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Chapter 29: The Gospels
Some Christians say that we should lay aside the Old Testament and concentrate on the New Testament since the events recorded therein caused the old law to pass away. They say that Christians are "saved" merely by faith in Jesus, and not by striving to be righteous and follow the old law. This strikes me as odd since Jesus is quoted in the New Testament as saying:
Mt:5:17: Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
Jesus here upheld what the Old Testament itself declared: that the law would never pass away. The Gospel writers made frequent reference to the Old Testament as they attempted to prove that Jesus' life was foretold there. And Jesus himself referred to the Old Testament as an authority. So the two are linked; the New Testament is invalid without the support of the Old. Paul, of course, contradicted Jesus and said that the law had passed away and that all we need to do now is believe in Jesus. Jesus plainly told us not to think that. Whom shall we believe: Jesus or Paul? But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Let's turn to the New Testament with fresh eyes and see if it can somehow lift us out of the nightmarish barbarism and contradictions of the Old.
Our hopes for the New Testament are dashed immediately in the first chapter of the first book. Here we are presented with Matthew's genealogy of Jesus, which contradicts that of Luke's.
Many people do not realize that the genealogy of Matthew contradicts that of Luke. This is due in part, no doubt, to the fact that people's eyes tend to glaze over when they see a long string of "begats". The difficulty is compounded by the fact that Matthew and Luke listed their genealogies in reverse order. But it is a simple matter to put them in the same order and lay the two next to each other as I have done below (the accuracy of this table is easily checked by comparing it to Matthew Chapter one and Luke 3:23-3:38). The highlighted names are where the two accounts are in disagreement.
In spite of the claim in Matthew that there were three periods of exactly 14 generations from Abraham to Jesus (which totals 42 generations), Matthew's list shows a total of only 40 generations from Abraham to Jesus. But Luke shows 54 generations between Abraham and Jesus! After David, the genealogy differs widely until we get to Joseph.
Attempts to harmonize these two contradictory genealogies have been feeble. Some contend that one traces the maternal line, and the other the paternal line. A moment's look at the verses in question immediately dispels this notion. Another attempted reconciliation is to say that Matthew traces the kingly line whereas Luke traces the paternal line. Since Joseph was not a king, and there is no record in the Old Testament of his father Jacob having been a king, or of Jacob's father Matthan having been king, or Matthan's father Eleazar having been king, and so on, this explanation is dubious. In any case, even if Matthew did trace the kingly line, it would not account for the contradictions.
The contradictions between the two genealogies cannot be resolved without denying what the accounts actually say. To take one instance: how can it be that Joseph was "the son of Heli" (according to Luke), when Matthew contends that "Jacob begat Joseph"? Did Joseph have two fathers? It does no good to say that Heli was Joseph's mother since Luke tells us plainly that Heli "was the son of Matthat". Nor can we say that Jacob was Joseph's mother since Jacob is obviously a man's name. Saying that Jacob was the king accomplishes nothing.
There is only one way I can see that these two accounts could be harmonized. We could say that Heli was Joseph's father-in-law. That would mean that after David, Luke traced the bloodline leading to Mary, and that Heli was Mary's father. In order to accept this theory we would have to say that "son" does not mean son in this instance, but means "son-in-law". This is a very dubious explanation. After stating that Joseph was the son of Heli, Luke used the word "son" 76 more times in this same chapter. In each of these 76 cases, "son" means "son" (otherwise the bloodline would be lost as would the whole point of giving the genealogy). How odd to think that Luke would mean something else by the word "son" only when speaking of Joseph. Also, when we look at the account about Mary's cousin Elisabeth, we see that Luke plainly stated:
Lk:1:5: There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
So, there was no restriction against plainly stating a woman's bloodline. Which leads us to believe that if Heli was Mary's father, Luke would have plainly said so instead of saying that Joseph was his son. If the whole point of Luke is to give Mary's genealogy, don't you think he'd at least mention Mary?
Also, the "son-in-law" explanation still requires us to believe that during the same time period one family line had 26 generations (from David to Joseph) while another family line had 41 generations (from David to Mary). While this, of course, is possible, it doesn't seem at all likely.
So, despite giving us these impressive looking genealogical lists, we cannot trace Jesus back past his father without resorting to the "it doesn't mean what it says" excuse with all of its unlikely assumptions.
But, in fact, we cannot even trace Jesus' roots back one generation to his father. Matthew and Luke plainly tell us that Joseph was not Jesus' biological father. So why bother giving us these genealogies? Who cares about Joseph's ancestry if Joseph is not involved in any way shape or form with Jesus' bloodline? If Mary was a virgin, then Joseph's bloodline is totally irrelevant to Jesus' ancestry. It is only Mary's bloodline that could possibly concern us. In order for Jesus to be a literal "son of David", Mary would have to have been descended from David, but the Gospel writers did not bother to explicitly tell us who her father was.
