To Serve the Lord, Serve His People

(Matthew 25:31-46)

If you want to serve the Lord, serve his people. This is the message of this section of scripture. It is an important lesson and one we must remember. It is clear from this section of scripture that judgement will be based in part upon how we have treated our brethren.

The Lord has made it clear that the primary message under both the Old and New Covenants is about relationships. Firstly, it is about our relationship with God, and secondly it is about our relationship with our fellow man. In this section of scripture he shows that when we do any kindness or provide any service to one of our brethren, we are doing it to him. We serve the Lord by serving his people. The contrary also applies. When we fail to serve his people and ignore the needs of his people, we are failing to serve the Lord.

The essence of our relationship with both God and man is love. When asked by the lawyers, which was the greatest of the laws he replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40) Under the law the basis of all the commandments rested on these two: to love God and to love your neighbour.

Under the New Covenant it is the same principle underlying the teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught that we are to love one another. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8,

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;
5 it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
6 it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends

Without love towards God and our fellow man we are nothing and have nothing. Love is the basis of life and the essence of relationships, for God is love as John wrote. (1 John 4:8, 16) In 1 Corinthians 13 we see the love of God defined and described. This love is a love that is about action. It is not emotional love but action based and behavioural love. We do good things and behave with compassion and care towards those we love. When we do the things expressed in this scripture we show that we love our neighbours, brethren and our fellow man.

Likewise in this section of Matthew 25:31-46 we see that all of the things Jesus is saying to the people in this parable are based on love. He will judge his people on the basis of their love for their fellow man based upon how they treat their neighbour.  This is about action. It is about what you do, not what you say.

In Matthew 23 Jesus upbraided the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. A hypocrite is someone who speaks but does not do what they say. They say one thing and do another. They are rightly condemned for their false ways. Christians who hear the words of God and the teachings of Jesus but do nothing about them are likewise on shaky ground. He says in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:21-27;

21 “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’
23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’
24 “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock;
25 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
26 And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand;
27 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.”

The key here is not about hearing the words of God, but doing them. Acting on the teachings of Jesus so that we can grow and mature in Christ. Part of this is about how we treat our fellow man and this is the teaching being brought forth in this section of Matthew 25.

Learn what you need to know to live a life based on love. Learn the teachings of Jesus that will enable you to walk in love. And make sure that you fulfil the call of a Christian, which is to live a life of love for God by showing love towards him, Jesus and your fellow man. If you want to serve the Lord, serve his people.

Out of the Abundance of the Heart the Mouth Speaks

(Matthew 12:33-37)

Jesus makes an interesting point in this section, and it is rather at odds with some modern thinking. Here he says, “Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.” (Vs. 33) The point he is making is that people are either good or bad and you will know them by what they do.

Whatever comes out of a person defines who they are. As he said elsewhere, “…not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Matthew 15:11) In this case he was using the traditions of the Pharisees concerning the washing of hands before eating. We know there are hygiene issues today, but the Pharisees were teaching this as a doctrine and making it of greater importance than the law of God. Jesus
showed their folly and error and in his teaching made the above point. What goes into the mouth is food and it goes to the stomach and passes on. But what comes out of the mouth are the thoughts of men expressed as words and if
these are evil, that is what defiles the man. Eating with unclean hands might make you unwell, but speaking evil will cost you your life into eternity.

The words we speak and what we do are controlled by our thoughts and the passions of our flesh. These are the fruits of our minds. Thus a person who does evil bears evil fruits and a person who does good bears good fruit in the
words, deeds and behaviour. The point Jesus was making is that it is not possible for an evil person to bear good fruit and vice versa. He stated as much in the section about being aware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. (Matthew 7:15-20) In that passage Jesus also made the point that, “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:20) It is by this method we are to test for false teachers and prophets.

So if the abundance of the heart of a person is fundamentally evil, that is what will come out of them in words, deeds and behaviour. They may be able to act for a time and masquerade as being good, but in time the truth will come
out and they will be seen for what they truly are.

This position is different to much modern thinking. Today we see teachings from eastern religions about the “Yin and Yang.” This teaching says that in everything good there is some evil and in everything evil there is some good.
That is not what Jesus taught. Jesus shows that we are either one or the other. There are no halfway or part way positions. “Either make the tree good and it’s fruit goof or make the tree bad and its fruit bad.” (Vs. 33) Yin and Yang teachings are positions of compromise, but the word of God is not compromised.

