Matthew 7:7-29 (AD 28)
“do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (v.12)
The summation of the Law often gets turned into an anti-Law: ‘As long as I wouldn’t mind it happening to me I can do it to someone else, so go away with your moral code…’. A classic example of that is when people try to justify sexual sin: as long as it’s consenting adults, it’s OK.. Part of the shame of that is, notwithstanding all the ritual, this statement helps us understand what God was doing when he invented the Law: providing guidelines for our living that would benefit us as well as making us more like Him, for our joy, as well as reminding us we need a
“by their fruit you will recognise [false prophets]” (v.20)
This is another well-known verse that gets pretzeled. People change it from God’s hint that you can’t accompany an obviously immoral lifestyle with claims to be God’s prophet, to the nonsensical idea that as long as someone seems nice, then you have no right to push back on their claims to speak directly from God. The Bible is full of admonitions to measure people’s words, first of all according to whether they line up with the Bible (e.g. Matthew 22:29 “Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God’”). Verse twenty of our passage doesn’t replace the need to know Scripture in order to measure the rightness of people’s words, but helps us see that even if people’s words do seem to line up with Scripture, if they are living contrary to God’s Word then their word is false.
Verses twenty-one to twenty-three expand on that theme by pointing out that lots of religious people and professing Christians will be in Hell. Not because of an intellectual error but for pretending to be something they never intended to be. For constructing a God in their own image and pretending they were worshipping God himself. Because amidst all our concerns that folks might just be unfortunately ignorant, God never condemned anyone to Hell who wanted God. But every day people are lost who say they want God and mean only that they believe in a higher power who agrees with what they already think.
Our religion won’t save us – only God can do that. And God saves those who accept HIS Word, not those who come up with their own and expect God to adapt. Sometimes we see cult leaders in whom this is obvious, other times we fail to notice our own tendency to do just that.
As Jesus went on to say in his parable of the Wise & Foolish Builders during the last part of our reading, it’s the Word of God we need to build our life on, and only the Word of God that can be trusted, and only the Word of God that has unimpeachable truth. Everything you think, everything you hear – measure it next to what God’s already said. After all, “[Jesus] taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (v.29).