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“So then, whoever disobeys even the least important of the commandments and teaches others to do the same, will be least in the Kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys the Law and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the Kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10
How least is least? To at least be a crumb in the Kingdom of heaven is far better than not to be in the Kingdom of heaven at all. You’ve set really high standards here, Lord. Poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst for Your righteousness, mercy, purity, peacemaking, persecution for righteous living, accepting reviling and persecution with grace, rejoicing in persecution, being the salt and the light of the world, living a life that truly glorifies You, and obeying everything in Your word, is a really high standard that seems impossible to meet. Now You tell me if I just break one thing, one little thing, that will make me least in the Kingdom of heaven.
But what does that mean, to be least in the Kingdom of heaven? And how can I not break one little thing out of Your commands? And thinking about that, when I do break one little thing, how is my life not teaching someone else to do the same? Certainly, if I read this and really think about it, I am forced to ask myself some serious questions both about myself, my attitude about Your word, and Your expectations for me.
So, if I break one little command, and teach others to do so, I am least in the Kingdom of heaven. Does that make me “most” in the Kingdom of unrighteousness? I mean, I have to ask myself that because I think about Your words, Jesus, again in Luke 16:10, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” I wonder if You spoke hard things, things that aren’t easy to understand at first grasp, so that we would sit down and really start thinking about it and mulling it over and trying to figure it out. It makes me want to hash it out and try to come to grips with it so I can understand. But then I don’t want to stop with just understanding and having a head knowledge. I want to understand so it will be true in my life, so that I can be changed, and exhibit what You say I ought to exhibit in my life.
Here’s what I think You are saying. If I untie any of Your words and let them fall off the string and teach others to untie the string and let Your words fall by the wayside, I’m one of those being unrighteous even with the basics. Or maybe I could untie the string that’s holding all things together under Your righteousness and let slide something big. I just untie that string and Your words that I don’t agree with just drop to the floor like dirt and then I encourage others to do the same. But to do that is to defy You, to stand before Your face and say, “You don’t know what You’re talking about. I know better than You.”
But You know better than me. You just told me in verse 18 and all over Scripture that very truth. The way it is and will be and has been, is that until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle will be neglected from Your law, Your word, till it’s all fulfilled. See, all things were created by Your word. It’s Your essence. In the beginning You created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4) “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) We are sanctified through Your truth: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
Now stop and think about that. Jesus, You are the Word. You are the essence of life in all creation. You are the essence of life before creation. You are life and light itself. Jesus is truth. Jesus is the word. Jesus is Scripture manifested in God Himself. Therefore, the Word of God is a manifestation of God. When I devalue any of the Word of God, even the least of it, I am devaluing You, God. See, the Word, Jesus, revealed in this tangible way to us that gives us insight into knowing Him and beginning to grasp Him, is a revelation of Himself. It’s more than a loveletter to us. It’s life. It’s living. It’s You.
Just as God spoke the world into being with His Word, so He speaks life into each of us through His living Word. Imagine Scripture as the living essence of Jesus, of God Himself. Somehow, and I can’t explain it any more than a brother of mine could last night at youth group, You use Words to transform us by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Because even the least of these words, exude Your essence. To reject Your word, even a part, is to reject You.
But how could I ever obey everything? It’s impossible. Yes, with man, on my own, in my own strength, to fully obey is impossible. “But with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) The origin of this verse takes us back to what started the thinking today. Jesus was approached by a rich young man who was seeking eternal life. You tell him, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Remember, Jesus IS life.) We’re back to the beginning, aren’t we? He answers, “Which?” Really, which? Is that like asking, which ones can I untie and let fall to the wayside? Doesn’t “Keep the commandments” mean keep the commandments? You answered, “You shall do no murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and your mother; and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” “Oh, I’ve done all that since I was a kid,” he answered. “Really,” was the reply. ” Let’s make sure you really understand how deep that translates. If you really want to completely model these commands in your life, then go and sell what you have, and give to the poor, and then you shall have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me.” I think the young man’s answer when translated into todays venacular would sound something like this. “Are you kidding?! I was just talking about going to heaven. I wasn’t really talking about following You and desiring Your ways more than anything. I want to have my cake and eat it too. This is crazy. You want me to put it all on the line to live for You? Then I would truly have to trust You. That would change so much of my life. I’d have to give up so much! And for what?”
