Do you have an evil eye or a good eye?

Core of the Bible podcast #40 – Do you have an evil eye or a good eye?

Today we will be exploring the topic of holiness, and how Yeshua uses some idiomatic language of having a good eye or an evil eye to determine our set-apart, or holy behavior. Are we being single-minded toward the things of God? If so, this allows us to become set apart and to truly shine for him.

Yeshua stated it this way:

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Matthew 6:22-23

So let’s jump right into this strange passage and see what we can glean from looking at some of its various shades of meaning.

First of all, the Greek word here used of the “good” eye implies singleness; unfolded, clear, and unambiguous purpose. We have clear vision when we have a single purpose. There is nothing that can distract us from our primary objective. A person who is consistent and true stands out from a crowd because they have a definitive purpose and role. As this applies to believers, standing out with a singleness towards the things of God creates a separate-ness, a holiness, that can positively influence others. This is the main goal of what I want to discuss today, but we can also learn some more about how this applies by reviewing the way that this idea is expressed by Yeshua.

Interestingly, Yeshua here contrasts the person who is single-minded with someone whose eye is considered bad, wicked, or evil. Now, in common usage today, having an evil eye or giving someone the evil eye is usually associated with wishing someone harm, or in superstitious circles, actually causing harm to someone else similar to pronouncing some type of curse over them.

This type of superstition is still widespread among Jews today, as is related in an article on the evil eye over at MyJewishLearning.com https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/evil-eye-in-judaism/

“The “evil eye,” ayin ha’ra in Hebrew, is  the idea that a person or supernatural being can bewitch or harm an individual merely by looking at them. The belief is not only a Jewish folk superstition but also is addressed in some rabbinic texts.

“In several pieces of Jewish lore, rabbis suggest that the Evil Eye played a role in various incidents in the Torah. For example, they say that Sarah cast an evil eye on Hagar while Hagar was pregnant, causing her to miscarry before going on to become pregnant with Ishmael. Elsewhere, rabbis argue that Leah’s fertility was adversely impacted when she “became subject to the power of the evil eye” for thanking God for allowing her to bear more than a fourth of Jacob’s sons. (Rabbeinu Bahya, Bereshit 30:38:5)

“In the Talmud, the rabbis say that Joseph’s descendants are immune to the power of the Evil Eye — and that: ‘One who enters a city and fears the evil eye should hold the thumb of his right hand in his left hand and the thumb of his left hand in his right hand and recite the following: I, so-and-so son of so-and-so, come from the descendants of Joseph, over whom the evil eye has no dominion.’ (Berakhot 55b)

“And in Bava Batra 2b:9, the rabbis say it is ‘is prohibited for a person to stand in another’s field and look at his crop while the grain is standing, because he casts an evil eye upon it and thereby causes him damage, and the same is true for a garden.’

“Over the centuries, Jews have employed numerous superstitious practices believed to to ward off the Evil Eye, such as spitting three times after a vulnerable person’s name is uttered, or saying, when discussing some future plan, ‘let it be without the evil eye.’

“Jews have also sought to ward off the evil eye with amulets, particularly hamsas.”

So, while these types of superstitions may have grown up over the millennia within various cultures, we would do much better to study the term as it is used within the Bible itself to get a better understanding of how it is being used in the teachings of Yeshua.

For example, this same type of phrase of the wicked or evil eye is used in Matthew 20 in the story of the landowner who hired workers throughout the day. You may recall that in the parable, the landowner kept going into the marketplace to hire workers throughout the day, and that when it came time to pay them, they all received the same amount of pay, which angered those who had been hired first. But the landowner said to them:

Matthew 20:15  – “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what is mine? Or is your eye evil because I am good? ‘

Here we can see that this phrase of the “evil” eye is used in an idiomatic way. An idiom is a phrase that says one thing but has a different meaning than the actual words used in the statement, such as “it’s raining cats and dogs.” This phrase doesn’t mean that cats and dogs are literally falling out of the sky, but conveys a word picture meaning that it is raining very hard. It’s said that this term came about from Victorian times when street drainage was so poor that pets and feral animals left on the streets would drown during rain storms. After the rainfall, the dead cats and dogs strewn across the streets made it appear as though it had been raining cats and dogs.

So in the case of the evil eye that the landowner in the parable expresses, some versions of the Bible will actually portray the meaning of the idiom behind the saying rather than stating the literal wording of the text to clarify the idea for modern English readers. They may end up conveying it something along the lines of, “are you jealous because I am generous?” That jealousy and covetousness are the meaning behind the evil eye is also implied by other passages with similar wording.

Deuteronomy 15:9-1 – “Be careful that there isn’t this wicked thought in your heart, ‘The seventh year, the year of canceling debts, is near,’ and your eye is evil toward your poor brother and give him nothing. He will cry out to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty. “Give to him, and don’t have a stingy heart when you give, and because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you do.

