Archive for the ‘Matthew 6’ Tag

Devotion for the Eighth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Dan Stamp from Israel

Image in the Public Domain

Two Stones in the Pocket



According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)


Isaiah 49:13-18

Psalm 62

1 Corinthians 4:1-13

Matthew 6:24-34


Almighty and everlasting God, ruler of heaven and earth: 

Hear our prayer and give us your peace now and forever;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)


O Lord, mercifully hear our prayers,

and having set us free from the bonds of our sins,

defend us from all evil;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 30


One thing God has spoken,

only two have I heard:

“Strength belongs to God, 

and to you, O Lord, firmness;

You repay each man for his deeds.”

–Psalm 62:12-13, Mitchell J. Dahood, Psalms II:  51-100 (1968)


The moral of this is that we should make no hasty or premature judgments.

–1 Corinthians 4:5a, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)


These four readings, taken together, present us with a seeming paradox.  Isaiah 49:13-18, in the context of the approaching end of the Babylonian Exile, depicts the Jewish exiles as beloved of God.  They are like children God can never forget.  Psalm 62, in the context of encouraging reliance on God and not on human means, especially corruption, notes the gulf between God and people:

Men of lowly birth are mere vapor,

those of high degree a delusion.

On scale, they are lighter than leaves,

together lighter than vapor.

–Psalm 62:10, Mitchell J. Dahood

People are “lighter than vapor” yet like beloved children to God.  Also, God repays each person for his or her deeds.  What we say and do matters.  Yet we ought not to think too lightly of ourselves and our powers of judgment.  Divine powers of judgment are infinitely greater.

Rabbi Bunam taught:

A man should carry two stones in his pocket.  On one should be inscribed, “I am but dust and ashes.”  On the other, “For my sake was the world created.”  And he should use each stone as he needs it.

Maintaining a balanced self-image relative to God is crucial.  Each person bears the image of God yet is mere dust and vapor.  God commands us to love ourselves then to love others as we love ourselves.  We matter because God says we do.  Or, to use the Southern vernacular,

God didn’t make no junk.

Do you, O reader, think you are junk?  Do you think anyone is garbage?










Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA


Devotion for the Eighth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The U.S. $100 Bill

Image in the Public Domain

Faithful Servants of God, Part VIII

FEBRUARY 27, 2011


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


Ecclesiastes 9:1-12 or Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Psalm 9:11-20

Galatians 5:1-26

Matthew 6:22-34


For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

–Galatians 5:14-15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


As I write repeatedly, the Law of Moses contains both timeless principles and culturally specific examples thereof.  One of these timeless principles is the Golden Rule.  It is short, sweet, and to the point.  One might, with verbosity, attempt to work around it, but the Golden Rule remains golden and wonderfully succinct.  It is also difficult to live up to much of the time.

Another timeless principle of the Law of Moses is that all of us depend entirely on God and partially on each other.  We are therefore interdependent and responsible both to and for each other, as well as to God.  These points underpin much of the content of scripture assigned for this Sunday.

Often we violate the Golden Rule in the name of looking out for ourselves.  We imagine vainly that we must and can rely on our own resources.  That attitude is the origin of much evil.  But, in Christ, we are free, by grace, to become people who uphold a high standard of radical love–even sacrificial love.  The servant is not greater than the master, after all.

May we, while seeking to follow God, care more about being loving and compassionate than about confirming our biases.  May we seek to love, not to be right in our own eyes, with their frequently defective moral vision.









Devotion for the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany (Year D)   1 comment


Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part III

FEBRUARY 5, 2023


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


Job 34:1-20

Psalm 28

Matthew 6:7-15

Hebrews 13:9-14 (15-16) 17-25


Elihu seems like a rather annoying person.  He is eager to defend God against Job’s complaints and to offer a more vigorous theodicy than that of Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  Elihu argues, in part:

So far is God removed from wickedness,

and Shaddai from injustice,

that he requites a man for what he does,

treating each one as his way of life deserves.

God is never wrong, do not doubt that!

