I have been reading through the Gospel of Luke, and wanted to share a few things that stuck out to me in this account of the Sermon on the Mount (6.20-49).
First, I am rightly reminded that this discourse is addressed to the disciples (vs 20), even though it is spoken in the hearing of all the people (7.1). This re-tells to me that Jesus wants to instruct those whom He calls to follow Him, his disciples. He is fully aware that we don’t really know what we are doing, so He would have us learn from His teaching and become like Him (vs 39-40).
Which leads us to the second point and purpose of this instruction: to cultivate a good, godly nature which will result in good produce.
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Before these words are uttered, Christ has already said, “Be merciful, just as your Father in heaven is merciful.” (vs 36) Matthew’s parallel story quotes Christ as saying, “Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5.43-48) I hear these words echoed over in 1 Peter 1.14-16: “As obedient Children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior…”
Jesus’ instruction here leaves me with some initial despair. Is He really saying that I should be perfect and Holy? This seems like too much because some words from an old hymn aptly describe me:
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love”
Maybe I am just spiritually immature… maybe I haven’t surrendered enough… maybe I have been wrong and really do need to obtain some spiritual key so I may find the “second work of grace”. All I know is that Jesus’ call to be perfect has always daunted me.
But, re-reading this passage now, I find the hope of instruction, not the dispare of imposable goals to be reached. I hear Jesus saying, “I want you to be of the spiritual and moral character that I am the Father are, so I am going to instruct and for you into completion (perfection)”.
It begins with honesty.
“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.”
The famous “log in the eye” phrase is not some command to rid your life of sin so that you can then rid everyone else of theirs. To think this way is to take the mantel of “savior” upon our selves. Jesus’ hyperbole teaching is meant to point His followers to the task of examining ourselves in a honest, true fashion that we might admit what our fruit really is, good or bad. How can I aid someone in their weakness if I don’t have mercy stored in my heart? And which is the bigger splinter: sexual lust and immorality or not knowing that mercy is better than sacrifice?
Completion (perfection) is measured by what we have stored in our storehouse (our hearts) from the instruction and work of Christ, not by the amount of fruit we produce. If my storehouse is being ever filled by the person, words, and actions of Christ, the fruit that blossoms from my mouth and my actions will be good, no matter the size of the harvest. Besides, God doesn’t need our harvests of righteousness; Yahweh wants us.
So, we glean from the Christ, and model ourselves after the man who built his home on solid rock. My house may not be lavish, big, luxurious, or even beautiful to see, but it is anchored, good, and perfect.