Here, the evil eye represents a hoarding of resources in financial dealings, not being generous with those in need. This type of greed reveals a covetous heart.

Proverbs 28:2  – One with an evil eye is in a hurry for wealth; he doesn’t know that poverty will come to him.

Again, if the heart is covetous and greedy, a person typically desires instant riches and wealth.

In the Sermon on the Mount, this idea of avoiding having an evil eye comes in the immediate context of Yeshua’s admonition that we cannot serve two masters: God and worldly wealth. In this respect, greed and covetous focus on worldly gain will divide up our interests, taking us further away from singleness of purpose within God’s kingdom.

When we don’t have clear purpose, we tend to have divided interests among many other things that may not be in our best interest and lead us into wickedness. These secondary objectives cloud our vision and create a darkness that envelops our judgment.


Now, in Luke’s gospel, this saying of the evil eye is cast in a slightly different context. This tends to bring out the shining aspect of the positive side of having a “good” eye.

These divergent contexts illustrate the idea that Yeshua’s teachings were likely repeated in different settings and amidst different circumstances to bring out complementary meanings. This should not be viewed as a negative indication of incorrect reporting by the chroniclers, but rather a communication of the durability and flexibility of the key teachings of Yeshua. These key concepts were robust enough to apply in many different situations for the need at hand, each one highlighting another facet within the depths of its wisdom.

Luke 11:33-36 – No one lights a lamp and puts it in the cellar or under a basket, but on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see its light. “Your eye is the lamp of the body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is also full of light. But when it is bad, your body is also full of darkness. Take care, then, that the light in you is not darkness. If, therefore, your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be entirely illuminated, as when a lamp shines its light on you.

In the context of this passage, Luke has combined the parable of the lamp on the lampstand with the admonition to having a good eye. Having a good or healthy eye in this sense implies that the good and generous things that one does will have a radiant effect to those around them. It’s as if their body becomes a lamp, a beacon of good, standing out among the surrounding darkness. This is the holiness, the set-apartness that arises from the generosity and goodness of the obedient life.

John Gill in his Exposition of the Bible writes:

“If thy whole body therefore be full of light,…. That is, if the whole soul, as the Ethiopic version reads, be full of Gospel light, through the illuminating influences of the blessed Spirit accompanying the word: having no part dark; every power and faculty of the soul being affected with it, and influenced by it, though, as yet, the light and knowledge of evangelical things is not perfect in any: the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light; the whole soul shall be as full of light and joy, which the Gospel always brings with it, as a room is full of light, when a candle is lighted, and shines brightly, and burns clearly in it.”

Based on the imagery that the evil eye of covetousness and greed darkens, and the good eye of generosity and singleness of purpose within the will of God enlightens, we can see how this was integrated within the apostles teachings, as well.

John especially took to expounding on this imagery of light and darkness.

John 3:19-21 – “This is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. “For everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. “But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”

1 John 2:7-11 – Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old command that you have had from the beginning. The old command is the word you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother or sister is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother or sister remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he’s going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

1 John 1:5-7  – This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Paul also understood that light and darkness were the opposites within which believers moved and operated. Even as he stood as a prisoner before Agrippa he relates that it was the work of the believers to share this light with others, :

Acts 26:22-23 – “To this very day, I have had help from God, and I stand and testify to both small and great, saying nothing other than what the prophets and Moses said would take place ​– ​ “that the Messiah must suffer, and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light to our people and to the nations.”

To the congregations among whom he ministered, Paul also illustrated the gospel message and believers’ behavior as being built on the foundation of light and darkness.

2 Corinthians 4:6 – For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 6:14 – Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?

Ephesians 5:8-14 – For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light ​– ​ for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth ​– ​ testing what is pleasing to the Lord. Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret. Everything exposed by the light is made visible, for what makes everything visible is light. Therefore it is said: Get up, sleeper, and rise up from the dead, and Messiah will shine on you.

1 Thessalonians 5:5 – For you are all children of light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness.

That God’s people would ultimately be walking in the light of God with singleness of purpose was prophesied millennia ago.

Zephaniah 3:9, 12 – For I will then restore pure speech to the peoples so that all of them may call on the name of Yahweh and serve him with a single purpose. … I will leave a meek and humble people among you, and they will take refuge in the name of Yahweh.

Psalm 5:11 – But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them shout for joy forever. May you shelter them, and may those who love your name boast about you.

Believing in Messiah is the method of taking refuge in the name of Yahweh.

John 6:29 – Jesus replied, “This is the work of God [Yahweh] ​– ​that you believe in the one he has sent.”

John 14:21 – “The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.”

Matthew 12:50 – “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Perhaps we just need to be reminded how God himself is light.

1 Timothy 6:15-16 – God … is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see, to him be honor and eternal power.

If God is light, then as his children, we should also be lights in this world.