Shaddai does not deflect the course of right.

–Job 34:10b-12, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Translation:  Job sinned, and these sufferings of his are divine punishment for those sins.  If he repents, God will forgive Job and end his sufferings.  This conclusion contradicts Job 1 and 2, which offer a truly disturbing answer:  God has permitted an innocent man to suffer as part of a wager.

This seems like an excellent place at which to add the analysis of John Job, author of Job Speaks to Us Today (Atlanta, GA:  John Knox Press, 1977), pages 102-103.  The author asks, “Why are Job’s friends not truly wise?”  He concludes, in part:

The friends, first of all, are shameless utilitarians.  Repentance, in the estimation of Eliphaz, is a kind of insurance policy.  Making petition to God is advocated, not for the intrinsic value of a relationship with him, but simply for the pay-off in material terms–as when he says, “Come to terms with God and you will prosper; that is the way to mend your fortune” (22:21).  The interesting point here is that the friends adopt precisely the position which Satan regards as universally occupied by those who make a show of being god-fearing.  “Does Job fear God for nothing?” he had asked.  Eliphaz makes no secret of the grounds on which he is advising Job to fear God.  It is all too shallow.  Faith is depersonalized:  it becomes self-centered instead of God-centered.  Its character as faith is destroyed.  Fear of God is simply not the right way to describe it.

If one replaces “Eliphaz” with “Elihu” and changes the citation from Job 22 to one from Chapter 34, this analysis remains valid.

The Book of Job defies the desire for easy answers that fundamentalism typifies.  God is just, correct?  Then how does one explain the wager in Job 1 and 2?  And does not Job deserve better than the “I am God and you are not” speeches in Job 38-41?  In Job 42, however, God expresses his displeasure with Eliphaz and company for speaking falsely about him and praises Job for speaking honestly about him (God).  Those two responses seem incompatible, do they not?  Of course, one came from one source and the other came from another.  Elihu, who states correctly that God does not meet human measures (Job 33:12b), also spouts foolishness.  The Book of Job provides no easy answers and offers a false, Hollywood ending, at least in its final, composite form.  The original version ends with Job’s repentance for overreaching a few verses into Chapter 42.

Job needed good friends, not Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu.  He needed people who came to comfort him, to listen to him, and to let him cry on their shoulders.  He needed friends who followed advice from Hebrews 13:16:

Never neglect to show kindness and to share what you have with others; for such are the sacrifices which God approves.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The standard we apply to others will be the standard God applies to us; we read this in Matthew 7:1-5.  Forgiveness is something we are to extend to others, and divine forgiveness of our sins depends on our forgiveness of the sins of others.  This is a lesson the author of Psalm 28 had not yet learned.  This is a lesson with which I have struggled mightily and with which I continue to struggle.  Success in the struggle does not depend on my own power, fortunately; grace is abundant.  The desire to do something one knows one ought to do is something with which God can work.  It is, metaphorically, a few loaves and fishes, which God can multiply.

In Job 42 God burned with anger toward Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  (The text does not mention Elihu, most likely because the text of the Book of Job did not yet contain the Elihu cycle.)  The alleged friends had not spoken truthfully of God, but Job had.  Job interceded on their behalf, however, and God excused their folly and forgave their sins.  Job, who had complained bitterly to his alleged friends, who had taunted him and sometimes even enjoyed his sufferings, all while imagining that they were pious and that he had done something to deserve his plight, prayed for their forgiveness.

That is a fine lesson to draw from the Book of Job.









Week of 7 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  The Doctor (1901), by Samuel Luke Fildes

Lasting Treasure

FEBRUARY 23, 2022


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


James 4:13-17 (Revised English Bible):

Now a word with all who say,

Today or the next day we will go off to such and such a town and spend a year there trading and making money.

Yet you have no idea what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life after all?  You are no more than a mist, seen for a little while  and then disappearing.  What you ought to say is:

If it be the Lord’s will, we shall live to do so and so.

