (I doubt very much that the contemporary church would be as willing to live with the contradictions if it were compiling the Bible today. Some religious people like things tidy and don’t tolerate questions very well.)

One weird story in Matthew involves soldiers. Matthew gives us this absurd situation where soldiers are assigned to guard a dead man at the tomb to prevent the disciples from stealing Jesus’s body and claiming he has been resurrected. I think Matthew includes this story not so much to discredit the doubters, but to point out the ridiculous lengths the state goes through in order to maintain its power of death. The fear of death is important in order for the Empire to maintain control. But the death-dealing state is no match for the power of resurrection.

Listen, Kay Ivey. Listen, America.

The other weird story in Matthew is that Jesus is not the only dead person who gets up. Matthew includes this little detail about other people being resurrected with Jesus and appearing to people in the days afterward. I think Matthew includes this because resurrection is isn’t just about Jesus and our hope for the future—it’s about how resurrection *changes our relationship to history.*

What does it mean if ALL those unjustly killed get back up? What if those who have been lynched and executed show up at the doors of their murderers? What if the prophets stand up, shake off the dust, and start roaming the streets again?

What if our ancestors could show up at our door at any time?

Too many Christians and non-Christians think resurrection is about wish-fulfillment, about life after death and going to heaven when we die.

The Good News of resurrection is a thunderclap. It is a recognition that the merchants of death in our society are bankrupt, and that what society thinks is dead and buried has only begun to make itself known.

Good Friday is All Around Us

It is ironic that we who are not incarcerated usually spend Good Friday in beautiful churches instead of sparse execution chambers. I wish the people of God would crowd into prisons to mark the occasion instead. We certainly have enough of them in the America; more than anywhere else in the world.

So it is fitting that we are stuck at home. Imprisoned, as it were, though most of us are freer and more comfortable than our siblings who are in prison.

Remember, it was religious leaders allied with the state who executed Jesus. Institutional religion defended itself against reform, and militaristic government defended itself against revolution. Both collaborated to put Jesus on the cross, much the same way politicians and religious leaders collaborate today. This is why some churches put flags in their sanctuaries, and why some politicians want scriptures on the walls of courthouses.

I am sorry that Christians are not able to gather in sanctuaries for Holy Week, to tell the story of Jesus’s last supper with his disciples and the way he was mocked and killed by our leaders. I miss the drama of sanctuary choirs and tenebrae services of light and shadow.

But the story we tell is being acted out on a global stage, as religion and politics scramble to cover their nakedness with fig leaves, to hide from God and the public view that their power is based on fiction. The crucifixion unmasked the sin of humanity, as this pandemic does. Suffering exposes that so much of human suffering is manufactured, the punishment we inflict upon ourselves and the innocent in order to maintain the status quo.

Good Friday is only “good” insofar as it is a revelation of the way God works among us. We nail Christ naked on the cross, but it is our whole system of deciding who “deserves” life and death that is exposed, naked and shameful. This is the sin we see most clearly, we who are willing to let some die to save the economy. “It is better that one man die than the whole nation perish,” was the logic of the day.

We tell the story even as our leaders deny they know Jesus every day, but we blame *Peter* for saving his own skin. We blame Judas for selling out his friend for 30 pieces of silver, but we won’t provide health care to the most vulnerable. We blame Pilate for washing his hands, but Alabama just executed a man who didn’t pull a trigger, not for the sake of justice, but to preserve its own system of executions. “We have to do this,” went the reasoning, “or else we wouldn’t be able to execute ANYbody.” Our governor and the Supreme Court washed their hands and walked away.

We don’t need to gather in church buildings to celebrate Good Friday. Good Friday is all around us.

Lent, Day 26 — Judging

Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
Judging

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
(Matthew 7:1-5, NRSV)

  1. Jesus turns from how we should live for today to how we relate to each other.
  2. Again, Jesus indicates that forgiveness and judgment are reciprocal: what we deal out comes back to us. As I’ve said, I don’t think that God is keeping score in a ledger. Instead, we are opening or closing ourselves off to grace when we let other people be. Can you see how this relates to “letting tomorrow worry about itself?”
  3. We have such a need to be seen as superior to others that we try to recruit God into our scheme. This is also rooted in our fear of the future and in our own insecurity.
  4. Jesus notes a tendency we know to be true: we recognize and hate in others what is true about ourselves. Whenever we encounter someone whose activity grates on us, it is because there is something unresolved in us. Often the people who annoy us most are the kinds of people we are trying very hard (and often failing) not to be. That’s why our neighbor’s splinter bothers us more than our own log or beam.
  5. How many virulently sex-negative and anti-gay politicians and preachers have been caught in affairs? How often does our president condemn corruption? Judging others is often a form of projection. I see it everywhere because it is true of me.
  6. And yet even here we need to recognize: what we most dislike in these public figures is what we dislike in ourselves. Why does the president’s behavior get under my skin? Is it because I remember all the times I’ve been caught and embarrassed in my own lies? Or is it because he gets away with it?
  7. I’ve switched back to the New Revised Standard Version here for one reason: Jesus uses the word hypocrite, actor, again. It’s a call back to the last chapter about giving, praying, and fasting. But in this case, we’re not necessarily acting for the approval of others. Who are we acting for? We put on an act for ourselves. We need to see ourselves as righteous. But we cannot see the log in our own eye. Our self-image is important to us.
  8. The phrases “virtue signaling” and “moral licensing” are modern terms that describe a) how we try to appear virtuous to others and b) how we “let ourselves off the hook” with minor infractions if we think of ourselves as generally good people. Jesus is rounding out his description of hypocrisy here. Religious actors are ones who keep up a front not only to look good to others, but to convince themselves of their own righteousness.
  9. But Jesus isn’t done yet. He’s got something important to add to this mix. We’ll look at it tomorrow.