Luke 11:36 – If, therefore, your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be entirely illuminated, as when a lamp shines its light on you.

When we constantly look upon the things of God and his kingdom, our lives of unified purpose for his kingdom and his will, that is, our godly intentionality, can become a shining example to others. Our good eyes of singleness and unambiguous purpose will be evident. And in shining to others, they will also be able to see in the darkness and thereby take refuge in him.

John 12:46 – “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me would not remain in darkness.

John 8:12 – …”I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.”

—–

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvR_aNEyA7WEZJtF4B8fZ6g

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Faithfully representing the compassion of the Father

Matthew 5:48 – Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Yeshua’s admonition to his disciples is to strive to be perfect, that is fully mature and needing nothing else to be complete, just as God is perfect.

The apostles Paul and James also taught and urged believers to be fully mature and complete in their faith.

Colossians 1:28 – We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Messiah.
James 1:2-4 – Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

If we are to be mature and complete, just as our heavenly Father is, then there may be some wisdom in learning his characteristics of this completeness so we can mimic these characteristics and strive to incorporate them in our lives, as well.

Psalm 145 carries many of these characteristics of God that can provide insight into his nature, and by extension, the types of things that we should be seeking to represent with all others.

Yahweh is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love.

Yahweh is good to everyone; his compassion rests on all he has made.

Yahweh is faithful in all his words and gracious in all his actions.

Yahweh helps all who fall; he raises up all who are oppressed.

All eyes look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.

You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

Yahweh is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all his acts.

Yahweh is near all who call out to him, all who call out to him with integrity. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry for help and saves them.

Yahweh guards all those who love him,

but he destroys all the wicked.

Psalm 145:8-9, 13-20

Reflecting on these characteristics of God, we can see that they revolve around compassion and mercy, helping those who are looking to him for help. He is always near to those who are sincerely seeking him, and he is a protector of the faithful. These are ideals that we can easily relate to, as they are centered around “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

However, this psalm also mentions how God is steadfastly firm with those who are “wicked, guilty, and criminal.” The destruction of the wicked is spoken of as a future event, implying that, should they remain in their guilty, criminal state, they will be destroyed. This ultimate destruction is alone the right of God to perform (because he is fully perfect and completely just) while we are only striving for this completeness. We are not qualified for the actual destruction of anyone.

Romans 12:18-19 – If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Yet, as we grow in maturity and completeness, we have the duty to defend and stand up for what is right, and to destroy those ideals and concepts which are promoted by those who are wicked. This is also an act of compassion, as representing the truth to all provides a pathway for the rebellious to return to him.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 – For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Messiah.

To be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, then, is to extend compassion to all men, and yet to remain firm on godly principles, even while loving those who could be considered enemies. This is the role of the believer in this world: representing the characteristics of our heavenly Father by being compassionate and extending love, and the fullness of his truth, to all.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvR_aNEyA7WEZJtF4B8fZ6g

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Peace through a forgiving attitude

Titus 3:1-2 – Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.

One of the beautiful things about Paul’s letter to Titus is how all-encompassing his instruction is that is still relevant for all believers. Many believers today will use this letter primarily for understanding the qualifications for leaders within the congregation of God, which is the bulk of the first chapter. However, as the little letter continues, we find instruction regarding all types of individuals who were coming to faith in then Messiah. While Paul’s primary reason for writing was to assist Titus in overseeing congregations in Crete, it gives us insights into the very practices and characteristics that were expected of God’s people in that day and age.

As we can see in the verses highlighted above, out of all of the positive aspects that was to be demonstrated by believers, God’s people were expected to be peaceable. Yeshua clearly illustrated this principle within his teaching.

Matthew 5:7, 9 – Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. … Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

In order to be peaceable, an individual must have a forgiving, merciful attitude. Peace can typically only be had when one party relinquishes the right to force their position or rights on another. According to Yeshua and Paul, this relinquishing responsibility, this forgiving attitude, falls to the believer. This is how peace is accomplished, when one is forgiving of another’s “incorrect” position, looking beyond that to the more significant aspect of saving the relationship.

This is the same principle in how God has provided salvation for all people:

Titus 3:4-5 – But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us –not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy…

God’s mercy is the only thing that has allowed mankind to come to him in spirit and in truth. God relinquished his right to be severe (even though he would be justified in doing so) so that he could demonstrate his sincerity in desiring restoration. God created peace by being willing to save the relationship with all of mankind through his mercy. This is what mercy is: the extension of a forgiving attitude. When we realize that God has been offering this to us, it incites a yearning for repentance, and to modify our rebellious stance towards him.

This is how peace is created: “to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.” This is the peace that brings salvation to the world.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvR_aNEyA7WEZJtF4B8fZ6g

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Faith in God is a righteous act

We hear much in Christian circles today speaking of righteousness as a state which one has achieved or been placed into through the completed work of Messiah. There is a distinction between the state of the righteous and the state of the unrighteous. This righteous state, they say, is available only through faith in Messiah.

