Advent Daily Devotional


Lenten Devotional 3-13-23

Sermon on the Mount

March 13, 2023

Matthew 5: 38-42

38 ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 39But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

On February 11, 2011, the Pittsburgh Penguins played what was supposed to be a hockey game against the New York Islanders. The Islanders were angry at the Penguins because two Islanders were hurt in the previous meeting of the two teams. It was anticipated that the game would be “chippy”. A rough game. Hard checks. Lots of trash talk. More penalties than usual. “Chippy” turned out to be 65 penalties including 15 fighting majors and 21 game misconducts, resulting in a total of 346 penalty minutes. An NHL record. An embarrassment for both teams and the NHL itself. No one on the ice seemed to care about who won the game. Both teams just wanted to hurt each other. Such is often the way of human beings. Make ‘em pay, right? Revenges is sweet, right? An eye for an eye, right? Isn’t that the standard in the Old Testament? Well, sort of.  But here Jesus says—stop it!

What Jesus is saying is actually consistent with the Torah law. Sure, when someone hurt another, the penalty was sometimes “an eye for an eye”. But that was not considered revenge. It was considered control. Such penalties were meted out to end the dispute. To stop any potential escalation. Kind of like our civil justice system today. Jesus bumps up the requirement to say that if someone offends you or hurts you, your response is to be one of forgiveness and the avoidance of escalation. Back off. Keep the peace. Jesus is not talking about passivism. We are not called to be doormats. We are permitted to defend ourselves so that we are not harmed by the actions of others. We are allowed to block the punch. But we are also to act in a way protects but does not escalate. Think about how that might apply to the other examples Jesus poses.

Lenten Devotional 3-11-23

Sermon on the Mount

March 11, 2023

Matthew 5: 33-37

33 ‘Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” 34But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

Back in the day when I was practicing law witnesses were required to be “sworn in” before they testified by answering the following question affirmatively:

“Do you swear that the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth as you shall answer to God on the last great day?”

I once asked a client who was sworn in with that oath what she thought about it.  She said she felt the power of those words. It made her very careful about the answers she gave to the questions she was asked. She wanted her answers to be truthful – as she would answer to God on that last great day. I had another client who simply refused to take the oath. He said that he would “affirm” that he would tell the truth, but he could not swear to it because the Bible forbade it. 

What does Jesus require? That we tell the truth – period. We should not require some kind of divine threat to make us be truthful, trustworthy. The mere fact we are people of God should be enough. That is what my client who refused to “swear” relied on. Any untruthfulness is from the “evil one” which is opposed to God. He was not opposed to God, so he would still be very careful. This is hard stuff for fallible humans. That, again, is Jesus’ point. Perfection is impossible. We need a savior. Happily, Jesus is just that.

Lenten Devotional 3-10-23

Sermon on the Mount

March 10, 2023

Matthew 5: 31-32

31 ‘It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” 32But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

If you are a lawyer and want to have a secure source of clients, practice “family law” which is the more genteel description of being a divorce lawyer. With around 50% of all marriages ending in divorce, there are plenty of clients to go around. Surprisingly, the same would have been true in Jesus’ day except for the fact that a husband could divorce his wife by simply handing her a certificate that said she was no longer his wife. No lawyer necessary. It was easy. No reason required. That was what Torah law said. The certificate allowed the woman to remarry, because she was no one’s wife. You see, the issue here is not divorce, but adultery. Jesus was saying that wives were not disposable for any reason. There had to be a good reason. Unchastity for instance. There might have been other exceptions, but Jesus does not talk about what they might have been. 

The problem Jesus lays out is this. If a man wants to divorce his wife, he better have a good reason. If he has no good reason, he is still married to her but has cast her adrift into financial destitution. Her only hope is t remarry. So, the unrecognized divorce causes her, and her new husband to commit adultery. Jesus is pointing out the ridiculousness of this practice of divorce. This, according to Jesus, is not what God intended. God intended marriage to be much more. This is a symptom of humanity’s fallibility and our need for a savior.