Reading this morning from the seventh chapter of Matthew.
Trying to picture Jesus teaching folks. The message today was one worthy of repetition wherever He went. The crowds included any number of poor and very poor. I coined a phrase, "the dirt eaters" to help my Bible study classes understand this. We tend to read the Bible from our own setting. Well off white, middle class Americans unconsciously assume Jesus talked to people "just like us" (except wearing robes). Clean and bright and laden with all manner of middle class concerns. We assume that they voted (and probably voted for the same liberal/conservative values which we espouse!) even though democracy was not part of their political system. We think they honored division of church and state and that Jesus advocated individualism and personal freedom, and was maybe even an advocate of gun rights or gay marriage.In fact, the indoor plumbing, electricity, and mobility which we take for granted did not exist. When you think Jesus think Third World. There were lots of poor, and poor did not have access to much of anything (except hard work, disease and hunger, and struggle).
A dirt eater is figuratively someone with no power. They are prostrate before the ones with power (the word for worship literally means to fall on the face). With their face to the ground they are 'dirt eaters' and the powerful and oppressors take turns striding over and upon the lower class. Literally, sometimes the hungry eat dirt to fill their bellies. The need for eating anything is also a dirt eater. They are poor, hungry, needy and powerless. Those are the ones to whom Jesus proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom.
So when Jesus said, "Ask and you shall receive, Seek and you shall find, Knock and it shall be opened to you" He was saying this to a crowd of people who had no rights. It was expendable people who mattered only to their small kinship groups. No status, no rank, no importance--until Jesus announced that they belonged to God. Those who dared not ask were invited to ask, those with no hope who had stopped seeking are told that they will find. Imagine their faces. Imagine their minds and hearts. Invited to knock on the door of Heaven's King and invited to trust that same door would be opened for them and they would be brought in.
Can folks like you and me, filled with all manner of rights and expectations (and a serious case of entitlement) really appreciate how radial Jesus' message was? And the final verse, utilizing flawless logic, is the climax of the fireworks. If you evil people know how to provide for your kids.... If you evil people feed them and do not mock their needs... If you evil people know how to care for your loved one... Well how much more will your Father in Heaven (the God of love and mercy and kindness and compassion) provide for you.
Lesser to greater, a classic rabbinic teaching tool. Look at you and the good you do. And you are not good, yet you do good. Look at God who is perfect in goodness. What goodness is in store for those whom He loves? A Beautiful thought to ponder as we begin a long weekend....