…righteousness is the God-given quality imputed to man upon believing in Christ.

Christianity.com, “What is Righteousness?”

Righteousness is the state of moral perfection required by God to enter heaven…believers receive righteousness from Christ. This doctrine is called imputation. Christ’s perfect righteousness is applied to imperfect humans.

learnreligions.com, “Righteousness”

While partially true, this lofty theological ideal does not convey the essential root of Paul’s argument in Romans 4, as he speaks about the righteousness of Abraham.

Romans 4:3-5 – For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…

To Paul, faith in God is in itself an act of righteousness. Abraham simply believed God, and this was counted by God as a righteous act. This was controversial to the Jewish ear because they understood righteousness was demonstrated only by being obedient to the law; and technically they were not mistaken.

Deuteronomy 6:25 – “Righteousness will be ours if we are careful to follow every one of these commands before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’

If someone dutifully followed the law, according to Moses, God considered them righteous. They were then doing righteous things because they were following God’s instruction. By doing righteous things, they demonstrate that they are righteous. This is not an incorrect understanding.

However, where the religious leaders of Yeshua’s day went off the rails was by becoming proud in their hearts; they considered themselves so obedient to the letter of the law that they were better than others who did not follow the law as closely as they thought they were doing. However, Yeshua knew their hearts were not right, even though they were technically doing “right” things. This is what led to the hypocrisy that Yeshua denounces.

Matthew 23:23 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law ​– ​justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.

What Paul was trying to convey was that believing God (and by extension, his servant, Messiah Yeshua) was in and of itself an act of righteousness equal to or better than all of the deeds of the law combined. Faith in God was the sum and goal of the law; to generate a heartfelt and sincere trust in God in all things. To Paul, this belief that what God was saying (through Messiah) was true constituted an act of righteousness that was “apart” from the law of Moses (that is, it was not a command in itself), but it was still evidenced within the Tanakh, or the Law and the Prophets, the Old Testament.

Romans 3:21 – But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, attested by the Law and the Prophets.

There was no law in the Torah of Moses that said simply “believe God.” Instead, the Israelites were commanded to have no other gods before him, to make no images, not to defame his reputation; all of these base commandments are predicated on a belief in God; faith in God must be assumed for these laws to make any sense.

Abraham exhibited faith by simply believing what God said; it had nothing to do what he did or did not do according to some instruction; he merely believed that God was trustworthy. Paul’s argument is that Abraham’s simple expression of faith in God was the supreme act of righteousness. This act of righteousness had nothing to do with any law, it was a genuine and unadorned, honest response of the heart toward God.

This is the response that God desires of all people everywhere; not to grudgingly follow some list of commands to get to heaven, but to honestly from the heart desire to follow him in all things.

Yeshua courts us to believe in him, as he represented the one true God in all things.

John 14:1 – “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

This godly faith in Messiah, Paul says, is demonstrated by all who believe.

Romans 3:22 – The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…

Righteousness is not a complicated theological ideal. It is simply believing God from the heart demonstrated by believing his Messiah.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvR_aNEyA7WEZJtF4B8fZ6g

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Purity of heart through the Word of God

Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Purity of heart is what sets believers apart, what makes them holy. Purity and blamelessness are characteristics of a life that has been changed and influenced by the power of God’s presence and his Word.

Ephesians 5:25-27 – Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah loved the congregation and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the congregation to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless.

Psalm 24:3-6 – Who may ascend the mountain of Yahweh? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not appealed to what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully. He will receive blessing from Yahweh, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who inquire of him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Seeking the face of the God of Jacob and inquiring of his Word; these are the characteristics of the congregation of the Messiah, the ekklesia, or the assembly of called-out ones. The congregation of the Messiah was the example for all those who would come to faith through their testimony and witness. They were set apart through the Word of God, and through the sacrificial example of the Messiah.

Colossians 1:21-23 – Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him ​– ​ if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a servant of it.

If we are to remain holy and blameless, we need to remain steadfast in the faith which has been handed down to this generation. God’s Word is maligned in the marketplace of ideas in which we live, but its timeless truths stand forever. Just as the apostle Paul became a servant of the good news of God, we also demonstrate its power when we live obediently by its dictates, when we show the world that we are inherently different through the Word that has changed our hearts. Our loving actions toward one another are the distinction that can illustrate the truth of God’s Word to a world in desperate need of stability and hope.

Philippians 2:14-16 – Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life…


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvR_aNEyA7WEZJtF4B8fZ6g

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Vigilance on the road to New Eden

The vigilance required to live the life that God requires involves two distinct yet complementary aspects: a constant focus on God and a committed attitude of dying to self.

Focus on God:
Romans 8:5 – For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit.

