Monday, May 24, 2010

JTL Series: Revisiting Matthew, Chapter 5

Part 2 of my "Jesus the Letdown" series
  • Verses 3 - 5: Jesus blesses the poor in spirit, those who mourn, and the meek. What is wrong with this guy? His first public pronouncements endorse poverty and victimhood. Why does the Son of the Supreme Being introduce himself to humanity by admitting defeat at the hands of human nature? Why can't he say something like, "Mourning might be necessary, but poverty and slavery don't have to happen, and here's a new way to think that will eliminate them both"?
  • Verse 6: Jesus blesses "those who hunger and thirst for righteousness". I don't know, it's one thing to hunger and thirst for social justice, but another thing entirely to hunger and thirst for something stupid, like sexual virtue. Seems like he could have been clearer on this one.
  • Verse 7: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Yay! After 96 verses, the Son of God finally says something meaningful.
  • Verse 8: Blessed are the "pure in heart"? What the heck does that mean?
  • Verse 9: Blessed are the peacemakers...ok, now we're on a roll, two good ones in rapid succession.
  • Verse 10: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness...this one is pretty good if you accept that the world has to have persecutors of righteousness in it. It still seems to me that the Son of God should have brought us some new way of thinking that would eliminate or at least reduce persecution in the world.
  • Verses 11 - 12: A blessing on all who are ever persecuted because of Jesus. This is just a little too much "us and them" for me. Why wouldn't Jesus have introduced a way for people to get along, rather than inviting people with a persecution complex to become the public face of Christianity?
  • Verse 13: You are the salt of the earth...this just sounds like empty nonsense to me.
  • Verse 14: You are the light of the world...let your light shine before men, that they may see your good much for the idea of doing good deeds in secret, not letting your right hand know what the left is doing (Chapter 6 verses 1 - 4). One might think that the Son of God would be a little more clear.
  • Verse 20: For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Wow, does that ever bring back memories. When I first read this, verse, I was unaware that we had historical and archaeological accounts of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. I assumed that no one knew anything any more about these people. Now it occurs to me that the whole idea sounds wrong: it's a stereotype. In every group of people I've ever observed, there are cool people and there are jerks. Stereotyping an entire group is really simple-minded, not the sort of thing I'd expect from the Son of God.
  • Verses 21 - 22: Busted for being angry, in danger of hell for being contemptuous? Why can't the Son of God teach that anger can be healthy? And if contempt is such a terrible thing, how about some tips for the victim, on how to get over it?
  • Verses 23 - 24: Be at peace with your brother before you offer a gift at the altar. A nice sentiment. That's three worthy pronouncements so far.
  • Verses 25 - 26: Prefer to settle matters out of court; you might end up in jail yourself. Ok, that's four. Still, these four gems of wisdom are nothing that couldn't have been said by the simplest bumpkin from Galilee.
  • Verses 27 - 28: Lusting in one's heart is the same sin as adultery. Yikes. Thought crime. I would expect more from an omnipotent being.
  • Verses 29 - 30: Gouge out sinful eyes and cut off sinful hands. Brutal, even if it's supposed to be metaphorical, which isn't clear at all.
  • Verses 31 - 32: I can make my wife a sinner by divorcing her? This makes no sense at all.
  • Verses 33 - 37: Don't make oaths; just say "yes" or "no". Hmm, maybe there's some historical context that I'm missing here. This just doesn't sound like the earth-shattering sort of thing one might expect from the Son of God.
  • Verses 38 - 42: Don't resist evil, turn the other cheek, give more than you're sued for, go further than you're forced to, give and lend generously. Meh, nice enough sentiments, but really a bit ambiguous and not terribly useful advice.
  • Verses 43 - 48: Love your enemies, not just those who love you. It could have been that he meant something like, "Have compassion for everyone so you won't hate anyone." But if he meant that, why didn't he say it? As stated, he's allowing us to consider people enemies as long as we "love" them. I don't know, I just would have expected something a bit richer from the Son of God.

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