We discuss Christ teaching against hypocrisy through two events in the bible. First, in the Sermon on the Mount, he describes hypocrisy in terms of the motivation for doing something. He provides examples to distinguish between motivation that pleases God and motivation that displeases him. An act of worship or righteousness pleases God if motivated by seeking to fulfill his purpose. Other motivations displease him, such as seeking recognition, admiration, or honor. The second event is an address to his disciples and followers regarding relationship with Teachers of the Law, where he highlights two aspects of the individual responsibility in interactions with authority—respect for authority and rejection of hypocrisy.
In this bible study, we discuss Christ teaching against hypocrisy using information from two events in the bible. The first event is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7). He devotes a good part of the sermon (Matthew 6:1–18) to hypocrisy. He describes hypocrisy in terms of the motivation for doing something, using examples to distinguish between motivation that pleases God and motivation that displeases him. He explains that an act of worship or righteousness pleases God if motivated by seeking to fulfill his purpose. Any other motivation amounts to hypocrisy. Acts of worship or righteousness do not please God if motivated by seeking human recognition, admiration, or honor.
The second event is another major teaching when Christ addressed his disciples and followers regarding their relationship with Teachers of the Law. The address is at times referred to as the Seven Woes (Matthew 23). We focus on the first part of the address, where he highlights two aspects of the individual responsibility regarding interactions with authority. The first is the responsibility to respect and heed the authority and the second is the responsibility to recognize and reject hypocrisy that could manifest with people in authority.
Our discussion of hypocrisy includes an examination of a current event with a focus on understanding the motivation for doing something. Are you motivated by Living in the Image of God: recognizing that God has a purpose for you in every situation and seeking to advance his purpose through your response? Or, are you motivated by a desire for human recognition, admiration, or honor? The answer may not be binary; because human recognition, admiration, or honor could be associated with an objective motivated by Living in the Image of God. However, we expect our discussion to advance understanding and bring us closer to God’s purpose.
Based on Jesus interactions regarding a blind man Bartimaeus, we learn the benefits of persistence and specificity in prayer and understand the individual responsibility to assist others in their prayer and effort. Bartimaeus was begging by the roadside when he realized Jesus was passing and recognized an opportunity to seek for better. His behavior illustrates persistence in prayer and human effort, even when others or circumstances appear to discourage you. Further, Christ’s question to Bartimaeus—What do you want me to do for you—is a call to every person to seek specificity in prayer, to understand your prayer purpose better and seek alignment of your purpose with God’s purpose. Also, his instruction to the other people underscores the individual responsibility to assist others in their prayer and effort.
In this bible study, we discuss Christ interactions regarding a blind man named Bartimaeus. We discuss what he told Bartimaeus regarding prayer and what he told others regarding their interactions with Bartimaeus. Based on the blind man’s behavior, we learn about recognizing an opportunity to seek for better through prayer and human effort. Also, we learn about persistence in prayer and effort even when other people or circumstances appear to discourage you.
Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging when he realized that Jesus was passing, accompanied by his disciples and a large crowd. He raised his voice above the crowd and called for mercy from Jesus. Other people tried to discourage him but he persisted and raised his voice even louder. Jesus asked the others to call the blind man to him. The people recognized the invitation as an opportunity for Bartimaeus and called him to come to Jesus. When the blind man came, Jesus asked him: “What do you want me to do for you?” That is, he invited the blind man to be specific regarding what he needs from God. Bartimaeus responded with clarity and specificity: “Rabbi, I want to see.” Jesus healed him from blindness immediately.
Based on Christ interaction with the blind man, we learn about the need and discuss the benefits of specificity in prayer. Seeking specificity in prayer leads to better understanding of your prayer purpose and what you can humanly do regarding your need. Further, understanding your prayer purpose better will help in seeking to align your purpose with God’s purpose, thereby strengthening your faith. Also, based on Christ instruction to the other people, we learn about assisting others in their prayer and human effort.
Jesus washed his disciples’ feet to illustrate a motivation for service fundamental to leading or following: “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” To serve in humility, elevate others in your mind to the status of master and humble yourself to the status of servant; recognize the master’s need; and provide for the need diligently, wholeheartedly, and in humility, as a servant would to a master. By washing his disciples’ feet, Christ conveys a message that a call to lead or follow is a call to service: to humble self to serve others as a servant would serve a master. God promises blessing to those that serve in humility.
We discuss an interaction between Jesus and his disciples when he washed their feet individually to teach service in humility. Jesus humbled himself to the status of servant and elevated his disciples in his mind to the status of master. Then he washed their feet individually as a servant would wash the feet of a master. He did this to teach the principle of humble yourself to serve others.
