We all need a Doctor (Mt 9:9-13)

We all need a Doctor (Mt 9:9-13)

In Matthew chapter 9:9-13 we read,

"Passing along, Jesus saw a man at his work collecting taxes. His name was Matthew. Jesus said, “Come along with me.” Matthew stood up and followed him. Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?” Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” (MSG)

A physician (what we call a doctor) is defined as a professional who practices medicine, who is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury, and other physical and mental impairments.

In order for a person to be truly healthy, there is an important word in the above definition that is missing.  Something that our healthcare professionals can't diagnose or recommend a medicine for.

The word that is missing is "spiritual".

Jesus (who is also called "the great Physician") is what I would call a "spiritual" doctor.  I want to focus on the word spiritual because even though Jesus did heal physical ailments (as seen in the beginning of chapter 9), his primary focus was on the renewal & restoration of a person's heart, which effects their behavior and their relationship/identity with God. 

In Matthew 9:9-13, we see several examples of this. 

First we have Matthew who is noted as being a tax collector.  This doesn't mean he was like a modern day IRS agent.  Matthew was a Jew who was working (probably forcefully) for the Roman government as a tax collector.  The Romans were oppressive to the Jews and taxed them heavily.  Not only that, but tax collectors had a reputation for being despised as traitors by who were also dishonest in the taxes they got from the people to increase their own wealth.  We get another picture of this in Luke 19 (The story of Zacchaeus).

With that context, we can see why the Pharisees (religious leaders) were so upset that Jesus was befriending Matthew.  

Before we get too far, I would like to point out that Scripture doesn't tell us that Matthew was a dishonest tax collector.  The Pharisees might have been judging him by his occupation alone.  If Matthew was indeed dishonest, I would suggest that Matthew would have been suffering from a spiritual impairment caused by greed, circumstance, a hard heart (from being despised by his own people, the Jews) or for some other reason.

Next example.  Disreputable characters.

Jesus was well known for being in the presence of drunks, prostitutes, etc.  Little girls don't grow up dreaming of being prostitutes.  Little boys don't dream of drinking themselves into numbness.  Most likely they found themselves in these lifestyle choices by circumstance.  How that affects who they are (and what the religious leaders are obviously judging them by) affects their spiritual identity.  

Finally, the Pharisees.

Unlike Matthew, Scripture tells us the religious leaders in Jesus' time were suffering from a spiritual aliment.   Their actions speak to a spiritual condition.  Israel (Jews) were called by God to be honest and compassionate towards others.  To be representatives of God to the rest of the world. They were not walking in who God had called them to be and instead were separating themselves from other people who they believed they were better than.  This is a heart (spiritual) problem. Jesus says about the Pharisees (in Mt 23:27,28)

"You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds."

The truth is that we are all spiritually ill in some way.  Not one of us is better than another.  We may suffer from different symptoms of spiritual sickness that has it's roots in thousands of different circumstances, but we are all in need of the great Physician.  This is what separates Matthew and the "disreputable characters" from the Pharisees.  Jesus called and Matthew followed.  The drunks, prostitutes, etc sought Jesus out. In comparison, Jesus spoke to the religious leaders and they hardened their hearts and desired to kill him (which again is a spiritual condition).

It's a great example for you and me.  Do I seek after Jesus? When Jesus calls, do I follow and allow him to diagnosis and treat my spiritual impairments, or do I dive further into sickness and harden my heart?

How do we pray to God? (Mt 6:5-9)

How do we pray to God? (Mt 6:5-9)

Few things have shaped my spiritual life like being a parent.  I think this is one of the many reasons Jesus refers to God as Abba (father), to create a sense of relationship that we can grasp.  It's not always easy believing in, living for & talking to an unseen God.  

Sometimes the relationship (when I'm focused on myself or my feelings) can seem very one sided. 

As a person who people look to for spiritual guidance/leadership, it's also easy to fall into role playing.  Being the person they want you to be or faking that you are connected with God more then you might currently be.  Spiritual leaders, after all, are just normal people who also experience abundance and drought in their relationship with God.