Dying to self:
Romans 8:12-14 – So then, brothers, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons.

Focus on God:
Colossians 3:1-2 – So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Dying to self:
Colossians 3:5-10 – Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, God’s wrath is coming upon the disobedient, and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.

The apostle Paul conveys some of his most profound teaching in the passages presented here. The crux of the believer’s life is rooted in these deep truths. The summation of the argument in both cases is the ongoing blending of these twin acts of keeping one’s eyes on God and dying to self.

  • “For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons,” (Romans 8:14).
  • “…you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator,” (Colossians 3:10).

Focusing on God and dying to self is defined here as being “led by God’s Spirit,” and by “putting off the old self; putting on the new self.” By faithfully doing these things, Paul says we engage a process of renewal, a type of ongoing resurrection from dead practices to knowledge of what is right. As this process continues we become what God has originally created us to be, “in his image.”

Genesis 1:27 – So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.
Genesis 9:6 – … for God made humans in his image.

All of humanity’s striving is to get back to Eden, to return to the original concept and design that God has for all people. Yet Messiah has begun a new type of creation, one that is better because in it we can be victorious over all trial and temptation. This the the grand goal of all Scripture, to point us in that direction and to empower us through his Spirit living within us. Only dying to self allows for this level of renewal. Only a clear focus on God and his Word provides for dying to self. And the two aspects of this life of dying to self and being led by God’s Spirit are brought to fruition through Messiah Yeshua.

Romans 8:1-2 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Messiah Yeshua, because the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Colossians 3:1 – So if you have been raised with Messiah, seek the things above, where Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God.

In Messiah, God had begun this new and renewed humanity. As Adam was the first physical being, Yeshua became the first spiritually renewed being.

1 Corinthians 15:45-49 – So it is written, The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is of heaven. Like the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; like the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.

As we focus on Messiah and his steadfast obedience to God, we are renewed in his likeness to ultimately bear the image of God.

Galatians 5:16, 24-25 – I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. … Now those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvR_aNEyA7WEZJtF4B8fZ6g

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Living righteously removes fear

Psalm 112:1 – Praise Yahweh! Happy is the person who fears Yahweh, taking great delight in his commands.

The idea contained within the completeness of this psalm is that the righteous individual, one who fears God and abides by his word, is blessed by God.

  • v. 2 Their descendants will be powerful and blessed
  • v. 3 They will have wealth and riches

They are:

  • v. 4 industrious, gracious, merciful
  • v. 5 just in all dealings
  • v. 9 generous
  • v. 9 they receive honor

This is the picture of a righteous person who lives with integrity. This is also the idea that the disciples of Yeshua had of someone who is considered righteous by God. If someone was rich and powerful, they thought, it was clear they were blessed by God.

However, Yeshua provided further insight regarding wealth and power.

Matthew 19:23-26 – Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were utterly astonished and asked, “Then who can be saved? ” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Yeshua took the disciples perspective that all wealthy people must be blessed by God and turned it on its head, a concept which astonished the disciples. True wealth, he says, is maintained by those who are rich toward God and toward his righteous standards.

Matthew 6:19-21 – “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

In fact, that was the very discussion he had just had with the rich young ruler, and which caused the disciples to be considering this question of God’s blessing on the wealthy in the first place.

Matthew 19:21-22 – “If you want to be perfect,” Jesus said to him, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard that, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

Our perspective must always be based on the overall message of God’s word, not just certain aspects of it, or verses taken out of context here and there. When God says the righteous will be blessed, he means it; but being blessed by God should not be the reason and motivation for living righteously.

Living according to God’s standards provides for needs and also allows one to be generous with others as God provides above and beyond. Yet, being wealthy, something many people seek to attain, should not be an end in itself. When it is, then the attainment of riches becomes the standard, and any means will be used to reach that goal.

Instead, Yeshua encourages believers to focus on doing what’s right, and God will bless as he sees fit and in his own timing. When this understanding is the focus of the individual, the confidence of the believer is that, though they may not have attained their own personal financial desires, doing what God requires according to his wisdom is more valuable than any riches in the world.

A sampling from the Proverbs can easily demonstrate this:

Proverbs 3:13-14 – Happy is a man who finds wisdom and who acquires understanding, for she is more profitable than silver, and her revenue is better than gold.
8:11, 19 – “For wisdom is better than jewels, and nothing desirable can equal it. … “My fruit is better than solid gold, and my harvest than pure silver.
16:8, 16, 19 – Better a little with righteousness than great income with injustice. … Get wisdom — how much better it is than gold! And get understanding — it is preferable to silver. … Better to be lowly of spirit with the humble than to divide plunder with the proud.

True wealth is not measured in dollars and cents, but in the abundant measure of doing what’s right. When this is the true stance of the believer, there is no fear of losing that abundance, because it is not something that can be taken away.