There was a point in time when people could obey all Your commands without difficulty. There was a time when man’s heart and Your heart and desires were unified. That was in the garden before Adam and Eve untied that first knot in the string. They let Your command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil fall to the dirt. But what really happened was they valued their own knowledge over Yours. And look where it’s brought us.
But here’s the Good News! I can obey. And even when I fail, there is One who covers for me and pleads my case. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) See, by my knowledge, you know, by one man’s knowledge I fail and fall to my death. But by another man’s knowledge, by knowing Him and living in what He knows and living in Him, I am empowered and rescued and held and saved from myself. Because “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,…[gives] unto [me] the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him…”(Ephesians 1:17) “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8) By Your every last jot and tittle, and living them out in my life, bring about the opportunity for me to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)
I think not obeying Your words, Your commands, has to do with two things here. It has to do with the condition of my heart and my own ego. And that ego does a lot of damage to myself. It puffs me up and it pulls me down at the same time. It makes me value myself more than I ought and value my opinion above Yours. But it also causes me to value the opinions of other people more than Yours. And all of a sudden I can find myself worried more with what others think than concerned with Your opinion of me. That’s when I begin to take Your righteousness and decide it doesn’t fit into my culture because all of a sudden, my culture became top dog. Funny, but no person and no culture created the universe by the power in it’s words.
Then, I think it has to do with me becoming ashamed. I’ll become ashamed of one of two things depending on the condition of my heart and who I surrender it to. I will become ashamed of the condition of my unchanged heart before a holy God who created me by His word, or I will become ashamed of the words of a God I don’t know because I choose to know my own ways and ways of the world instead. But You warn us, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
I don’t want to ever be ashamed of You and Your words, Lord. I want to be like Paul and be able to truly proclaim, ” I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God to salvation ” (Romans 1:16) And here’s the sense of this word here. Being ashamed is more about “putting myself to shame.” So, what does that mean? Well, think of all the conditions that could come to pass in my life. Like the situations where I have to put those tough beatitudes into practice, you know, where I would have to humble myself in tough situations, or endure persecution with joy and love. Or what if I needed to share Your Good News with others who were hostile about it? What if I was going to lose my head over sharing my testimony? I mean, heaven help that someone might just ridicule me or walk away. It doesn’t matter. None of that should cause me to be ashamed. It’s not about ‘inner self-condemnation.” It’s about public condemnation. It’s about “lost reputation, disgrace and humiliation.” (Skip Moen) Now think about that. Who am I really standing publicly before?
That’s what it all boils down to. Who am I standing before? Am I or was Paul standing before judges and rulers and the masses? Or was Paul standing before You, the God of heavens armies, the Alpha and Omega, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, the Ever Existent One, Majesty enthroned above? What I believe about this will determine what I do with Your jots and tittles and all Your commands. How I feel about my audience will determine the actions that flow from my heart.
You told me how to live a life where nothing can bring me to shame. That’s because You are a God who removes our shame. You said, “If you keep my commandments, You shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.” (John 15:10) See, the love of God in the blood and power of my risen Savior gives me the power to obey and the heart to obey. And what I don’t yet have the ability to obey in, He covers me as I grow in Him. See, if I abide in Him, and His words abide in me, I will ask not just for things, but I will delight in Your words, and seek after them because I’m seeking after You. And You will bring them to pass in my life. What I’m seeking will be found. What I’m longing for will be attained. What I ask for shall be given. What I delight in will be enjoyed to the fullest. That’s what Jesus was talking about in John 15:7.
Lord, I don’t want to untie that string and let any of Your words slide off. I want to come to delight in them all, no matter the hardship the world sets up against them. Why? Because to delight in Your words and Your commands is to delight in You. John Piper thought about this too. He shared, “At root, what God delights in about us is that we delight in him.” Maybe it’s time to check our hearts and see what we really are delighting in. Because Lord, if I delight in You, then I’ll delight in everything that is of You. If I delight in You, then I’ll delight in the words of Your mouth. If I delight in You than I’ll obey the words You gave me and I’ll be an example of loving obedience to others. I may be least in the kingdom of earth, but I won’t be least in the kingdom that counts.