“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.
Forgiveness can be easy to receive but difficult to measure out to others. However, if you desire forgiveness for your offenses to God and others, you must be forgiving of those who have offended you. This is a requirement, not an option.
We learn the true value of forgiveness only through demonstrating forgiveness with others. It comes at a steep price to our own pride and our own internal righteousness. Yet without that price being paid, we are not eligible for the forgiveness that God provides.
God does not tolerate hypocrisy; we must exemplify the character of God with others in order to maintain a thriving relationship with him.
The way of God demands true humility and real sacrifice. Forgiveness embodies both of these qualities.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
You cannot be bound equally both to God and to your confidence in wealth. One will always take precedence over the other, and the results of following either will be evident in your life.
The issue that Yeshua focuses on is not necessarily the results of following either (which are evident throughout the biblical writings), but the complete inability of humans to multi-task loving God in among other responsibilities in this life. We all have necessary obligations in life, but if our over-arching purpose for everything we do does not rest in God and his kingdom, then we have by default chosen to place our trust in the other option.
According to the New Testament writings, covetousness is equated with idolatry (Colossians 3:5). When viewed from this perspective, it is clear that God cannot be worshipped among any other gods, as one of many.
Yeshua makes it clear that every choice in life will fall under one heading or the other, God or worldly wealth, and whichever choice is made is a determination of which deity is being trusted.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. … “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
Matthew 5:27-28, 31-32
Never forsake your commitment to your spouse. Do not even think about others lustfully in your heart. When our eyes stray from the things of God to the things of this world, we can lose our perspective and make harmful choices.
The most intimate of human relationships contains an indication of our relationship with our Creator. The act of adultery is an affront to the holiness of God, as it is a violation of one of the base commandments. Yeshua carries this base commandment even further into the realm of its origin, in our thoughts. The wrong thoughts lead to wrong actions, and wrong actions are sin.
In the Bible, adultery, while wrong in and of itself, is a metaphor for idolatry. Time and again, Israel’s unfaithfulness with the gods of the surrounding nations is compared to adultery with God.
We are urged to maintain our holiness, being set apart for the purpose of God, by keeping ourselves from being swept away by the lure of the created things that would distract us from our true purpose. Keeping our thoughts pure keeps us from sin.
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”
Don’t share something sacred or spiritually pure with those who are not receptive.
While the message of the Bible can be good news to those who need to hear its message, not everyone is receptive to its principles. This is not a new condition, and Yeshua was also no stranger to this principle:
“An unjust person is detestable to the righteous, and one whose way is upright is detestable to the wicked.”
“The world cannot hate you, but it does hate me because I testify about it – that its works are evil.”
Yeshua also gives us insight as to why some people are more receptive than others.
“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
We need to exercise vigilance among those with whom we are sharing our insights and understanding. While those sacred pearls of wisdom that you have received from God may be priceless in your sight, they may not have the same effect on others who are not in a similar spiritual frame of reference.
Yeshua cautions us to walk circumspectly with those who are unreceptive for our own safety and well-being. He reminds us our brief time here will be better spent on investing in those who have willing and open hearts.
Integrity is more than just doing the right thing when no one is around – it’s about doing the right thing from the heart in all situations. Uriah the Hittite exemplifies this aspect of integrity.
“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses [that] of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:20
This principle is summed up by its paraphrase: “Demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands.”
A life of integrity is one that is not driven solely by a list of do’s and don’ts. Right actions should spring from a willing heart, not from a grudging sense of obligation. It’s not just a matter of doing the right thing, but doing the right thing for the right reasons, with the right attitude.
The example of Uriah the Hittite – 2 Samuel 11
Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and a present from the king was sent out after him. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. Now when they told David, saying, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in temporary shelters, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing.”
Once the heart is sincere and motives are pure, actions of true integrity will follow.
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others [to do] the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches [them,] he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Do not relax even the smallest standards of Torah for yourself and others; do it and teach it.
Torah is the Hebrew word for instruction. The kingdom of God is directly connected to his instruction, and his instruction is directly connected to his kingdom. If the kingdom began in the days of Yeshua and is a kingdom that would never end, then it makes sense that the instruction of God is also eternal and will not pass away unless it is fulfilled in every individual.
Many are of the opinion that Torah has passed away with the death of Messiah. To the contrary, his death was exactly what Torah predicted would happen. Like a seed planted in the ground, the Torah principles taught by Yeshua are continuing to grow into a mighty tree of life as they are practiced by those who follow him.
Clearly, Torah has not been fully accomplished, as we still have murder, adultery, and any other number of commandments from God’s instruction which remain unfulfilled in the lives of people today.
Since God has provided instruction for mankind in his word, we should be faithful in keeping it (i.e., obeying it) and sharing it with others who will listen. Only as it is fulfilled in our lives will it bear fruit for the continued growth of God’s kingdom.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.”
Be privately and sincerely compassionate toward those in need.
Helping others who are unable to help themselves should be a cornerstone of the practices of all believers. However, those who give or help others merely for outward recognition demonstrate the hypocrisy and pride hidden in their heart.
Yeshua relates that there is a lasting spiritual power in the sincere acts of compassion that are done for the benefits of others with no outward recognition. These are the actions that God “sees,” that are accounted as vital human interactions with real, eternal worth.
Compassion is not a business transaction where we may assist another with the hope of some sort of gain for ourselves or our organization. Real compassion is demonstrated when there is no chance of benefit to oneself. A true act of kindness rests within the act itself, solely for the benefit of another.
“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.”
Reconciliation with all others must take place prior to worshiping God or seeking his forgiveness. This includes adversaries and anyone you know to be holding something against you.
God desires that we approach him without hypocrisy. The relationships we have are mirrors of our heart actions towards others. God is always looking for our hearts to be pure and consistent in all ways with everyone; this includes those who would maintain an adversarial position towards us.
God values reconciliation over proving our personal “rightness” in any situation. Forgiveness requires humility.
“Do not 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 do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Do not amass earthly wealth which is constantly subject to loss. Instead, amass heavenly wealth, for it will always be perfectly safe. Which type of wealth you are pursuing reveals your true heart motivation.
Our beliefs and our actions are tied together; one reveals the other. We believe what we do, and we do what we believe. To do one thing while claiming to believe something else, something perhaps nobler, is an inconsistent position.
Intent is not the same as belief; intent is simply an abstract concept and cannot be demonstrated until an action reveals its presence. If a contrary action is demonstrated, then the true belief is revealed; the ideal in which we place our trust will be evident. If our intent and beliefs are aligned, then our actions will harmonize with our beliefs and we will be consistent.
We are urged to pursue heavenly ideals. What do your actions reveal about where your trust lies?
“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites [do,] for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.”
When you fast, take measures to be certain it is not obvious to others.
Our private works of humility and worship in the service of, and communion with, the one true God should remain private. If we are sincere in preparing our hearts and bodies to be receptive to the leading of God, we must maintain that intimacy.
When our inner convictions become just an outward show, we have denied ourselves and create a mockery of God. Self-adulation and false humility demonstrate a shallow understanding of our spiritual condition for the simple purpose of bettering ourselves in the eyes of others.
Denying body and soul is a personal discipline that is meant to take our eyes off of ourselves and our own needs. Making a display of it contradicts everything it is intended to accomplish.
However, maintaining a vital and dynamic intimacy with God through our heart understanding working in concert with our actions provides great personal reward. This is an unseen way in which we are strengthened to visibly serve others effectively in his name.