If we accept compromise, how much should we accept before we are totally compromised? Jesus taught about this matter too saying, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but
if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23) What he was saying here is that if we take in evil and accept it into our thinking we will be compromised. And if the light of knowledge in us is compromised by some darkness of un-truth or lies, how dark is our understanding and where will it end? The answer is to reject all evil and not seek out the darkness but to seek the knowledge of the truth that comes from Jesus Christ and God alone.

There is a fearful prospect of judgment in this section too, for Jesus shows we will render account for every careless word we utter. If such is the case we must learn to bite our tongues and mind what we say. As James wrote, “Let
every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19) Good advice if we are to avoid this judgment of all that we say.

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Judge not that you be not Judged

(Matthew Chapter 7, Verses 1-6)

We are called to have a positive relationship with one another as brethren. In any positive relationship there is no judgement of our fellow man. At the start of this chapter Jesus points out that we are not to judge one another. The fundamental principle here is that the basis of our judgement is completely flawed for man judges according to his own perception, whereas God judges according to the heart. Man judges with only part of the facts but God judges according to the truth. Man’s judgement is clouded by a host of issues including his own limitations, biases and environment, but God looks at all things from a position of perfect knowledge and judges according to a standard based on his own perfection.

It is often said that it takes one to know one and in some measure this is what these first verses are saying. The apostle Paul spoke of this also in Romans 2:19-24 showing that in many cases those who judged others and preached about all manner of evil were actually doing the very same things themselves.
The act of judgement is not right for us to do. When we take it upon ourselves to judge another we are no longer a brother but a judge. In judging we assume a position greater than the other person and think that we are better than they are, yet we are all equal in Christ. In judging another then we assume the position of judge and the only one who has the right to judge us is God himself, so in judging we take God’s rightful position.
Furthermore, there is no-one perfect for we all suffer the same weaknesses as the rest of humanity. While the Lord is working with us and being merciful towards our faults and weaknesses, we need to be of the same mind towards our fellow brethren and show mercy towards them. We do not know at any point in time exactly which weakness a person may have that the Lord is dealing with and so it is not our position to judge. The person may have some fault we perceive and can see, but the Lord may be dealing with a deeper underlying issue that is more grave and of more importance to resolve first. The apostle John said it best in John 7:14-24 saying, “Do not judge by appearances but judge with right judgement.” Whenever you consider a matter, weigh it up not by what you think it might be from appearances but against what is right, holy and true. We are not called to judge our brethren but we do need to weigh matters and make decisions about courses of action. We may judge a deed but never judge a person for we are all beset with weaknesses and failings.
We must remember also that Jesus came to save the sinners and as Paul wrote in Romans 8:1, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” If the Lord does not condemn us, then who are we to condemn another person through judging them? We should not even judge ourselves, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, and sometimes we are our own worst critics. We put ourselves down and condemn ourselves for some foolish thing we may have done. But when we judge and condemn ourselves we are doing something worse than the action we are condemning ourselves for. Again it is not our position to judge even ourselves for judgement rests in the hands of God.
The next section in vs. 6 gives a warning saying, “…do not throw your pearls before the swine…” There is great value and reward in Christ and the teachings that will lead us to His Kingdom. But there are many people in this world who are simply not interested and indeed are hostile to Christianity. Whenever the subject of religion arises they may ridicule, abuse, deride and belittle those who are speaking of Christianity. So not only do they fail to see the benefits, they turn and attack those who are trying to give them something of value. To these people the precious gifts of knowledge of God are as worthless as dirt. They have no concept of the value of Gods word nor any desire to know it’s value. They cannot see that it can lead to a better life now and later to eternity for they are blinded to the truth of the gospel.
Jesus said that these people would exist and he has given fair warning that if we try to give them the things of God they will reject them, in some cases violently. So what is the answer? Don’t give them your gifts. Jesus has said elsewhere that where he is there is his servant also (John 12:26) and so if He is working with these people he will have the right servant speak the right words. If these people reject his words, then their judgement is upon their own heads. Why should you continue to bang your head against the wall only to be ridiculed and have your good spoken of as evil. In the final analysis the Lord said at the very end of Revelation to, “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” (Rev 22:11) Let them alone for if the Lord is working with them he will put it upon their mind to seek, and if they reject the Lord there is nothing you can do about it.