So why did they give us Joseph's genealogy? Two possibilities come to mind:
Perhaps they did not fully believe in the idea of the virgin birth and were trying to shore up their story by in effect saying, "well, just in case no one is gullible enough to believe the virgin birth story, we'll throw in Joseph's genealogy."
Or maybe the Gospel writers were simply yielding to public opinion which demanded that the Messiah be a "son of David". But in so doing they minimized the importance of Jesus having been divinely generated in Mary's womb. They also showed a lack of divine inspiration by yielding to public opinion and judging the worth of a person by their "breeding".
Luke attempted to trace Jesus' roots all the way back to Adam. In doing so he contradicted Gen 10:24 which tells us that Arphaxad begat Sala directly (whereas Luke maintains that Arphaxad begat Cainan who begat Sala).
Mt:1:18: Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
According to this, Joseph's decision not to make Mary's condition public proves that Joseph was a just man. In other words, the writer of Matthew feels that the consequences resulting from making such a thing public would be unjust. The law stated that Mary should be stoned to death:
Deut:22:20: But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:
At this point in the narrative, Joseph did not know that Mary was pregnant from a supernatural agency. He assumed her pregnancy was caused in the usual way. But he felt it would be unjust to stone her for this sin, and the writer of Matthew agreed with him. Both of them thought the law was unjust. So how could God have inspired the writing of both Deuteronomy and Matthew? Could it be that the law "passed away" not through any supernatural sacrifice but simply because men like Joseph became more just than the God they had so long ago invented?
Then an angel appeared to Joseph and told him about the situation, and we are told:
Mt:1:21: And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
First, we may well ask, how does calling a child "Jesus" fulfill a prophecy about calling a child "Emmanuel"? But this is just the start of our difficulties. The "prophecy" referred to comes from the Old Testament book of Isaiah where we read:
Isa:7:1: And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it.
So the birth of the child was not a prophecy, but a sign. The sign was meant to prove to Ahaz, the king of Judah, that Ephriam and Syria would not succeed in their war against him because God would send troops from Assyria to wipe them out before the child reached an age of understanding. We read how the sign was granted in the following chapter where Isaiah unashamedly tells us:
Isa:8:3: And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz.
One may well wonder how this met the terms of the promised sign since the child was not called Immanuel, and the mother was not a virgin (at least not after Isaiah "went unto" her). But I guess that was close enough for them. More importantly, we must remember that this "sign" was meant to prove the truth of the prophecy concerning the defeat of Ephriam and Syria in their war against Judah. That prophecy failed, as is recorded in 2 Chronicles 28:
2Chron:28:1: Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem: but he did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father:
Prior to the Gospel writers, no one entertained the thought that this "virgin birth" of Isaiah's was a prophecy concerning how the Messiah would be born. So, even if we were to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, it would in no way be in fulfillment of any prophecy written in the Old Testament. It appears that the writers of Matthew purposely lied in an attempt to give credence to their tall tale. Of course literacy was uncommon in those days, as were books, so few could check the facts for themselves. Today we have no excuse.
Why was Jesus born of a virgin? Matthew tells us plainly that "all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet.." According to Matthew the only reason Jesus was born of a virgin was to fulfill this "prophecy" which we have seen was not a prophecy at all. It was a hoax perpetrated to back up a false prophecy. Resting as it does on such a flimsy basis, the virgin birth of Jesus is highly suspect.
Mt:2:1: Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
In what sense were these wise men "from the east"? One can only surmise that they were East of Judaea since we are later told that they are from another country (Mt. 2:12). Now, if it is true that they were "from the east", and that they saw a star "in the east", then they would have headed east, not west towards Judaea. So the meaning of "we have seen his star in the east" must be that they saw the star when they were in the east, but the star was actually in the west from their viewpoint.
We will return to this star in a moment, but first we must ask why these foreigners would want to worship the "king of the Jews". Why would they care about a foreign king being born? If they wanted to worship the king of the Jews, there was Herod, the current king, right in front of them. Why seek out and worship one whose reign had not begun?
The implication, of course, is that these wise men knew that Jesus was more than just another king of the Jews. How did they come by this information when none of God's "chosen people" were aware of it? These "chosen people" were the ones exposed to all of the supposed "prophecies" concerning the birth of the Messiah, yet only these foreigners were in the know. How come? Was there greater wisdom than what the God of the Bible had revealed to his chosen ones? Have we been reading the wrong 'Holy' book?
