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Shavua Tov

Only six days until Shabbat!

  • Daniel Botkin

Our Treatment of People


I recently read through the four Gospels again for the umpteenth time. I did not get any new revelation, but I did get an important reminder of how much emphasis Yeshua/Jesus put on our treatment of other people. From the four Gospels I get the impression that Yeshua is more concerned about how we treat people than He is about how clearly we understand all the minute details of doctrine and theology.

Don’t misunderstand. Doctrine and theology are very important. I am not minimizing the importance of sound doctrine and what we believe about God. But in some areas of doctrine, what we believe is less important than how we treat people. In the four Gospels, it seems to me that Yeshua makes our treatment of people a higher priority than our beliefs about things that have nothing to do with human relationships. Yeshua showed the importance of treating people justly by His example and by His teachings.


BY HIS EXAMPLE

Yeshua demonstrated the importance of treating people justly by His own treatment of people. He healed sick people, delivered people who had demons, and even raised a few people from the dead. He turned water into wine for people at a wedding. He multiplied bread and fish for hungry people at an outdoor gathering.

He ate with sinful people and taught Samaritan people. Even a Samaritan woman! He spent time with Samaritans even though the Samaritans had some very flawed theology. He told the Samaritan woman at the well, “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). The Samaritans’ flawed theology did not stop Him from ministering to them.

Yeshua reached out to people that the Pharisees and other Jews shunned. The rescue of sinners and Samaritans was more important to Him than His reputation in the eyes of religious hypocrites.

Yeshua healed people on the Sabbath, because people’s health is important. He refused to condemn His disciples for picking and eating grain on the Sabbath because people’s hunger is important.

Don’t misunderstand. Keeping the Sabbath is important, but the health and hunger of people is important too, even on the Sabbath. “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). This does not mean it is okay to ignore all the Sabbath restrictions that God commanded, and just do whatever you wish on the Sabbath. It simply means that when unexpected problems occur (such as your ox falling into a ditch), sometimes those problems are important enough to temporarily override Sabbath restrictions until you take care of the problem. Why? Because the health, hunger, safety, and wellbeing of people is important to God. The Sabbath was made for man, i.e., for people.


BY HIS TEACHINGS

Yeshua emphasized the high priority of treating people justly in His teachings as well as by His example.

“The first of all the command-ments is, Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31).

The commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself is second only to the commandment to love God, Yeshua said. This alone shows the high priority Yeshua put on treating people justly. This alone should be all that needs to be said. But Yeshua said more than just the general statement “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” He needed to say more, because people ask questions like “Who really is my ‘neighbor’?”

Of course that was the exact question that was asked in response to the commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself. “But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Yeshua, And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).

Yeshua responded to that question with a story about a Samaritan who had compassion on a needy person. At his own expense, the Samaritan helped the needy man. Then Yeshua said, “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37).

This story shows that our love for our neighbor is shown by our treatment of our neighbor. We call this story “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.” However, it is worth noting that Yeshua never actually called this Samaritan “good.” He simply called him “a certain Samaritan.” So if we want to be more accurate, we should really call this The Parable of the Certain Samaritan.

Is there any significance in the fact that Yeshua called this man “a certain Samaritan” rather than “a good Samaritan”? I believe there is. A phrase like “a good Samaritan” suggests that the things this Samaritan did were things that would be done only be people who are exceptionally good. The phrase “a certain Samaritan” suggests that this Samaritan was nobody special; he was just a normal guy who saw someone in need and did what he could to help. He treated people the way all people should treat one another. The things this certain Samaritan did should be normal behavior for all people.

Yeshua taught many other things about how to treat people. He said to forgive people, seventy times seven times if it is necessary. He said to suffer the little children to come to Him (even though children get a bit noisy and disruptive and annoy adults), because children are people, too. And if anyone causes one of these little people to stumble, that person would be better off to be thrown in the sea with a millstone around his neck.

Yeshua’s rebuke of the scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites in Matthew chapter 23 included rebukes for their mistreatment of people. They laid heavy, grievous burdens on the people. They devoured widows’ houses. They tithed mint, anise, and cummin from their herb gardens, but they neglected the weightier commandments, the ones that deal with our treatment of people.