But instead, you boast and brag, and all such boasting is wrong.  What it comes to is that anyone who knows the right thing to do and does not do it is a sinner.

Psalm 49:1-9, 16-20 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear this, all you peoples;

hearken, all you who dwell in the world,

you of high degree and low, rich and poor together.

2 My mouth shall speak of wisdom,

and my heart shall meditate on understanding.

I will incline my ear to a proverb

and set forth my riddle upon the harp.

Why should I be afraid in evil days,

when the wickedness of those at my heels surrounds me,

5 The wickedness of those who put their trust in their goods,

and boast of their great riches?

6 We can never ransom ourselves,

or deliver to God the price of our life;

7 For the ransom of our life is so great,

that we should never have enough to pay it,

8 In order to live for ever and ever,

and never to see the grave.

9 For we see that the wise die also;

like the dull and the stupid they perish

and leave their wealth to those who come after them.

16  Do not be envious when some become rich,

or when the grandeur of their house increases;

17  For they will carry nothing away at their death,

nor will their grandeur follow them.

18  Though they thought highly of themselves while they lived,

and were praised for their success,

19  They shall join the company of their forebears,

who will never see the light again.

20  Those who are honored, but have no understanding,

are like the beasts that perish.

Mark 9:38-41 (Revised English Bible):

John said to him,

Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and as he was not one of us, we tried to stop him.

Jesus said,

Do not stop him, for no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able the next moment to speak evil of me.  He is not against us is on our side.  Truly I tell you:  whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you are followers of the Messiah will certainly not go unrewarded.


The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 1:

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 9):


Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

–Matthew 6:19-21, Revised Standard Version

Once, in Alapaha, Georgia, there lived a kindly elderly woman named Emily.  Her house was an unofficial museum of local history.  There one could find old maps and photographs, an antique telephone, et cetera.  Most impressive of all was her memory of the local past, though.  One day she told me a story about a doctor, a general practitioner who made house calls.  He kept track of who owed him how much.  The doctor died with people still owing him money, but they never had pay up because he destroyed those records.  His wife, he knew, would try to collect the money, and the patients probably could not pay.  The man had a good heart, and he acted accordingly.

He knew, as did St. Laurence of Rome, that people matter more than money.  The doctor also knew that, as Psalm 49 reminds us in eloquent words, we cannot take our earthly wealth with us when we die.

The biblical ethic concerning money is not anti-wealth.  It is, rather, opposed to the arrogance and presumption many wealthy people have.  We all depend on God for everything, but some people do not realize this because of their attitude toward their money and possessions.  Some people have dealt with this spiritual matter by shedding their wealth.  This an appropriate corrective action for many people.  Yet others can remain wealthy and have a proper attitude, with their philanthropy demonstrating their sincerity.  Proper attitude is essential in this spiritual matter, regardless of the action God calls one to take.

That proper attitude is recognition and acceptance of one’s total dependence on God for everything.  May this guide our actions toward ourselves, each other, and God.


Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A   18 comments

Above:  Mother and Baby

(Image from here:

Each of Us is a Child of God’s Womb

(See the Isaiah reading.)

FEBRUARY 27, 2011


Isaiah 49:8-16a (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the LORD:

In a time of favor I have answered you,

on a day of salvation I have helped you;

I have kept you and given you

as a covenant to the people,

to establish the land,

to apportion the desolate heritages;

saying to the prisoners,

Come out,

to those who are in darkness,

Show yourselves.

They shall feed along the ways,

on all the bare heights shall be their pasture;

they shall not hunger or thirst,

neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them down,

for he who has pity on them will lead them,

and by springs of water will guide them.

And I will turn all my mountains into a road,

and my highways shall be raised up.

Lo, these shall come from far away,

and lo, these from the north and from the west,

and these from the land of Syene.

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;

break forth, O mountains, into singing!

For the LORD has comforted his people,

and will have compassion on all his suffering ones.

But Zion said,

The LORD has forsaken me,

my LORD has forgotten me.

Can a woman forget her nursing child,

or show no compassion for the child of her womb?