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus changes the focus of the message from contrasting what the people have been taught (by their spiritual leaders) to what their spiritual leaders practice.  

Yesterday we talked about the heart and how it can be corrupted.  In verses 1-4 Jesus gives us examples of that corruption, starting off by talking about these leaders acts of generosity, and how they are doing charitable works more for the people watching instead of for the person they are helping (or as an act of love/obedience towards God).  

Jesus then moves on to their personal prayer life.  Here Jesus says in verses 5-9,

“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply." (MSG)

Going back to my earlier point of being a parent, I treasure and value the intimate times that I have with my children.  When they are being real and our relationship is honest.  While I haven't experienced this with my own children, I do remember the influence that my friends and peers had over my actions.  It's very tempting in these moments to be someone you are not because we want the approval/respect of the people around us.

I have also fallen into the trap of "prewriting" my prayers when I am public speaking so I sound more spiritual and for the approval of those listening.

There isn't much to say about Jesus' words here on prayer.  When you are alone, one on one with Abba (God), away from the temptation to preform, it's not easy to role play.  It's not easy to do anything other than being transparent and real.  Here we can share our fears, hopes, desires, plans, thoughts, etc.  

This is right where God desires us to be when we come to Him, like a child who crawls into their parent's lap.

Spiritual Action Steps:
-Read Matthew chapter 6 and ask God to use the words Jesus says to speak directly to you about your relationship with Him.
-Reflect on what you read.  What stands out to you?  What caught your attention?  Reread those verses.
-Spend sometime today away from others and alone with God.



Gouge out your eye & cut off your hand? (Mt 5:29-30)

Gouge out your eye & cut off your hand? (Mt 5:29-30)

In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus tells his disciples (and those listening, including us)  

“Let’s not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here’s what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer. You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile. And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump." (MSG)

At first glance, Jesus' words seem crazy.  What person (let alone Jesus, who is supposed to be loving) in their right mind would tell someone to maim themselves in order to live a morally pure life?!!  A parent would never suggest something like this to their child if they caught them being selfish with a toy.  A friend wouldn't suggest this.

What in the world is Jesus talking about?

First, some context.

In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus is speaking to his disciples and to the people gathered about the difference between living for God, and how they have been taught (by their religious leaders and traditions) to live for God.  He uses a lot of contrasting language here to distinguish what they've learned and how it differs from God's heart.

The verses leading up to 29 talks about adultery/lust and the effect it has on a person.  Jesus states, 

“You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt."

So we have other language here that is important to notice.  

"Your heart can be corrupted..."

Jesus is letting us know that things can enter into our hearts and corrupt who we are.  Now, let's put that into perspective with verses 29-30.  In order to protect our heart from corruption we must go to extreme measures.  

No, Jesus was not literally meaning we should gouge out our eye or cut off our hand.  A blind person can still think lustfully.  A person with no hands can still desire to do wrong things.  

Instead, Jesus is saying that we need to "pull the weeds out by the root" so to speak.  

If you find that you are heading down a path that causes you to put your heart at risk of being corrupted (with addiction, lust, hate, greed, etc) go to extreme measures to prevent that from happening.  

If you find yourself attracted and flirting with a waitress at a restaurant and you are a married man, never go to the restaurant again.  If you find yourself with friends who tend to bring out a side of you that you know is ungodly or wrong morally, find ways to change when and how you meet with those people so you aren't risking your heart being changed (corrupted) and you become a person you don't desire to be.  

As a parent I do this all the time.  I'm constantly looking at the toys, tv shows, movies, friends, etc that are in my children's lives to discern whether they are good for them or not.  I don't want them to be shaped by things/people that will influence their character in a negative way.  Abba (God), being the good father He is, is saying the same thing here.  

Stay away from the things that will corrupt who you are and who God desires you to be.

Spiritual Action Steps:
-Read Matthew chapter 5 and ask God to use the words Jesus says to speak directly to your heart.
-Reflect on what you read.  What stands out to you?  What caught your attention?  Reread those verses.
-Ask God to show you how to apply what you read to your life as you go about your day.