Monday, February 16, 2009

Matthew 9:13

The Lord said to the Pharisees that “[He] would have mercy, and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13) . To me this is a recurring theme throughout the Gospels: the Lord is trying to teach that love is greater than keeping the law and traditions of the Jews, which sometimes were used to justify being outright cruel and selfish to others. The ‘obedient’ frequently were hypocrites who looked down on other men and their traditions also allowed them to claim things as corban to deny giving to their parents. Mainstream Judaism had become very corrupt in this regard, especially with many of the leaders seeking their own power and not to uplift others. The very doctrine and ordinances of the Law were meant to point to Christ, but it seems that many lived only to practice the Law and didn’t grasp the meaning of it. Jesus wanted people to learn that living the commandments was important but that it had the end of leading them to love one another and help each other, not despise people according to their profession or beliefs about whether or not they are sinners. The Gospel is of love. Sacrifices are fairly worthless if done grudgingly and without care or regard for others, but if sacrifices are done in love they can change the world; certainly they change the world of the person for whom they are carried out. It doesn’t mean as much to God if we sacrifice something for Him but it doesn’t lead us to love Him and our fellow man. Our sacrifices and obedience should be out of love, just as the Savior’s sacrifice was out of pure love.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Some passages from the New Testament

These are just my thoughts on a few verses from the New Testament.

Mark 11 contains one of the more unique uses of divine power in all of scripture. In verses 13 and 14, the Lord looks at a fig tree to see if it has any fruit, and when it has none he curses it. The next day they pass by the same way and in verse 20 it notes that: “the fig tree dried up from the roots.” I wondered at this scripture for a long time, and I’m still not sure I really understand it. Why curse the fig tree? In Jesus the Christ, Elder Tallmadge says that He did this to show the disciples that He had power to bless and to curse, so that they would know that when the soldiers were beating and crucifying Him that He was not a victim; He was submitting to their cruelties, and had the power to deliver Himself. This knowledge makes the sacrifice even more overwhelming than it already is that someone would die for you: that He didn’t have to by any standard. It was in every way a willing sacrifice of love.

Mark 12 contains the story of the widow’s mites. I always thought this story was about sacrifice in general, which it definitely applies to, but I just realized how it explains tithing. Can you build a chapel or a temple from two mites? Certainly you can’t; each one costs millions of dollars. The lesson is that the Lord doesn’t need our money. Paying our tithing doesn’t do God a favor. It is a chance for us to demonstrate our faith before Him, in trusting that our donations to the Lord will not be lost nor wasted money to us, but it will be our blessing. It also points out that it is most important to pay our tithing when we cast in “of [our] want” and not “of [our] abundance.”

Matthew 1

Joseph shows, to me, what we all need to be willing to do in order to faithfully follow God. It says that he was a just man – this is certainly a prerequisite – and that he was going to “put her away privily.” (v. 19) He already had a plan on how to deal with the situation before him; his mind was made up, but when the Lord sent him revelation explaining to him what happened, he was willing to change. He didn’t get stubborn or fight the Lord about it; he believed and was willing to do his Father’s will. I think that this one of the most important principles of the Gospel. We have to be willing to change our will to what the Lord wants, even if we already thought we knew what we were going to do about things. Joseph had the humility and listened enough to be touched and changed by the Holy Ghost. This is what we all need in order to follow our Savior more perfectly; we need to be willing to give up our will and do his, and I think it means even more to do the Lord’s will when you already had something else you were planning to do about it.

Matthew 5

I love this chapter. I think it’s difficult to pack as much doctrine in one chapter as there is in Matthew 5. A few of my favorite verses come at the end (44-48). Jesus teaches us that we should love our enemies and not just our friends, because it isn’t difficult to love those that love you; it’s natural and easy to love those that love you. This doesn’t show our devotion to God; it isn’t anything worth celebrating. To be like God is to love everyone, even those that “hate you” or “despitefully use you.” If we can love even those that do not love us, then we begin to be like our Father. He loves all of His children. If we do not love everyone we cannot put ourselves in a position to help them when they need it. God is always there to help us. His love is incomprehensible and overwhelming.

Another amazing teaching in this chapter is in verse 24. If we want to be closer to God, but we remember how we have some conflict with our brothers or sisters on earth, then we should be advised that it isn’t possible to love God while we feel hate for His children. Really, the only way that we can show our love for God is by being good to the people around us. We can praise God through prayer and song, but if we do not practice that love by loving those around us, especially our families, then we are driving ourselves very far from Him, and we do not know Him. This chapter teaches what it really means to be a Christian.