The Gospel Matthew is written as a travelogue. The scriptures follow Jesus as he walks the roads of Israel. A reader should read the gospel in its entirety for an informal but insightful experience. What Jesus presents to the reader in the 49 parables, the Sermon on the Mount, and the greatest commandments is not the Christian religion we practice today – – not even remotely.
Jesus traveled humbly and accepted the grace of those he met to be fed and given a place for the night. This was never an issue with Jesus because he was a charismatic, caring person and drew people to him easily. It is clear that Jesus did not concern himself with income or prestige, or self-importance; it was those very things he felt were sins in the eyes of God. We are familiar with his comparison with the sparrow and the lily, saying that if God cared for these, would not God also care for us.
At one point early in his travels, Jesus is chastised by the Pharisees (ministers) for having dinner with lowly and despised individuals. Jesus responds by saying he has come to save those in need, not the self-righteous – who do not need God. Repeatedly in his travels, Jesus says two things: Love God first – even before your own family and especially before yourself. The second is that God wants us to assist the downtrodden, unfortunate, sick, and despised. He implies quite clearly at one point that one does not serve God sitting in a pew and “praying where the public can see them.”
His absolute insistence on humbleness and brotherly love runs throughout the Gospel. Another familiar instruction we all know but ignore is “Judge not lest you be judged.” Is there anyone who can honestly profess not to have prejudice, favoritism, disdain, or self-importance?
It appears obvious that his present day followers have drifted far, far from the truths of his sermons and parables. Dare we call ourselves Christian? Is there anyone among us who will put another person’s wellbeing above self indulgence, deciding rather who we are by what we earn and spend than provide for another person first? Jesus says give all your wealth away and follow him. Remember the comparison about the camel fitting through the eye of a needle?
The New Testament focus is on loving others and respecting God’s natural love for us and God’s gift of wisdom and happiness beyond measure. Read the Gospel Matthew to remember what a Christian is.