Mt:2:7: Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
Now, if this story were true, don't you think a lot of people would've seen this star besides these wise men? Why would Herod have to commission them to find Jesus after they told him about the star? Couldn't he just "follow the star" as the wise men supposedly did?
We know that this description cannot be true. A star could not stand over a single house on Earth. Whoever wrote this was ignorant of astronomy and evidently assumed that stars were small lights in the sky not far over his head. He must not have known that the nearest star is millions of miles away, and that the smallest star is many times larger than the Earth. Had he known these things he would've known that a star cannot be said to stand over a particular spot on our constantly moving tiny planet.
Try this experiment: Have a friend place a pea in a pie plate. Then have him tip the plate slightly up and down so that the pea revolves around the plate. While your friend continues to do this, you must take a beach ball and ascend to the top of the tallest building available (a skyscraper will do nicely). Hold the beach ball up and have your friend tell you with pinpoint precision what spot on the pea the beach ball is over. Then you will begin to understand the absurdity of claiming that a star stood over a particular house on earth.
Finally, if they were so "wise", why couldn't these men figure out for themselves that announcing the birth of a new king would naturally upset the current king, and given Jewish history, would imperil the life of the one they sought to worship?
Mt:2:13: And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
In recounting the birth of Jesus, Luke did not mention any wise men from the east. Instead of rich, wise foreigners, the book of Luke has poor local shepherds visiting Jesus at his birth. Nor does Luke mention that incredible star perched over the "house" where Jesus was born. In fact, Luke indicates that Jesus was not born in a house at all, because he was laid in a "manger" (i.e. a feeding trough for cattle), and it is doubtful that anyone would have a manger in their house. Luke also does not mention the horrible slaughter of all the infants in Bethlehem. (In fact, there is no historian who mentions this incredibly heinous deed, and this makes its authenticity highly suspect.)
In yet another contradiction, Luke indicated that Jesus and his family did not go to Egypt! Luke's narrative starts out in Nazareth as their hometown and tells us they only went to Bethlehem because of the census. Then, after a short trip to Jerusalem to kill two birds "according to the law of the Lord", they went right back to Nazareth:
Lk:2:39: And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
This shows that they were in Nazareth almost immediately after Jesus was born, and stayed there (other than an annual trip to Jerusalem) for at least 12 years. This precludes them from having taken the long journey to Egypt, and so we cannot believe Matthew if we believe Luke.
An attempt to harmonize Matthew and Luke's account states that the wise men did not come to visit Jesus at his birth (despite what Matthew says at Mt. 2:1). They came when he was a "young child" under two years of age. By that time he would've been living in his stepfather Joseph's house. Unfortunately this attempt leads to a different contradiction: Luke places the family home in Nazareth. He gives no indication that they suddenly went to Bethlehem so that the wise men would find them there, much less that they then went to Egypt.
Mt:2:23: And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
There is no such prophecy in the Old Testament.
Mt:4:5: Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
Matthew tells us that the devil first took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, and then to a high mountain. Luke, however, says just the opposite:
Lk:4:5: And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time'
Lk:4:9: And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence:
When Jesus began preaching, far from relieving his listeners from the obligations of the law, he instituted a stricter interpretation of the law:
Mt:5:17: Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
Paul took issue with Jesus' words here. Paul taught that Jesus caused the law to end:
Rom:10:4: For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
In speaking about the law, Jesus told us that we must be righteous. He explained what he means by referring to the scribes and Pharisees: we must follow the law:
Mt:5:20: For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Gal:2:21: I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Again, not only did Jesus fully support righteousness based on following the law, he added stricter laws of righteousness (in violation of Deuteronomy 4:2):
Mt:5:22: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Evidently even Jesus couldn't follow his own law, listen to what he called the scribes and Pharisees to their face:
Mt:23:17: Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?
Maybe this is why we are told that Jesus went to hell (according to the Catholic creed).
Mt:5:25: Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
Here Jesus told us not to fight for our rights in a court of law. We are to be so fearful of prison that we must give in to our adversary (regardless of the rightness of our cause). This theme of submission will be seen repeatedly throughout the New Testament just as it was in the old (in fact I think we should change the title of the Bible and call it "Submit!")
Mt:5:27: Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
So here come the "thought police". We know today that human beings have a natural, healthy sexual desire. It is the result of hormones in our body (which God supposedly created). We do not have control over such things, we can only control how we react to such drives. A healthy attitude, then, would be to accept "lust in the heart" as a natural part of the human condition. Choosing whether to act on this "lust" is where ethics come into play. But Jesus would have none of this. He condemned us as sinners because of the desires that are part of being human.
