Formations lesson for June 22: Taking Inventory
June 6 2003 by Tommy Bratton , Matthew 12:33-35; 7:1-5; 23:25-28

Formations lesson for June 22: Taking Inventory | Friday, June 6, 2003

Friday, June 6, 2003

Formations lesson for June 22: Taking Inventory

By Tommy Bratton Matthew 12:33-35; 7:1-5; 23:25-28

Am I a person of integrity? Do my actions match my beliefs? If I am honest with myself, I am not always sure. It is important to pause to take stock of one's life and to initiate the process of renewal.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, in his book, Living a Life That Matters, calls the journey of self-examination the "quest for integrity." This quest has as its goal the integration of our will with God's will. When we evaluate the voices within us, we must distinguish between the authentic voice of God and our own self-centered desires. The voice of God calls us to become more compassionate, more self-reflective, more loving. Kushner calls this "Shalom," the Hebrew word meaning wholeness, health and peace.

A person of integrity is undivided, not a different person under different circumstances, but integrated and whole.

Either/or Matthew 12:33-35 This first text deals with the words Jesus spoke to the Pharisees after he healed a demon-possessed man. When the Pharisees heard the amazement of the crowds, they accused Jesus of casting out demons in the name of Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons (Matt. 12:24).

Through his metaphor of the good and bad trees, Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees for not recognizing his loving acts of healing as God's work. Jesus Himself is the good tree as shown by the good fruit. The Pharisees represent the bad tree, which produces the fruit of evil. From their impure hearts, the Pharisees slander Jesus, attempting to discredit Him for their own selfish desires.

The metaphor also speaks to us, causing us to ask ourselves if the motivation for our words and deeds comes from a pure heart. Controlling our language begins with cleansing our hearts, for out of the mouth comes the treasure of the heart (Matt. 12:34b).

Begin within Matthew 7:1-5 Soren Kierkegaard once wrote that we view the actions of others objectively while looking at our own subjectively. In other words, we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt when we mess up, but we hold others to a rigid standard of behavior. Kierkegaard wrote that we need to replace that way of thinking by viewing ourselves objectively and others subjectively. As Jesus said earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7).

Judgment begins within. It is much easier to see faults in others than in oneself.

However, Jesus reminds us that we have much to deal with within ourselves before worrying about the sins of others.

In verse 2, Jesus alludes to the great judgment. He tells the crowds that the standard by which we judge others will be the standard to which we ourselves will be held. When we condemn others, we will be judged for our lack of mercy.

When it is necessary to provide correction to another, we must tread lightly, constantly aware of our own sin and in light of God's grace and forgiveness. Only then can we see clearly.

Inside/out Matthew 23:25-28 A rather pompous-looking deacon was attempting to impress upon a class of boys the importance of living the Christian life. "Why do people call me a Christian?" the man asked. After a brief pause, one of the young men said, "Maybe it's because they don't know you."

Jesus spoke strongly to the scribes and Pharisees. Here, we do not get the "gentle Jesus, meek and mild."

Jesus' concern is the concern of many churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike - hypocrisy. On the outside, the religious leaders appear to have it all together, to be spiritual. But Jesus says that it is only an act. True spirituality integrates the inner life with the external deeds.

Socrates wrote that "an unexamined life is not worth living." If you examined your life, what would you change to bring integrity into your daily life? Is your lifestyle lived to the glory of God?

God does not expect us to be perfect but God does expect us to internalize our faith, to live from a heart with Christ at its center.

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6/6/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tommy Bratton , Matthew 12:33-35; 7:1-5; 23:25-28 | with 0 comments
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