Friday, September 06, 2013

the least of these

I like this. It corrects a classic example of "right doctrine from wrong text" seen in far too many teachers. For me, I never bought into the notion of Mt 25.35-40 as a teaching for caring for the poor in general. I had understood it more about the poor among the brethren. This by Craig Blomberg (Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Material Possessions) linking to Mt 10.42 sharpens that focus more. I agree with his perspective.

The majority perspective has understand Jesus’ ‘brothers’ in verse 40 to refer to spiritual kin, as the term (adelphoi) does elsewhere in Matthew in every instance in which biological siblings are not in view (see 5:22-24, 47; 7:3-5; 12:48-50; 18:15 twice, 21, 35; 23:8; 28:10).

The term ‘little ones’, of which ‘the least’ (25:40, 45) is the superlative form, also without exception in Matthew refers to disciples (10:42; 18:6, 10, 14; cf. also 5:19 and 11:11).

This makes the point of Jesus’ teaching closely parallel to Matthew 10:42: Jesus’ itinerant followers (today we might call them Christian missionaries) must be cared for by those to whom they minister. Affording material help to those who preach in the name of Jesus demonstrates acceptance of the missionaries’ message at the spiritual level . . . This view is almost certainly correct.

Today, however, the prevailing interpretation is that Jesus is teaching about the need to help the dispossessed whether or not they are Christian. . . .

This is obviously an important biblical theme, but is far less likely to be the focus of this particular passage, given the consistent meaning of the terms and the larger context of parables focusing on the disciples (24:43-25:46).

No comments: