Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jesus & Economic Life (4) Law

Jesus had strong words for those who teach about the law. He has not abolished the law. He came to fulfil the law, not to abolish it.

Anyone who teaches… others to set aside one of the least of these commands will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever teaches others to practice these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:19).
I do not know anyone who has tried to “become great in the kingdom” by teaching people how to “obey the commands of the Torah”. Yet that is what Jesus seems to be encouraging. He expected his followers to teach people how to obey the commands given to Moses. An important part of this should be teaching about the instructions for economic life.

Jesus condemned the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, who had twisted the law in a burden by leaving out the love, and providing excuses for ignoring the instructions for economic life.Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone (Luke 11:42).
And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them (Luke 11:46).
The Torah, and especially the book of Leviticus, prescribed cultural markers to distinguish Israel from the surrounding nations. The laws of justice and crime and the instructions for economic life could not distinguish Israel, because God intended the nations to copy them (Deut 4:5-7). The surrounding nations would not copy the cultural markers like the Sabbath and food laws.

Judging by Jesus challenges, the Pharisees and teachers of the law had focused on the cultural markers and neglected the more important aspects of the Torah. Jesus requires his followers to focus on justice and the love of God.

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