Psalm 112: 7-8 – He will not fear bad news; his heart is confident, trusting in Yahweh. His heart is assured; he will not fear.

This should be the central core of the believer’s perspective. Doing right according to God’s standards, living with integrity, allows one the privilege of confidence and dominion over fear; fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of the unknown. When one is operating from this confident place of a settled mind, they can be more assured in their just dealings, and this can naturally lead to increased abundance. However, abundance in and of itself is not the measure to attain. It may be the by-product of faithful work and just dealings, but it should not be the end-goal of all industry.

While God can provide bountifully for his own, the larger perspective is that everything we have belongs to him and can be given up in a moment. When this is the heart perspective of the believer, then all confidence is in God, not in the abundance of things. There is no bad news that this type of assurance cannot overcome.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvR_aNEyA7WEZJtF4B8fZ6g

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Alert and thankful prayer that overcomes temptation

Core of the Bible podcast #39 – Alert and thankful prayer that overcomes temptation

Today we will be exploring the topic of vigilance, and how vigilance in alert and thankful prayer is a primary method of overcoming temptation and accomplishing God’s will on earth.

Matthew 26:40-41. And he [Yeshua] came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Yeshua was speaking this to Peter for the specific purpose of admonishing him to stay alert with him while he was praying in Gethsemane. However, this has become a type of universal admonition regarding prayer to avoid temptation, and not without good reason.

Praying to avoid temptation was a key teaching within Yeshua’s template for prayer. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Based on the original word definitions, this can be expanded and paraphrased as “May we not be lead into adversity and hard testing; nevertheless, rescue us from anguish, harm, and all evil.”

Praying in this manner is a demonstration of vigilance. When praying to avoid temptation, 1) there is an awareness of the possibility of impending challenges and 2) there is also a recognition of God’s ability to provide assistance or escape.

The act of praying focuses the mind on the essential needs of the moment. This is necessary because vigilance also involves alertness and overcoming the distractions and limitations of fleshly influence. While our spirit may be willing, many times we become spiritually disoriented as worldly impulses (whether internal or external) overwhelm us.

Galatians 5:16-17 …walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh craves what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Walking in the spirit includes a rich and abundant prayer life. Many believers, myself included, struggle to maintain a vital spiritual walk throughout the occurrences of each day.  It’s easy to push spiritual things into the background while we attempt to deal with the seemingly urgent issues we face each day. Consistently praying helps provide leverage over real fleshly distractions and desires, and allows us to truly walk in the Spirit.

Yeshua’s template, his model prayer for believers does include the phrase: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. This has been fertile soil for many commentators over the years to plant seeds for consideration in this question of overcoming temptation.

Benson Commentary

“And lead us not into temptation — the clause may be translated, Lead us not into temptation, but so as to deliver us from the evil, viz., either by removing the temptation, when it is too strong for us to withstand; or by mitigating its force, or by increasing our strength to resist it, as God shall see most for his glory. This correction of the translation, suggested by Macknight, is proposed on this ground; that to pray for an absolute freedom from temptation is to seek deliverance from the common lot of humanity, which is absurd; because temptations are wisely appointed by God for the exercise and improvement of piety and virtue in good men, and that others may be encouraged by the constancy and patience which they show in trials. Hence, instead of praying to be absolutely delivered from them, we are taught to rejoice when, by the divine appointment, we fall into them. See James 1.

James 1:2-4 – Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

This petition teaches us to preserve a sense of our own inability to repel and overcome temptation, and of the necessity of assistance from above, to enable us to stand in the evil day.”

As for myself, I have sometimes wondered if God purposely places us in trying situations so we will learn to reach out to him more frequently. This type of logic says that if we are in the habit of praying to him during regular times, perhaps we will not need to be disciplined in as many trying times.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

“And lead us not into temptation— There is some difficulty in the form of the petition, as it is certain that God does bring His people—as He did Abraham, and Christ Himself—into circumstances both fitted and designed to try them, or test the strength of their faith. Some meet this by regarding the petition as simply an humble expression of self-distrust and instinctive shrinking from danger; but this seems too weak. Others take it as a prayer against yielding to temptation, and so equivalent to a prayer for support and deliverance when we are tempted; but this seems to go beyond the precise thing intended. We incline to take it as a prayer against being drawn or sucked, of our own will, into temptation, to which the word here used seems to lend some countenance—”Introduce us not.” This view, while it does not put into our mouths a prayer against being tempted—which is more than the divine procedure would seem to warrant—does not, on the other hand, change the sense of the petition into one for support under temptation, which the words will hardly bear; but it gives us a subject for prayer, in regard to temptation, most definite, and of all others most needful. It was precisely this which Peter needed to ask, but did not ask, when—of his own accord, and in spite of difficulties—he pressed for entrance into the palace hall of the high priest, and where, once sucked into the scene and atmosphere of temptation, he fell so foully. And if so, does it not seem pretty clear that this was exactly what our Lord meant His disciples to pray against when He said in the garden—”Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation”? (Mt 26:41).”