Even these may forget,

yet I will not forget you.

See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.

Psalm 131 (New Revised Standard Version):

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up,

my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things

too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

like a weaned child with its mother;

my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD

from this time on and forevermore.

1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.

Matthew 6:24-34 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you– you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Did you notice the incongruity between the collect and the first reading?  The dominant gender image for God in the first reading is feminine, but the collect addresses God the Father.  These are just metaphors, so let us not become distracted by them, reifiying them and transforming them into idols.  Instead, may we look through them to the substance behind them.

Yahweh/God the Father is far removed from traditional concepts of the Mother Goddess, but the Judeo-Christian Bible contains images of God as mother.  And let us not forget the personification of divine wisdom as feminine.  Deity exists beyond gendered bounds, containing characteristics we humans associate with both males and females, with fathers and mothers.  So God is our parental figure, and we are as helpless as infants.  (This is not how many of us like to think of ourselves.)

And the truly excellent news is that God is better than any human mother or father, as the reading from Isaiah reminds us.  God is love, and love seeks reciprocation.  Love gives of itself to the point of self-sacrifice.  This describes the God I see in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Today has enough worries of its own.  I did not ponder this statement until early 2007, when the floor of my life fell out from under me.  I learned then that worrying was truly worthless, especially when life was more difficult than usual.  Instead, I crawled to God, acknowledged the obvious (my helplessness), and did not pretend to be any more than I was.  God, my mother, comforted me with maternal love and rocked me to sleep.  God, my father, extended paternal care.  Jesus, my brother, put his arm around me and supported me emotionally.  All the metaphors came into play.  And I survived another day, at which point the process started over again.



Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A   21 comments

Above: The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet, 1857

Active Compassion

FEBRUARY 23, 2014

FEBRUARY 19, 2017


Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God.

You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD.

You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.

You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD.

You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Psalm 119:33-40 (New Revised Standard Version):

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes,

and I will observe it to the end.

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law

and observe it with my whole heart.

Lead me in the path of your commandments,

for I delight in it.

Turn my heart to your decrees,

and not to selfish gain.

Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;

give me life in your ways.

Confirm to your servant your promise,

which is for those who fear you.

Turn away the disgrace that I dread,

for your ordinances are good.

See, I have longed for your precepts;

in your righteousness give me life.

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,

He catches the wise in their craftiness,

and again,

The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,

that they are futile.

So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future– all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Matthew 6:24-34 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The Book of Leviticus is really quite interesting in places.  High-minded, laudatory-sounding commandments rub shoulders with others that seem scary or trivial.  So, Leviticus 19:3-8 contains the commandments to honor one ‘s parents (a good thing to do), reject idols (also a good thing to do), and to make peace offerings to God just so, or else be cut off from the community (scary).  Then 19:19 mentions kosher clothing, and 19:20 requires the sacrificial offering of a ram for forgiveness of the sin of having sex with a slave girl whose freedom has been purchased yet who is promised to another man.  I could continue with this list, but that exercise would constitute overkill, and the book is in print.

One can become lost in such details in Leviticus, but that is an error.  The selected commandments for reading on this Sunday go hand-in-hand with other assigned lessons.  These commandments from God require active compassion toward others.  Some of the literal details do not apply to how many people live in 2010 or 2011, but the spirit of the law is timeless.  And there is a time-honored religious practice of seeking new applications of the spirit of the law.

The word “perfect” from Matthew 5:48 requires some explanation.  The word choice makes sense when one applies it to God, but no sense with regard to fallible human beings.  Commentaries tell me that “honest” is a better choice with regard to people:  “Be honest, just as God is perfect.”  The parallel reading in Luke says “merciful,” which applies here, too.  And these options echo nicely with Leviticus and its command to be holy, as God is holy.

Holiness is concrete, not abstract.  And it entails acts of mercy and compassion toward others–those we know and do not know, as well as our friends and our enemies.  The last part of that equation is quite difficult, possible only through grace.  But it is possible.

Thanks be to God!


Written on June 16, 2010