So today we are going to wrap up our little series on the sermon on the mount. If you want to start the series from the beginning you can click here. So far, Jesus has told us about who we need to be inside and how we should avoid making shows of our righteousness for others to see. He’s urged us to do what is right in the extreme, not only must we not be violent outwardly but we must not be violent inwardly.
He has a consistent theme of what people are on the outside not always matching what is on the inside. A person can give to charity and pray in public and keep all the laws and follow all the traditions while still being wicked in their hearts. And a person may very well be giving in secret, praying in private, and call their tradition and rules of their culture into question – and appear from the outside as someone with no righteousness at all.
In this last section (Matthew 7) Jesus concludes that we should never judge anyone, there are false prophets and false disciples and there are righteous holy people who are poor in spirit, meek in demeanour, and persecuted by the world. What we see of people from the outside is meaningless and so we should never judge any person. For many religious people are wolves in sheep’s clothing and many spiritually bankrupt people the world rejects are holy and destined to inherit the earth.
Not only are our impressions of others usually wrong but our impressions of ourselves often are too. We judge the splinter in someone else’s eye but don’t even realize we have a log in our own. We fool ourselves everyday, every one of us. We imagine we are righteous when we are really wicked, we imagine we are wicked when we are really holy, we imagine we are unlovable when we are eternally loved by God. We should not judge others because we can never really know what is in their hearts – and we should never judge ourselves because we do not even know our own hearts.
Yet, while we should not judge we should most certainly be mindful and thoughtful in the opinions we form. Jesus warns us that there are false prophets who’s teachings will lead us astray, that calling out Jesus’s name does not mean that he knows us, and that we should not cast our pearls before swine. We must look at those who preach the gospel critically and know them by their fruit. If a person preaches a beautiful sermon but lives in lavish wealth then their fruit gives them away. If a person wears a cross around their neck and goes to church every Sunday but belittles the people around them and is quick to judge then they do not belong to Christ.
We are not to give pearls to pigs because they will never be able to appreciate them, they will trample them into the mud and ruin them, and likely maul us in the process. So while we are not to judge others, we are certainly meant to be aware of the fruit they produce and mindful that the pearls of wisdom they have been given are often mixed with manure.
These people can be dangerous and can lead us down the wrong path. Jesus warns us that the wrong path is wide and it is easy to pass through the gate of destruction – while the path of life is narrow and the gate is small and most people miss it entirely. This passage is usually interpreted as referring to heaven and hell where we go after we die. But Jesus doesn’t actually say that in this sermon, instead he refers to the path of destruction and the path of life.
Spiritual destruction and spiritual life are conditions of our souls today, right now. In fact, the whole sermon on the mount is dedicated to describing these two conditions and what a person who lives each life is like. A meek person who cares for others, has no anger in their hearts, and does not spend their life looking for the praise of others is living in the spirit of life. While a person who follows the letter of the law but twists it for their own gain, or who sounds trumpets every time they do an act of kindness, or who judges the faults of others but assumes themselves to be perfect is living in spiritual destruction.
So enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. The path of spiritual destruction is easy to follow, it satisfies the ego and does not require you to change your heart, or sacrifice yourself, or be challenged in any way.
While the path of life is narrow, it is easy to get off track, it is wholly unappealing because it means turning away from all the things the ego loves: it requires sacrifice, it requires looking inwardly and criticizing yourself instead of others, it requires a great deal of challenge and for this reason very few people choose to walk it – even those who go to church every Sunday.
Jesus switches his metaphor when he talks about the wise and foolish builders but he is still talking about the same phenomenon. The wise man who built his house on a rock is the person who walks the narrow road of life. This person cannot be shaken by the chaos of the world around them, the storms of life cannot take away the treasures of Heaven they have stored up.
They have built their life on the solid rock of Christ and not the shifting sands of the ego. To truly worship God is to walk the narrow path of life– which is why it is narrow because you can only worship God on this path. But to worship anything else – to worship money or reputation or nationality or tradition or self – is to walk on the wide path of destruction.
But what are we supposed to do when we look at ourselves in an honest light and see that we have been walking the wrong path our whole lives? What do we do when we realize we are one of the many people who are entering through the gate of destruction? Jesus gives us an answer which seems so simple that it can hardly be true.
He says ask and you will receive, knock and the door will be opened, if you wish to enter the gate of life then you simply need to knock and you will be let in. You simply need to pray, and pray hard, pray on your knees, pray with tears rolling down your cheeks. Ask God to put you on the right path, ask God to show you the way through the wilderness of life back onto the path of humility, holiness, and love.
It all comes back to what you worship. To knock on the door is to set aside the false idols you carry in your heart and to value God above all else. We all say “Lord Lord” outwardly but in our hearts we worship other things, that’s why Jesus says we can do all sorts of amazing things in his name and he still does not know us, we are still evil doers.
So I pray for you, sisters and brothers, and I hope you pray for me, that you accept the challenge and walk the narrow path.
That you set aside the false idols in your heart.
That you do not try to serve two masters, that you do not worship yourself above God.
That you do not come to church so that your friends will pat you on the back and tell you what a righteous person you are.
That you will not hide the light of Christ within you under a basket of doubt or self loathing.
That you will not listen to those wolves in sheep’s clothing who tell you you can build your house on the sand and still enter the gate of Heaven.
That you will not be satisfied with the letter of the law but will search diligently for the spirit of it.
That you will get down on your knees and ask Christ to open the gate of life.
Do not choose destruction, dear friends, do not choose the easy path but choose life! Choose to be a citizen of God’s kingdom and remember that
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
And Blessed are you when you choose the path of life. When you build your house on the rock. When you become the salt of the earth and the light of Heaven. When you finally accept the call of Christ and choose the Christian life.
The world will try to stop you, even your fellow Christians will try to stop you. They will tell you that this way of life was well and good for Jesus but it isn’t practical for real people trying to get by in the real world.
They will say “Lord Lord” but they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. When you choose this life, if you dare to do so, people will insult you, reject you and try to make you join them as they happily walk the road of destruction. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they rejected the prophets who were before you.
So, sisters and brothers, as you go about your day, consider the foundation upon which you build your life and your identity. We all build a temple within ourselves, a temple of worship. Is your interior life built on the rock or the sand? The rock never moves, it never fails while the sand always shifts and changes. The rock is Christ, it is the eternal loving power which gives life to world and light to the eyes – the sand is the selfish ego self, it is destined for destruction and can never truly worship God.
So be wise, my dear friends, be wise and build your house on the rock not on the shifting sands. Build your life on meekness, peace making, and inner poverty. Do not build your life on wealth, reputation, and pride. Walk the narrow path of life, do not let the world convince you to walk the easy path of materialism, self satisfaction, and reputation.
From all sides we are called to the wide path of destruction. Our society will play to your ego at every opportunity and sell you a false image of self which you are to worship. Stay strong, be humble, be gentle, be forgiving, be Christ like. Walk the narrow path of life and let the light of Christ shine out from within you into the shadows of the world. Build your house on the rock, children of God, and you will withstand the storms of life.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it on your favourite social media or leave a comment below. If you want to learn more about Celtic Christianity and Contemplation, check out some of the free videos from our virtual retreat: Sacred Spaces: Contemplation and the Celtic Spirit.