It might be a good project for each of us – to try to
summarize the Sermon on the Mount
(Matthew 5 – 7) in 209 words.
Brian McLaren has done so
in his The Secret Message of Jesus (chapter 15, “Kingdom Ethics”, p 136).
Each of us would no doubt change the wording
in some places, or the overall emphasis. For example “The Golden Rule” is quoted in full but “The Lord’s Prayer” isn’t even summarized. McLaren undertook a difficult project, and this is worth reading and thinking about a bit.
Here it is:
- Be poor in spirit,
- be meek,
- hunger and thirst for true righteousness,
- be merciful,
- be pure in heart,
- be a peace-maker,
- be willing to joyfully suffer persecution and insult for doing what is right.
Be salt and light in the world – by doing good works.
Do not hate or indulge in anger, but instead seek to reconcile.
Do not lust or be sexually unfaithful in your heart.
Do not presume to make vows, but have simple speech, where yes means yes and no, no.
Do not get revenge, but find creative and nonviolent ways to overcome evil done to you.
Love your enemies, as God does, and be generous to everyone, as God is.
Give to the poor, pray, and fast secretly.
Don’t let greed cloud your outlook, but store up treasure in heaven through generosity.
Don’t worry about your own daily needs, but instead trust yourself to God’s care, and seek God’s kingdom first and foremost.
Don’t judge others, but instead first work on your own blindness.
Go to God with all your needs, knowing that God is a caring Father.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Don’t be misled by religious talk; what counts is actually living by Jesus’ teaching.
[I first published this here in 2008.]
I think the sermon of the mound can be summed up (With all of the law and prophets) in one verse. Micha 6:8 “And what does the Lord God require of thee, but to lover mercy do justly and walk humbly with thy God.
I loved this challange though. It reminded me of an old story, where a king asks for a statement that will be true for any situation, for any occasion, any time, any season, any reason, any place and any one under heaven. The statement had to be less than five words. So the wise men gathered together, and conversed. Than they took their four word sentence back to the king, and when they king asked them to deliver the statement, the wise men said “And this too shal pass”
Just wow. What powerful lines. Will write more once I’ve had the chance to take it in, beautiful…
Here’s the words to a song written by Leesha Harvey – it expresses coming to the understanding “Wyoming” spoke about:
I listen to the music of the wind chimes on my front porch
It’s blowing again
Is it the winds of change
or just another storm about to rip the roof, flood the floors, and blow my house in
The sand is slipping away
I pull off all the shutters and I open all the windows
So the breeze can blow through
It’s strong but silent
As it clears out all the cobwebs and all long-held illusions I’ve assumed to be true
The scales are falling away…. Away…
You’re tearing me apart
Melting the cold logic of my heart
All these years I’ve known You
And sat with You to dine
Could it be I’m seeing You for the first time?
Windblown, drenched by all the rain, I stand here shocked and quite ashamed
It made so much sense
I chose the obvious
Forgetting You’re mysterious and love to work in ways that seem both foolish and weak
I lost sight of Your love…. Your love…
I lie here restless on my bed
And contemplate letters in red
And wonder if You really meant all the things You said
I took Your words and qualified them
Till I practically denied them
And presumed to speak as one who knew You well…
This is a great study.
It does point to one of my biggest contentions with the US church (and as a “world traveler” I’ve never seen the problem crop up elsewhere): the tendency to make Biblical text figurative instead of taking Jesus at his word.
“Be poor in spirit” is almost without exception thought to be something anyone can be, but I maintain it is a reference to the spiritual nature of the poor people of the earth.
In fact this misprision lies at the heart of some things which went horribly from the reign of Reagan on… a political bent which sought to blame the poor for their condition, then even criminalizing them. At that time I was attending mainstream churches and very disturbed by hearing Christians take up rants against “welfare cheats” and so on.
The blessing of the poor was always interpreted to mean figuratively “making oneself poor in spirit,” never thought to actually indicate a think about the literal poor of the earth.
But I can assure anyone from the great ivory tower (the US) that the poor of the earth indeed do manifest different spiritual qualities than the “afflicted” – the so-called rich – such as patience, family orientation, generosity, warmth. These people are (Africa and Mexico in particular (I don’t mean border towns or beach resorts, but inland Mexico)) friendly, warm, extremely generous and just plain easier to behold than the whiny, discomited minions of the rich.
Their children are different too. VERY different. We have found we can be in a public square in Mexico with 100 children at play, and hear no tantrums, see no bullying. Fighting among children is extremely rare. You see eight year old children changing siblings’ diapers before they even can be asked. Children of the poor play so lovingly together. We have seen this.
The poor ARE different. Therefore why would Jesus not mention their blessing?
The rich of the US, in fact, will wake up poor one day when they find that money is nothing more than a complex series of debt/interest agreements.
They will learn the sore price of abandoning agriculture for “dark-skinned” people to do “somewhere else.” They will learn the hard way what it meant to gut the railroad system and rely on legions of truckers to bring food from afar, from what is essentially an “outsourced” yoke of agricultural slavery. Once the rich all start fighting about the collapse of capital, and it is beginning right now, which of them is not going to go shoot it out in the parking lot of a Walmart to get food? Not one in 10,000 know how to grow a potato.
Then those truckers, once the bullets are flying, will stop bringing food to the industrialized zones where farming is “beneath” people. That is when the cities will know hunger en masse. Have you known any truckers? I guarantee you they will not risk death to drive amid gunfire.
At that time they will look to the south, where instead of credit cards so many have agriculture bearing fruit 365/year, who own land and (humble) CBS houses free and clear… and in their starvation, will see the meaning of “blessed are the poor in spirit.”
Spiritually they truly do manifest a different collective persona.
One day the so-called rich, who rely on paper money instead of working with their hands for wealth, will see how they indeed settled for the short end of the stick.
I’m saying you can take Jesus literally. Bank on his words without a short-stop to redefine him in words comforting to a “rich” society.