Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Seventh Grade Bible Study: Matthew Chapter 7

Judging others (1-5): Jesus doesn’t mean that we can never admit that other people have faults, or do bad things. Heck, he even says that once we’ve admitted our own faults, we can see our brother’s faults more clearly -- and help him more effectively. But we may not judge. So what is judging, exactly? Jesus gives us a clue when he says that the measure with which you measure will be measured back to you. God has the authority to judge, and what measure does he use with us? Mercy, of course -- complete self-giving mercy. Mercy gives us the ability to see clearly -- to be the “pure in heart” who see God. When we think we have the authority to pronounce a person “good” or “bad” (even if only in our thoughts), we need to consider whether we would be willing to sacrifice ourselves for them, like Jesus did for us. If not, we should leave judgment to him.

St. Paul says that he doesn’t judge anyone, even himself. So this applies to ourselves as well! We’re not the final authorities on whether we’re a “bad person” or a “good person”, because we are not made to be able to see ourselves in our entirety from the inside. We need the help of God -- and the insight of others, once they’ve removed the plank from their own eye!

Pearls before Swine (6): Aren’t we supposed to evangelize everyone? Why does Jesus tell us not to give what is holy to dogs? 

Just as we’re not fully qualified to judge, we also aren’t fully qualified to save other people from their sins. Only Jesus can do that. We can share his message, through our words and through our lives, but we can’t force salvation on other people. Change happens first in the heart. If we keep trying to force holiness on other people, we’re only setting them -- and ourselves -- up for failure. We don’t give holiness; God gives holiness. Do what Jesus tells you to do, and he will work in others -- even the dogs. It’s not our business to stand over people’s shoulders and see if they’re changed by our words and example. We may never see the effects of our witness. And that’s okay, because it’s God’s business, not ours.

The Answer to Prayers (7-11): Well, if we’re supposed to ask, why does it seem like we don’t get what we want? One clue is in verse 11: “how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” What comes from God must always be good, even if, to our earth-bound eyes, it doesn’t seem so. Sometimes what we ask for is not good. Or it is good, but not for us right now. Or we ask for reasons that are not good. Your parents want you to eat healthy food, and they want to give you a feast, but they’re not going to give you a Thanksgiving dinner while you’re driving on the highway, no matter how hard you plead. 

What if we don’t know if what we’re praying for is a good thing for us? Well, it doesn’t hurt to ask, does it? God tells us to ask him! So, ask. And ask him to show you if what you want is good. And ask him to give you good desires, and to give you what he knows is good for you.

The Golden Rule (12): Notice that doing to others what you want them to do to you is “the law and the prophets”. As we’ve seen throughout the Bible, the law and the prophets aren’t enough to get us to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus calls us beyond the mere demands of the law. Now we are to do to others what we would have God do to us. That’s next level. 

The Narrow Gate (13-14): Jesus doesn’t say that the gate is hard to find, or that it’s hard to open, or that it’s hard to get through. He says it is narrow. And he also says, in John 10:9, that he is the gate. There is one, and only one, way to eternal life, and that is Jesus himself. There are a lot of ways that lead to destruction -- anything that leads you away from Jesus will take you there. But the road to life must lead through Jesus. There is no other way.

False prophets (15-20): Right after telling us that he is the only way, Jesus goes on to talk about false prophets, people who promise some kind of salvation. He tells us to use our judgment -- not on the person themselves, but on their fruit, which he gives us full permission to examine. And we must examine carefully! A good tree cannot bear rotten fruit. Do you know of someone who seems to bear good fruit in public, but whose private life is rotten? We are called to have integrity in every part of our lives, especially in the smallest details. Remember what Jesus says about the mustard seed, the tiniest seed, which grows into the hugest shrub (Matthew 13:31-32). In the kingdom of heaven, the small hidden deeds are the most important. Don’t be fooled by flashy trees with attractive, rotten fruit!

The true disciple (21-23): This follows from Jesus’s words above about false prophets and rotten fruit. Lots of people claim to be followers of Jesus. Lots of people have big public ministries, or live loud Christian lives, or talk a lot about religion. But talking about Jesus isn’t the same as knowing him. Who enters the kingdom of heaven? “Only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Clearly there’s more to doing the will of God than the big showy deeds Jesus lays out here. And where do we start doing the will of God? First, in our hearts, when we withdraw to our inner chamber to be with him (Matthew 6:6). Start small! God doesn’t actually need our big deeds, but he wants our smallest actions.

And notice: the people who did big deeds in his name, without doing his will, are called “evildoers”. That, from the one who is qualified to judge, is a frightening judgment. We do evil when we live a big public Christian life without carrying it through to our private life. 

The Two Foundations (24-27): The foundation of a house is generally hidden. So both of the houses might look exactly alike! But the entire house rests on what is unseen. The foundation may be humble because it is close to the ground, but it’s also the strongest part of the house. And when the house is put to the test by storms, the foundation is revealed, both literally by the winds and rain, and in the way the rest of the house behaves. Our true strengths and weaknesses are revealed by trials and suffering. 

Verse 28: “The crowds were astonished” at Jesus’s teaching because he teaches with authority. He isn’t offering his opinion, or another interpretation of the law. He is revealing truth -- “what has laid hidden from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 13:35).

Are you astonished at Jesus’s teaching? If not, why? Is it too familiar by now? Try practicing what he says, and see if it bears astonishing fruit in your life.

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