And to this I would add again, this idea of alertness in prayer means that we are spiritually aware of our situation and not just being carried along by our own desires. This is where we tend to fall into temptation: when we let our circumstances guide us instead of God’s good Counsel (through his Word and his Spirit) guiding us.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

“But deliver us from evil— As the expression “from evil” may be equally well rendered “from the evil one,” a number or superior critics think the devil is intended, especially from its following close upon the subject of “temptation.” But the comprehensive character of these brief petitions, and the place which this one occupies, as that on which all our desires die away, seems to us against so contracted a view of it. Nor can there be a reasonable doubt that the apostle, in some of the last sentences which he penned before he was brought forth to suffer for his Lord, alludes to this very petition in the language of calm assurance—”And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work (compare the Greek of the two passages), and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom” (2Ti 4:18). The final petition, then, is only rightly grasped when regarded as a prayer for deliverance from all evil of whatever kind—not only from sin, but from all its consequences—fully and finally. Fitly, then, are our prayers ended with this. For what can we desire which this does not carry with it?”

Vincent’s Word Studies

“It is a mistake to define this word [temptation] as only solicitation to evil. It means trial of any kind, without reference to its moral quality. Thus, Genesis 22:1 (Sept.), “God did tempt Abraham;” “This he said to prove him” (John 6:6); Paul and Timothy assayed to go to Bithynia (Acts 16:7); “Examine yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Here, generally of all situations and circumstances which furnish an occasion for sin. We cannot pray God not to tempt us to sin, “for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13).”

To my way of thinking while keeping an eye to the perspectives of these learned commentators, the thought here is that it is acceptable for us to pray to be kept from hard testing and temptation; Yeshua himself illustrated this prayer in Gethsemane:

Luke 22:41-42 – Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and began to pray, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me ​– ​nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

As children of God, though we may need to suffer trials and temptations, things that God can use to try us and to refine us, we can still pray to be delivered safely through them. It’s ok to pray “Lord, if it is possible to avoid this trial, then please remove it from us. But if we must enter this trial, please strengthen us to remain pure and victorious over it.”

—–

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

I find it interesting that prayer is meant to be an activity in which our conscious awareness is alert and watchful. This implies that prayer is purposeful and intentional, not just something in which our rational thought is disengaged. In fact, it is just the opposite; as we can see in this selection of Scripture references, believers are encouraged to pray for very specific things at specific times:

Tenakh:

Num 21:7: “The people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against Yahweh, and against you. Pray to Yahweh, that he take away the serpents from us.” Moses prayed for the people.”

Jeremiah 42:1-3 – Then all the commanders of the armies, along with Johanan son of Kareah, Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, approached the prophet Jeremiah and said, “May our petition come before you; pray to the LORD your God on our behalf, on behalf of this entire remnant (for few of us remain out of the many, as you can see with your own eyes), “that the LORD your God may tell us the way we should go and the thing we should do.”

Yeshua

Matthew 5:44: “But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, “

Matthew 6:9: “Pray like this:… “

Matthew 9:38: “Pray therefore that the Lord of the harvest will send out laborers into his harvest.””

Matthew 24:20: “Pray that your flight will not be in the winter, nor on a Sabbath, “

Mark 13:33: “Watch, keep alert, and pray; for you don’t know when the time is.”

Luke 10:2: “Then he said to them, “The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest, that he may send out laborers into his harvest. “

John 17:15: “I pray not that you would take them from the world, but that you would keep them from the evil one. “

Apostles:

2 Corinthians 13:9: “For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. And this we also pray for, even your perfecting.”

Philippians 1:9: “This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment;”

2 Thessalonians 1:11: “To this end we also pray always for you, that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire of goodness and work of faith, with power;”

2 Thessalonians 3:1: “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, even as also with you;”

James 5:14: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord…”

Throughout the Bible, prayer is exemplified as being enacted for intentional and specific purposes; most importantly, for the will of God to be accomplished on the earth. This strikes at the heart of the all-too-common practice of only praying for personal needs and wants.  While God does want us to trust him for everything, in the grand scheme of the Bible message, ultimately our personal needs and wants are and should be subjected to the larger scope of God’s kingdom and the establishment of his rule and reign in the hearts of people on this earth.

Remember in our Colossians passage, Paul encourages believer to pray with an alert mind (as we have just illustrated), but also with a thankful heart.

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

Having a thankful heart means that one is in view of all of the ways that God has blessed them. If you are thankful for the provision of your home, you won’t be tempted to go into further debt for a shiny new one beyond your means. If you are thankful for the nutritious food that God has provided you for your sustenance, you will not be tempted to eat beyond what your body needs. If you are grateful for the friends and family you have, you won’t be tempted to go astray from your spouse or to put your family or friends at risk.