In several previous studies (such as Call to Compassion Example—Good Samaritan), we describe compassion as an act of providing service to alleviate the need of others. We focused on the category of compassion whereby a person more capable provides goods or service to alleviate the need of a person less capable: such as in the Parable of the Good Samaritan that describes a person providing for the need of a robber victim that was incapable of helping himself. However, the current bible study focuses on a category of compassion whereby the service provider is motivated by humility but not necessarily by a superior capability to provide the service.
Compassion in humility describes a motivation for service that is fundamental to leading or following. Christ demonstrated the principle by washing his disciples’ feet: “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave” [Matthew 20:26–27]. To explain the interaction, he declared: “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” [John 13:14]. Therefore, by washing his disciples’ feet, Christ conveys a message that a call to lead or follow is a call to service—to humble self to serve others, even as a servant would serve a master. God promises blessing to those that serve in humility: “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” [John 13:17].
Based on Christ teaching in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, we learn that God assigns individual responsibility to every person in every situation. Find your responsibility to understand God’s purpose for you in a given situation. Focus on performing your individual responsibility, irrespective of what others do or fail to do. He judges every person individually, independent of his judgment of other people.
We discuss Christ teaching in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, to understand that God assigns individual responsibility to every person in every situation. Also, he judges a person based on their performance of the individual responsibility. Furthermore, his judgment of a person is independent of his judgment of others, irrespective of what others do or fail to do. He rewards each person for performing their individual responsibility and his reward for a person is independent of his reward for others.
Christ teaching in the parable (Matthew 20:1–16) uses a hypothetical event of a landowner hiring several workers for one day’s work in his vineyard. At the core of the teaching is the fact that the landowner expectation of each worker was different depending on the time of day he hired the worker. This fact conveys an aspect of human relationship with God: that God’s expectation of each person in a given event is independent and could differ from his expectation of others. Furthermore, he judges each person individually and independent of what others do or fail to do.
We discuss the parable to understand the message. Also, we discuss a passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans, where he applies the principle to describe the individual responsibility for peace.
Christ teaching in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant uses human interactions regarding debt to teach human relationship with God regarding forgiveness of sin. Forgive those that repent from sin they committed against you, the same way that God forgives you when you repent. Repentance establishes a call for forgiveness, as the need of another person establishes a call to compassion. God rewards a person that accepts a call for forgiveness but promises punishment for the one that declines. The same way he rewards those that complete responsibility in a call to compassion and promises punishment for those that decline.
We discuss Christ teaching in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant to understand that God expects you to forgive those that repent from sin they committed against you, the same way he forgives you when you repent. To perform the responsibility, accept repentance from others and forgive them. Also, as we discuss in a previous study under Responding to Sin, guide the others to repentance if they don’t repent on their own initiative (Matthew 18:15–17) and forgive them if they repent.
In addition to laying down the requirement to forgive those that repent, the parable describes the consequences for denying forgiveness. God’s promise of punishment for those that fail to forgive others is described in the parable through a king rescinding his initial grant of mercy to a servant after he was informed that the servant denied mercy to a fellow servant: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” [Matthew 18:35].
We discuss the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant to understand (i) God’s mandate to every person to forgive those that repent from any misdeed or undesirable action they committed against you and (ii) his promise of punishment for those that refuse to forgive.
To get reconciliation, if a person sins against you and repents, forgive them; if you sin against another, repent and seek forgiveness. Reconciliation endures if founded on repentance and forgiveness but would be meaningless and short-lived if not. As an example, Joseph (the 11th son of Israel) forgave and reconciled with his brothers after he verified that they had repented from sin they committed against him. Their reconciliation paved the way for subsequent growth and prosperity of the nation of Israel.
In this bible study session, we focus on understanding the relationship of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. As we discuss in a previous study, repentance is necessary and sufficient for forgiveness. If a person sins against you and repents, then forgive them. Similarly, if you commit sin, repent and ask for forgiveness from the injured party.
Thus, repentance leads to forgiveness. Also, forgiveness leads to reconciliation. Our discussion in this study focuses on understanding that repentance and forgiveness provide a solid foundation for meaningful and lasting reconciliation and for a bountiful harvest in human interactions and relationships.
We begin with Christ teaching in Matthew 5:23–24 to understand the priority and process of reconciliation in human interactions. Also in the study, we draw an example from the life of Joseph (the 11th son of Israel) regarding his reconciliation with his brothers. We see that Joseph first verified that his brothers had repented from a great sin they committed against him, then he forgave them, and reconciled with them. Their reconciliation cleared the way for the nation of Israel to relocate to Egypt, where they survived the great famine, multiplied, and prospered.
Repentance is necessary and sufficient for forgiveness and consists of three ordered steps: (1) recognition that you have sinned, feeling of remorse and personal responsibility for the sin, and recognition of the injured party; (2) commitment to turnaround from the sinful behavior and turn to doing right and just; and (3) confession to the injured party—confess the sin, your personal responsibility, remorse, and commitment to turnaround. God sees repentance as the return of a lost soul and welcomes and forgives the repentant person unconditionally.
