Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sermon on the Mount 5: Trumping Plato

Scripture: Matthew 5:27-30

Focus: Tear it out and throw it away

Reflection: It was the location of sin that Jesus was getting at. Sin was not just what the body does, but the body was simply where the sin comes out. Yes, the body sins, but the heart sins first. There is a sin of the soul that is connected to, infused within, integrated in the body. These cannot be separated

Plato had made some ideas popular among the people of his day. Plato asserted that the body and spirit are separated. Thus, the body could do one thing and the soul another. There was a sense that body and soul were separate entities, that the body was a lesser and temporary copy of something else, some other body. Thus, what happened with the body was not all that important. Those ideas were in full swing in the days of Jesus.

Jesus trumps Plato with hyperbole. In a sense, Jesus was saying two things. First, that the body and soul are not just connected, but integrated. Second, if you buy into Plato’s philosophy that the body is not all that big a deal, that it is a shadowy copy, then act on it. What would it matter to partially destroy something that was of little consequence in the first place? In short, Jesus said that if you put your faith in Plato you are at risk. Plato would say that imperfection can only exist in the body, but Jesus takes it a whole farther than that.

By using hyperbole, Jesus makes the point of how important the body is. But he also makes the point that sin is not simply located in the body, but necessarily in the heart and in the soul. The eye and the heart are not two mutually exclusive things, but are integrated and mutually serving characteristics of humanity.

So, Jesus ups the stakes with the audience. He calls out their hypocrisy. There was the idea that if their bodies were not actually doing the sinful thing, then it was impossible for there to be sin at all. They were free to entertain any sort of lustful, greedy, hateful thoughts and feelings, but as long as they never acted on them, all was good. Jesus drills down and again gets to the seed of sin when everyone else focused on what sin looks like when it is full grown. 

In short, Jesus was saying, here is what adultery looks like when it is a seed. Look about the field of your souls, people, the very seed I am warning you about has been sown in your own field. Look. When you take comfort that sin is not full grown, you are at risk for it taking root. Sin is a problem when it is a seed. Take care of that. Is it tedious work? Yes. But there is no other way to go about it. Sin starts before you think it does.

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