This teaching can backfire and short-circuit morality all together; a person could logically conclude that, since they have already "committed adultery in their heart", they might as well go ahead and commit adultery for real.
Another side effect of Jesus' teaching here is that it leads to guilt, which can lead to depression. So, by his teaching, Jesus turned what should be a great source of joy into a cause for guilt and depression.
Mt:5:29: And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Evidently, Jesus assumed that different parts of the body could sin independently of the mind's direction. Why else would he encourage us to mutilate ourselves in this way? It appears from this that Jesus had no concept of the mind or how the human body works. This is supported by Mt. 6:3 where he cautioned us not to let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. Could someone displaying such ignorance really be our creator as the Bible claims?
Mt:5:32: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
In the above verse, Jesus made it clear that a divorced woman will be judged guilty of adultery when she has not committed adultery! He did not say that the divorced man is guilty of anything, but any man who marries the divorced woman will also be judged guilty of adultery! Again, it seems the divorced man is free to remarry without any condemnation attaching to himself or to his new wife.
Let's put Jesus' principle into action: Fred and Lois have been more or less happily married for 20 years. Recently Fred has been going through a "mid-life crisis" and has been eyeing up the secretaries at work. He decides to divorce Lois so that he can then attempt to attract a younger woman. Lois reluctantly agrees to the divorce. Five years later we find Fred remarried to a slightly younger woman, and Lois has also remarried. Here is how Jesus (according to Mt 5:32) judges their new situation: Fred is guiltless, while Lois and the man she married are both guilty of adultery!
Later on in Matthew, though, Jesus changed his rules about divorce:
Mt:19:9: And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
According to this second pronouncement, divorce does not automatically make the woman guilty of adultery. But if the man remarries, then he commits adultery. If the woman remarries, then her new husband commits adultery! This is a very significant rule change for Lois! In Jesus' first pronouncement she was guilty of adultery no matter what she did, but in Jesus' second pronouncement on divorce she is innocent (except that she is probably condemned to be single since no one would want to marry her and be guilty of adultery).
Mark recorded Jesus' pronouncement on divorce as follows:
Mk:10:11: And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.
In this pronouncement, the most important consideration is who instigated the divorce. Here, adultery only comes into play when the instigator of the divorce remarries, and it does not attach itself to the new mate.
But what about "fornication"? In both of the pronouncements in Matthew, Jesus seemed to suspend judgment about divorce in the case of fornication. But in Mark no such loophole was given. So, according to Mark, whoever is the instigator of the divorce cannot remarry without committing adultery. If Fred commits adultery while still married to Lois, and Lois therefore files for divorce, Lois cannot remarry without once again being judged guilty of adultery, although it was Fred who "cheated".
But why should "fornication" make any difference in all this? If two people have made a mistake in their marriage and find out that they are making each other miserable and would be happier apart, what is wrong with their getting divorced? Why should God force them to stay together? How could it possibly hurt Almighty God? And if they later found happiness with someone else and married them, why would that bother God? Does God enjoy making people miserable? It is hard to imagine any positive results or sane reasons behind any of Jesus' various pronouncements on divorce.
I would hate to have to go to the Bible for guidance on divorce since Jesus said three contradictory things about it. All I could possibly come away with is confusion. It is hard to fathom all of the human misery these pronouncements have caused humankind. Surely an all-knowing God of love could've come up with a better guide than this for us!
Mt:5:34: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:
Today many people are confused about what constitutes "swearing," "cursing" and "taking God's name in vain". Many people assume these are all synonymous. They are not. What Jesus was referring to was swearing an oath, such as is practiced in the courthouses of the United States when we are required to lay a hand on the Bible and swear to tell the truth, "so help me God". This is swearing by the Bible and by God. We see another example in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet where Romeo attempted to pledge his love to Juliet by "swearing" upon the moon. In modern times, outside of the courthouse and army induction centers, such swearing is extremely rare (other than some teenagers' propensity to constantly blurt out, 'I swear to God!') It is hard to imagine why Jesus devoted any time to it when he could have been explaining proper hygiene, the causes of disease, crop rotation, or something useful along those lines. But, no, among his few sayings handed down to us is that we shouldn't swear. Once again one would be hard pressed to imagine why God would dislike such things or what possible difference it could make in the universal scheme of things.
Cursing, in contrast to swearing, involves wishing evil upon someone or something. "May your children be barren", is an example of a curse. Cursing was practiced widely in the Bible (even by Jesus) and was only condemned when children cursed their parents.
Taking God's name in vain (or "profaning God's name" or "profanity" for short) involves using the name of God (Yahweh or Jehovah) in a non-reverential manner. I have never heard anyone do this.
