Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sermon on the Mount, part 11

How can we survive without litigation?

By this point the hearers are realising that Jesus is absolutely serious about no violence and no litigation, and no doing wrong on the justification of ‘righting’ the wrongs of others. All manner of objections naturally suggest themselves. But what about this and what about that? Surely there are some evils that cannot be tolerated and must be avenged in a regulated manner? Surely there are some laws that must be enforced.
Jesus responds to these concerns as follows:
‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
‘And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Mat 6:25-34)

This text, so often used to address worry in general, is clearly directed squarely at financial (and social order) worry associated with the prohibition on civil litigation, debt enforcement and law enforcement. Jesus is wise enough to know that we do not need to know how a world without us using wrongdoing will work for our purity to make us happy and make the world a better place. He is recognising that social order is dynamic, and that there are myriad solutions for every social and technological and commercial problem. How they are discovered and applied are not matters of his law. His law is to prohibit the use of wrongdoing as the means to such ends as illicit, and to leave us the choice and the task of working out which licit means we shall use instead as we may have need or benefit.

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