Lent, Day 25 — Recap of Chapters 5 & 6

Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
Recap of Chapters 5 & 6

We’ve read through two chapters of the Sermon on the Mount, and we are a little over half way to Easter. This is a good time to pause and summarize. See if you can follow the thread of what Jesus is saying in what we’ve covered so far.

  1. This Sermon on the Mount is a spiritual manifesto, a charter for the community that Jesus wants to create. For the first decades of its existence, this community was simply called “The Way.” Jesus is setting out The Way in these verses.
  2. This called-out community (ekklesia, or church) is to live with an unearthly happiness, as a prophetic community (Matthew 5:1-16).
  3. They are not throwing the Bible out of the window (5:17-20), though fundamentalists may be jealous of their freedom. Instead, they are letting their attitudes and relationships be shaped by a deeper reality to which the Biblical rules are pointing. Jesus is not lowering the bar; he is raising it (Matthew 5:21-42).
  4. All of the law and prophets point to the ethic of impartial love (5:43-48) for all people and for all creation. We are meant to love completely, and are fulfilled as humans when we do.
  5. Complete love means we don’t perform religiosity for social acceptance. Giving, praying, and fasting are between us and God. We are neither like the religious hypocrites nor like those who do not know God (6:1-18).
  6. Because we are one with all of humanity, we recognize that grace and forgiveness is the only thing that sustains us. We must free ourselves from karma—we cannot function on a theology of deserving (6:12-15).
  7. Attachment to wealth is a trap. Our relationship to money can distort our hearts, our perception, and our relationship to God. It can skew our vision of the world, and compromise our inner light (6:19-24).
  8. Our attachment to money is not simply greed; it is a symptom of our fear. By keeping our attention on the present moment and the life around us, we can free ourselves from worry about the future (6:25-34).

Since so much of what Jesus is saying is about attitudes, thinking, and emotions, we often hear these words as if they are addressed to us as individuals. Certainly Jesus means all of this to apply individually. But all of these instructions are also supposed to be characteristics of the community as a whole. When he describes conventional “being nice,” Jesus asks, “Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? (5:46-47). Y’all are supposed to be different, Jesus implies—not to get praise from others (6:1), but to shine a light into the world (5:16), the way God’s sun (and love) shines on everyone regardless of who they are (5:45-48).

Jesus doesn’t describe how we should implement these ideas. He leaves the details up to us.

I recommend going back and reading the first two chapters again. As you read, ponder the fact that Mahatma Gandhi said he read the Sermon on the Mount every day. What do you think he saw in it that brought him back so often?

Lent, Day 24 — Living at Peace in the Moment

Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
Living at Peace in the Moment

Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith? Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
(Matthew 6:25-34 CEB)

  1. Reading this passage is like medicine. If there’s one thing that characterizes modern life, it’s worry. I can’t help but wonder at how much life has changed in two thousand years, to consider that our worries are both like and unlike theirs: famine, war, the daily struggle to stay alive. Yet the advice doesn’t change.
  2. Part of me wants to rebel against these words. “What are you talking about, Jesus? Lilies and birds!? People have bills to pay! People are chronically hungry!” But deep down, I know he’s right.
  3. Let’s pick up the thread: Jesus is talking to his students (including us). He’s told them they will be a prophetic community. He tells them he’s raising the bar on scripture, not lowering it; that we need a transformation that is heart-deep. He tells them it’s not about seeking social or religious approval. And he has just finished telling them life is not about acquiring stuff.
  4. He has just been talking about money and our relationship to it. He said a) our hearts follow our treasures, b) we need clear eyes to aid our inner light, and c) we wind up serving either God or money.
  5. But Jesus recognizes our relationship to money is not just motivated by greed. It’s motivated by fear. Jesus is not being judge-y, wagging his finger at our materialism. He knows we’re scared. We seek money because we seek security. It’s a hedge against all the bad things that could happen to us in the future.
  6. “Gentiles long for all these things.” Jesus has told us several times not to be like those who do not understand the character of God, both the Gentiles and the religious leaders. This is a reminder he is speaking to a prophetic community. “Y’all are supposed to be different!” he says, speaking to his Jewish contemporaries.
  7. “Your heavenly Father knows you need them.” Jesus seems to understand Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: water, food, clothing, shelter. But generally speaking, there is plenty of all of it to go around. If nobody was hoarding, there would be no poverty. “Live simply so that others may simply live” is a quote variously attributed to Mahatma Gandhi and to Mother Seton.
  8. “Stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has trouble enough of its own.” This is a great truth in all wisdom traditions. Buddhism and Hinduism make meditating on the present moment, on your own breath, a daily practice.
  9. This is a transformative truth. Once we realize that God is always calling us to the present moment, we have courage to do what needs to be done. It isn’t even courage, actually. It is simply the path presented to us. Those who walk it do not feel particularly brave. They simply recognize the present moment is all they really have.
  10. A people who lived this truth would be dangerous.