What normally passes as "swearing", "cursing", "profanity", or "taking the Lord's name in vain" is simply vulgar language and slang. These are nowhere explicitly condemned in the Bible. The closest we can come is where Paul says to refrain from "unclean speech", but what the Aramaic-speaking Paul would consider "unclean" in modern American English is anyone's guess. It is doubtful, for instance, that he would ever conclude that our ubiquitous "f-word" is considered our most vulgar. Like any culture we have certain taboo words, but the taboo originated within our culture, not that of the first century middle east. So uttering such words is in no way breaking Jesus' rule not to swear.
Mt:5:39: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Jesus plainly told us not to fight for our rights, but yield submissively to evil. This is not even "passive resistance"; it is not resistance at all! It is ironic that many Christians in the United States erroneously believe that their country was founded on the Bible. How could there have ever been a "Boston Tea Party" and a Revolution against British tyranny if they had followed Jesus' command not to resist evil? We would still be a British colony to this day.
We can be glad that no one has taken Jesus seriously here. I tried it in my youth and thus spent my youth constantly being physically abused by bullies. My mental health and self-esteem have greatly improved since I dismissed Jesus' notion that assertiveness is a sin. No wonder the Roman Empire chose Christianity to keep their subjects in line!
Mt:5:44: But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
This sounds good. Loving everyone, including those who hate you. But should Jesus have said, "practice what I preach, not what I do"? Did he "do good" to his enemies the "money changers" and their animals?
Jn:2:15: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
Here we see Jesus physically abused men and animals and vandalized property. This could hardly be considered a blessing.
Listen to what Jesus says of another enemy:
Mk:14:21: The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.
That sounds more like a threat than a prayer.
And what does he have to say to those who do not welcome his disciples' "good news"?
Lk:10:10: But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say,
Sounds more like a curse than a blessing to me.
Mt:5:48: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
This is very unlike the popular bumper-sticker which reads, "Christians aren't perfect ' just forgiven". Evidently Jesus would not subscribe to Christian religions today which tells us "all you got to do is believe". Jesus plainly asked us to be perfect.
Mt:6:1: Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
So Jesus told us that the giving of alms is not to be done from an unselfish motive; it is to be done for a more enlightened selfishness, leading to a greater reward. I also used to follow this advice and not let anyone know that I was giving to several very worthwhile charities. Then it occurred to me that my hiding of this was not doing anyone any good. So I began telling friends and family about the charities I supported and why I thought they were good causes. Several of those I shared this with decided they would also contribute to these charities. So good can come out of making your charities known. I would rather set an example that others might follow than take pains to hide such acts so that I might personally benefit. This results in the greatest good for the greatest number. If some people think I am boasting about my good works, that's their problem. I am willing to put up with some bad opinions of me if some good can come to others out of it. This seems much more ethical to me than Jesus' reward system.
Mt:6:7: But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Jesus then launched into a sample prayer which millions of Christians have turned into a vain repetition.
Jesus said "your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him," and his prayer consisted mostly of praise and agreeing that "you know best, God, so I want what you want." He seemed to indicate here that it is not appropriate to ask for what we want in prayer. Most Christians don't follow this; most prayers today seem to center around requests for God to bring about what the speaker of the prayer wishes. Jesus intimated that such prayers are pointless since God already knows what we need.
I must agree with Jesus here. It makes no sense to tell an all-knowing all-loving God what should be done, or even what you want (since he would already know that too). But Jesus then went on to violate this very principal in his sample prayer: he told God to forgive us, not to lead us into temptation, and to deliver us from evil!
It is very odd that Jesus instructed us to ask God not to "lead us into temptation". Why would God ever want to lead us into temptation? Note what James had to say about the matter:
Jms:1:13: Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
James said that God does not tempt any man. So why did Jesus instruct us to ask God not to tempt us? Did he disagree with James' words here, or was he worried that God might start tempting us unless we requested otherwise?
Mt:6:14: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
Here we learn that faith in Jesus is not the only way to get forgiveness for our sins (as many Christians today would have us believe).
Mt:6:25: Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Mt:6:31: Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
Here Jesus was evidently recommending an attitude of "the world [or God] owes me a living!" He told us that we should not provide for our own sustenance or take responsibility for our own care. We should let God take care of us. It is very fortunate that few Christians take Jesus' words here seriously. Otherwise we non-Christians would be working non-stop to feed and clothe them. If you follow Jesus' advice here, you will not last long. It is an irresponsible shirking of the basic duties of life. How would a follower of Jesus' words ever be able to give to charity? She would be a charity case herself!