Christ teaching in the Parable of the Lost Son provides an understanding of the value of repentance in human relationship with God and his purpose regarding repentance in human interactions and relationships. He explains in the parable that God sees repentance as the return of a lost soul and welcomes and forgives the repentant person unconditionally.
Also, he uses the parable to explain sin as wrongdoing that a person commits against at least one other—the injured party. In that case, repentance requires three actions in order: (1) recognition and remorse, whereby you recognize that you have sinned, feel remorse and accept personal responsibility for the sin, and recognize the injured party; (2) commitment to turnaround from the sinful behavior and turn to doing right and just; and (3) confession to the injured party, whereby you confess the sin, your personal responsibility, remorse, and commitment to turnaround. As we discuss in a previous study under Responding to Sin, Christ explains that the injured party must accept the repentance and forgive the repentant person.
We discuss our understanding of the parable first and conclude the study with a discussion of the parable itself based on the gospel according to Luke [15:11–21].
To respond to a sin by an associate, provide them an opportunity to repent, even if the person has sinned and repented previously. Provide the opportunity diligently and with persistence. If they repent, accept the matter as resolved. However, if they refuse to repent, separate from them to protect yourself from sin.
We discuss Christ teaching to explain the individual responsibility regarding another person (an associate) that has committed sin. He teaches that you should provide the associate with an opportunity to repent. You should do this even if the person has sinned and repented previously. Also, you need to provide the opportunity diligently and with persistence. Christ describes several steps for escalating your effort by involving an increasing number of people. If the person repents, you should accept the matter as resolved. However, if they refuse to repent, then you should separate yourself from them.
The essence of the message is that a sin by an associate threatens your continued association with them, because you need to separate yourself from any person, thing, or event that may cause you to sin (see previous discussion under Individual Responsibility Regarding Sin). First, you should seek to help the associate to remove the sin. You should do so with diligence and persistence. If the associate repents, then accept. However, if the associate refuses to repent, then separate from him or her to protect yourself from sin.
We discuss specific steps based on Christ teaching for seeking to convince the associate to repent.
Christ teaches two elements of the individual responsibility regarding sin. First, do not instigate others to turn away from God. Those you instigate may instigate others and chains of more others. Because forgiveness requires repentance of all along the chain, repentance by an instigator alone could be insufficient. Therefore, the punishment for instigating another person to sin could be inescapable. Second, do not commit sin, even if instigated by another. Separate yourself from people, things, or events that may cause you to sin. However, in contrast to sin committed by instigating others, repentance from a sin committed by self guarantees forgiveness.
We discuss Christ teaching to understand that the individual responsibility regarding sin has two elements. First, you should separate yourself from whoever or whatever that may cause you to sin. If these are people, separate yourself from them; if things, separate yourself from the things; if events, keep yourself far away from the events. You are individually responsible for any sin you commit, even if the sin is instigated by others. [Matthew 18:8–9]: “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”
Second, you should not instigate others to sin. Instigating another person to sin means doing something that causes a person that believes in God to turn away from God. Turning away from God means turning to sin [Matthew 18:6–7]: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!”
The punishment for instigating another person to sin could be inescapable, because those you instigate may instigate others and chains of more others. In that case, forgiveness would require repentance of all along the chain. Therefore, whereas repentance from sin committed by self means a turn to God and guarantees forgiveness, repentance from instigating another to sin could be insufficient for forgiveness because of the other lost souls along the potential chains of instigated sinners.
Humility is the quality of expecting others to be greater or better than you in one or more considerations, based on understanding that every person is potentially God’s representative in human interactions with you. Humility manifests as an invitation with promise—promise of care and diligence regarding the needs of others; promise of appreciation for others and any goods or service they provide; and promise of obedience to the authority of others—conveyed to them more by attitude than spoken or written words.
We discuss three instances of Christ teaching regarding humility: to understand the meaning and importance of humility in human interactions. First, we discuss Christ teaching among dinner guests, where he explained a defining principle of humility: humble yourself that you may be exalted and honored by others; or the opposite, exalt yourself and you likely will be humbled and humiliated by others. Through his interactions with the dinner guests, Christ defines humility as the quality of expecting others to be greater or better than you in one or more considerations.
Second, we discuss the humility of a child based on Christ teaching. We see that a child personifies humility according to the defining principle, because of the intrinsic characteristic of childhood to expect others to be greater or better. Therefore, Christ introduces the humility of childhood as defining a standard that God expects of every person.
Third, we discuss an example based on the humility of David to understand that humility entails respect and submission to lawful authority. He was anointed to be king but recognized the authority of the people to select him as their king. Therefore, he waited patiently in humility for seven years after the death of his predecessor, until the people of Israel made him king.
Finally, we discuss Christ teaching on humility in the Sermon on the Mount, where he described the promise of blessing for humility toward God and humility in human interactions.