Thankfulness runs all through Paul’s epistle to the Colossians:

Colossians 1:9, 12 – For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, … giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.

Colossians 2:6-7 – So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.

Colossians 3:15, 17 – And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. … And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Constant prayer and giving of thanks is a theme Paul also brings to the congregation in Thessalonica as well. In fact, he cements this as a cornerstone of believing practice in the accomplishment of God’s will.

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 – pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Messiah Yeshua.

If we are therefore praying in an alert fashion, that is, being aware of what we are praying and why we are praying, and we are doing so from a place of gratefulness and thankfulness for his provision in our lives, then we have a recipe for overcoming temptation.

This takes discipline and thoughtfulness. By intentionally praying for God to assist us when we are being challenged, this type of behavior can be changed. The victory over a trial or temptation is through prayer and the strengthening of God through his holy Spirit. How quickly it happens depends on how alert we remain and how diligent and thankful we are in prayer.

As we grow in this process, remaining steadfast in prayer to God keeps us focused and in communication with the One who is more than able to provide us the necessary strength to overcome any obstacles we may encounter.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The sermon of the kingdom

In the gospel of Matthew, one of the most significant passages of the Bible is related in chapters 5-7: the Sermon on the Mount. It is also echoed in Luke 6:20-49. Within these verses, Yeshua is teaching his disciples and followers about the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven; what it encompasses, who is included in it, and how one conducts oneself within it.

This passage is what I’ve come to call the core of the Bible message. It is the root of all balanced biblical understanding. Once one understands that Yeshua’s purpose was to define and firmly establish the kingdom of God upon the earth, the rest of the Bible falls into place.

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

According to Yeshua, the kingdom of God belongs to those who are humble and who are constantly doing what is right regardless of personal cost. To be humble and obedient to God’s standards at all times should be the goal of every believer.

Matthew 5:19-20 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

Those whose righteousness surpasses that of the religious leaders are to be the believers whose humble obedience to God’s commands stems from the heart, not from mere outward conformity to rules and regulations.

Matthew 6:10 – Your kingdom come. Your will be done…

It is to be these heart-believers who bring the kingdom of God to the earth. When God’s will is accomplished by the humble and obedient faithful, his kingdom is present.

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

Humble obedience from the heart comes with the privilege of God’s provision for the basic necessities of life. When God’s kingdom is first in the believer’s life, then stresses over the pressures of life that affect those around us fall into the background and fade away. Accomplishing the will of God brings peace.

Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

The kingdom of heaven is not made up of those who merely profess to believe, but of those whose profession is evidenced in the truth and power of their outward actions. Against all odds and opposition, even to death, true believers will stand for what’s right according to God’s will and purpose. They are rooted and deeply established within the word of God to recognize and act upon the principles that God expects of all people.

This is the message of the Bible reduced to its simplest form: the kingdom of God on earth is evidenced through the humble obedience of heart-believers. This is how God’s will is accomplished on the earth until his kingdom grows to encompass all nations and people.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Personal and private righteous actions for the sake of others

Matthew 6:1-2 – Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

While this passage is typically employed in the service of condemning negative acts of hypocrisy, there is an interesting aspect that highlights the positive aspect of the believers life: practicing private righteousness.

Yeshua here equates giving to those in need as an act of righteousness. When believers are compassionate to others, they are exhibiting their righteousness. To exhibit righteousness is not wrong, in fact, we are supposed to be the “lights of the world” and the “salt of the earth.” However, if we are doing acts of righteousness only for the sake of being seen by others to show them how superior we are for being so righteous, then this steps over into the realm of hypocrisy. This is the main point that Yeshua is attempting to convey.

But I believe the term “practicing or doing righteousness” still carries a lot of beneficial cargo for the believer today. Just because it’s wrong to be an exhibitionist with our righteous acts does not mean we should not still do them. This is why Yeshua says if there is a chance they can be seen by others as hypocritical, to do them outside the purview of others; to do them in secret.

Matthew 6:3-4 – But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

We should attempt to help others and be compassionate in ways that don’t draw attention to ourselves, but that only give glory to God. The reassurance that Yeshua provides is that God still sees those genuine acts of charity, even if no one else does, and he honors the generous heart.

Proverbs 19:17 – Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.

While there have been many fine organizations and efforts over the years to assist the less fortunate, our ultimate goal should not be to join some charity organization as a means of adding to our “resume of righteousness.” We should find ways to simply give with a willing heart whenever a need arises, and when we are able to do so. This is the authentic way that people receive the real help they need. It is personal because it comes from the heart; it is sacrificial because it takes personal time, effort, and resources; and it is genuine because it is done solely for the benefit of another.

This is the type of righteous compassion that Yeshua encourages and which God blesses. Whenever we exhibit love to others simply for the sake of loving them, we honor God and bring glory to his name.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.