Yeshua’s Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew chapter 25 is all about our treatment of people. Inasmuch as we did it (or did it not) to the least of these His brethren, we did it (or did it not) to Him, He said.

In the synagogue in Nazareth, Yeshua said the Spirit of the Lord had anointed Him to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, to give sight to the blind, and to set at liberty those who were bruised. All of those who would benefit from His anointing - the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind, and the bruised - all of these were people.

Yeshua’s parables of The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal Son in Luke chapter 15 are about lost people. These parables show us how the Lord wants us to treat lost people.

In John chapters 13 through 17, Yeshua spoke about the importance of loving one another “as I have loved you,” and the importance of being one with other brothers. Our love for God’s people and our unity with God’s people are the things that will convince other people that we are His disciples and that Yeshua was sent by God. The Father wants the world to see these things because He cares about people.

In John chapter 21, Yeshua told Peter three times, “Feed My lambs, feed My sheep.” These lambs and sheep are people.

All these teachings of Yeshua show how important it is for us to treat people right.

“Daniel, you didn’t mention anything from The Sermon on the Mount. Didn’t Jesus say some things in The Sermon on the Mount about our treatment of people? Did you forget about The Sermon on the Mount?”

No, I did not forget about The Sermon on the Mount. Just as Yeshua saved the best wine for last when He did His first miracle, so I have saved the best for last. So here it is, The Sermon on the Mount.


THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

Most of the content of The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5 through 7) is about human relationships and how to treat other people. The introductory Beatitudes include “Blessed are the merciful” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.” The recipients of our mercy and peace are people. We are told to let our light shine so people will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.

If we bring our gift to the altar and there remember that a brother has something against us, the Lord says, “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer they gift” (Matt. 5:24). When people brought a gift to the altar, it was an act of worship. Yeshua’s instruction shows that reconciliation with a brother is more important to the Lord than worship. The Lord does not want worship from those who mistreat people.

Yeshua said to not look on a woman to lust after her. This shows that our treatment of people includes how we think about them as well as what we say or do to them. Yeshua said a man should not divorce his wife unless she commits sexual immorality. These teachings show the importance of men treating women with respect, because women are people, too.

Yeshua said that we should not swear, that our “Yea” or “Nay” should be enough for people to trust us. He said to love, bless, and pray for our enemies, because even our persecutors are people. In the “Our Father” prayer, we pray for forgiveness “as we forgive our debtors,” because our debtors are people, too. When Yeshua said “Judge not,” He was obviously referring to not judging people.


SUMMING UP THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS

In Matthew 7:12, Yeshua starts to wrap up The Sermon on the Mount by summarizing everything He has said so far.

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

This is the so-called Golden Rule. It is sometimes paraphrased “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

When Yeshua said “for this is the law and the prophets,” He meant that this is the heart of what the law and the prophets teach; this sums up what the law and the prophets teach. It is similar to Paul’s statement in Galatians 5:14, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

This does not mean that if you just be nice and love everybody, that you have obeyed all of God’s law, even if you worship idols, practice witchcraft, profane the Sabbath, eat pork, or have homosexual relations and claim you are both “doing unto the other guy what I want him to do unto me.” If you are doing any of those things, you are not fulfilling the law, because God’s law says to not do those things.

What then does Galatians 5:14 mean? It simply means that the fulfillment of the Torah, the goal of the Torah, is loving thy neighbor as thyself, which is expressed by treating people the way you want to be treated. The Golden Rule sums up all the instructions of God’s law, because so many of God’s commandments tell us how to treat people. Galatians 5:14 teaches us that our obedience to all these commandments depends on our love for people.

After Yeshua stated the two greatest commandments, He added “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:40). The Hebrew word for “hang” is talui. This word also means “depends on.” The law tells us how to treat people. The law says do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not covet your neighbor’s possessions. Your obedience to these specific commandments depends on (talui) your love for your neighbor. If you truly love your neighbor, you will not want to murder him, or commit adultery with his wife, or steal from him, or lie about him. You will not even want to covet his possessions. If you love your neighbor, you will treat him the way God says to treat him.

GRAPES & FIGS VERSUS THORNS & THISTLES

The final thing that Yeshua says in The Sermon on the Mount about the treatment of people is in His remarks about the treatment of people by true and false prophets:

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (Matt. 7:15-17).

When Bible believers hear the words “false prophets” or “false teachers,” they usually think of these labels in terms of false doctrines. “He doesn’t believe in the Trinity! He’s a false prophet!” (Or, in some circles, “He believes in the Trinity! He’s a false prophet!”). “He doesn’t believe in the pre-trib rapture! He’s a false prophet!” (Or, “He believes in a pre-trib rapture! He’s a false prophet!”)

False prophets and false teachers usually do teach some false doctrines. However, according to Yeshua, in these verses at least, the primary mark of a false prophet is not false doctrine. Yeshua did not even mention doctrine or theology in this warning about false prophets. Rather, He mentioned two other things. First, He mentioned their deceptive appearance. Secondly, He mentioned their hurtful treatment of people.


THE FIRST MARK OF FALSE PROPHETS: THEIR DECEPTIVE APPEARANCE

The first mark of a false prophet that Yeshua mentioned here is their deceptive appearance that cloaks their true nature. They come to you in sheep’s clothing. Outwardly they look, talk, and act like a true, born-again believer. Their sheepskin disguise even makes them smell like the real thing. At first there is nothing to make you suspicious of them. Outwardly they appear to be one of the flock.

“But inwardly they are ravening wolves.” They are hungry, yea, ravenous, for something that does not rightfully belong to them, whether it is fame, money, recognition and glory from men, or power to rule people with a rod of iron.

So the first mark of a false prophet is a deceptive cloak that hides their inward wolflike nature.


THE SECOND MARK OF FALSE PROPHETS: THEIR HURTFUL TREATMENT OF PEOPLE

The second mark of false prophets is the kind of fruit they produce. “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”

In other words, how do they treat people? Do their words and teachings nourish people’s souls the way that sweet, nutritious grapes and figs nourish the body? Or are their words sharp, harsh, and hurtful, like thorns and thistles that scratch, scrape, and injure? Do they speak sweet words that edify and encourage and make people enjoy listening to them? Or do they speak harsh, hurtful words that make people want to avoid them?

Harsh, hurtful, insulting words that scratch, scrape, and injure people are a mark of a false prophet. Our treatment of people should not produce the effects that thorns and thistles produce.

Even when correcting someone, we are commanded to do it humbly and with compassion, as it is written, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).

When correcting people, the truth might hurt them, but along with the painful truth we can speak words of encouragement to act as a healing balm. Before Yeshua spoke painful words of correction to the seven churches in Revelation, He first spoke words of encouragement. He commended them for the things they were doing right (except for the lukewarm Laodiceans, who apparently were not doing anything right).


LOVING PEOPLE VERSUS LOVING KNOWLEDGE, INFORMATION, & FACTS

Among Messianic and Hebrew Roots disciples, there are some who seem to love knowledge, information, and facts more than they love people. They are more concerned about being right than about treating people righteously. They fight and argue about things like the anatomy of the Creator (Trinity, Oneness, or something else?), the age of the earth (6,000 years, or older?), the mark of the beast (literal or figurative?), the Hebrew pronunciation of God’s name (Yahweh, Yahveh, Yehovah, or something else?), the nephilim (hybrid giants born to women who mated with fallen angels who kept not their first estate, or just very tall people born to Cain’s female descendants who mated with Seth’s male descendants?).

It is okay to respectfully discuss topics like these, but if it leads to harsh words, insults, and name-calling (thorns and thistles), rather than to edifying words that minister grace to the hearers (grapes and figs), this grieves the Holy Spirit, as it is written, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Messiah’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:29ff).

If you do not want to grieve the Spirit of God, treat people the way you want to be treated.


| DB

 

Image: Psalm 116 by Daniel Botkin from his Psurrealistic Psalms art project. See this fascinating project along with all Daniel’s art galleries on his art website, DanielBotkin.com.

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