Wednesday, March 20, 2013

James Study - Session 5 of 5

Slide 1
 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you.

What do you think of the rich?
Do you want to be rich?  Do you despise the rich?  Can a Christian be rich?

Genesis 13:2 Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.
A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

Those who trust in their riches will wither, but the righteous will flourish like green leaves.
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.
The rich and the poor have this in common: the Lord is the maker of them all.
Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss.
Luke 18
18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” 21 He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money[c] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Slide 2
 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.
Can gold or silver rust?
Here is one of those passages that many atheists gleefully say, “See, the Bible is full of errors,” but this is speaking not literally, but spiritually.  Gold and silver do not last forever, is what James is saying, and we have seen that all too well in this past decade.
James is telling his readers not to put their trust in gold or silver only – not to trust their 401k.
This is very much what Jesus was getting at in Matthew 6:19-21
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
But it is more than putting our trust in wealth.  James condemns those who are wealthy and misuse their wealth:
4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
These people had been unfaithful to those who had faithfully served them!  The rich had failed to pay sufficient wages.  They had failed to show normal and acceptable appreciation.  They had failed to respect these people for their faithful service.  So the workers were unable to meet their needs, as would normally have been expected, from wages that they had worked hard for and deserved to get.  But this was withheld!  So, what were they to do?  They cried out to the Lord in deep anguish and distress.  After all, they’d earned those wages.  They had every right to expect to be compensated for what they’d earned.  

Immokalee – there are many good landowners and farmers and managers, but we often hear about those who are more slave owners than employers.  In recent years there have been examples of employers who hire immigrant migrant workers, many of them undocumented or “illegal” immigrants.  In other words – powerless to ask the civil authorities for help.  They are paid under the table, low wages, then they have to pay their employers for rent, and even for a shower and for every glass of water – to the degree that the workers are not even breaking even.  

This is nothing new – my grandfather worked in a textile mill, lived in mill housing, bought all of his food and clothing from the company store.  He was not paid in money, but scrip.  Payday was on Wednesday, and you would get paid in scrip.  But you couldn’t exchange it for real money until Friday.  But on Wednesday the company had people on the streets who would exchange scrips for money at 50 cents on the dollar.  And sometimes Friday would come and the company didn’t have enough cash to exchange your scrip for money, so it was 25 cents on the dollar.  And the only place you could spend scrip was at the Company Store.
The world is full of good employers and great companies.  And the world is full of deceitful, unethical employers and companies.
James has little patience with those who are rich who take advantage of the poor.

In verse 7, James begins to shift his attention.  His readers are mostly poor, and they are beginning to wonder – what about this Jesus who said he would return?  Where is he?
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
Here are some important points about the Second Coming:
1.  No one knows when it will happen.  
Matthew 24:36
36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
2.  It will come, and it will come quickly and suddenly and unexpectedly.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-2
Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night .
3.     We are to live in expectation of this event.
Matthew 24:42-44

"Therefore keep watch , because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

4.     Long delay should not result in complacency, despair or forgetfulness.
2 Peter 3:3-7

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

5.     Use the time to prepare
1 Peter 4:7

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.

1 Peter 4:7

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.
James agrees with these teachings from different places of Scripture.
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

Having said, be patient in waiting for the Second Coming, James now says to us, be patient in all of our sufferings:
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

 I have never agreed with the phrase, the patience of Job.  Job never struck me as very patient.  James uses a much better word – “perseverance.”  If you can’t feel patient, at least with your actions persevere!  Just keep holding on.
This is one of those teachings from Scripture that sounds so easy when I preach it, but even as I say these words I know how difficult this is.
Patience in suffering is not easy.
When you lose your job, it is easy for someone who is employed to say, “Be patient, persevere.”  When it is you who has cancer, or you who has a rebellious child, or you whose marriage is in trouble, patience and/or perseverance is hard.
But James did not live a peaceful easy life and he knew what suffering was like, so he is not like the loud mouth on the sidelines complaining about the team – he’s more like the coach who has been with the team day in and day out and who has worked hard with the members of the team.  He has suffered, and he knows his people are suffering.
And he encourages patience.

12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
In the three stooges, Curley is in a courtroom and has to be under oath, so he puts his hand on the Bible, raises his right hand, and is asked, “do you swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”  Curley doesn’t respond, so the bailiff asks, “Do you swear?”  Curley says, “I don’t know all the words – but I know all the words.”
The point that James is making here is that we are always under oath, every minute and every word.
This reflects what Jesus taught:
Matthew 5
But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.
We do this in the Presbyterian Church.  Elders – and Deacons – as well as pastors are called upon to pray with and for the sick.  
15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
In the Bible, physical illness was associated with spiritual sin – and while we would not want to make too much of this, there is a relationship between the spiritual health and the physical health.  One would not suggest that cancer is the result of sin, any more than in the Old Testament Job would accept the suggestion that he was sick because of some sin he had committed.
BUT – stress is a spiritual condition that impacts blood pressure, digestion, the success rate of medications.  
There is a relationship of the spiritual and the physical.
Don’t just go for physical healing – think of your spiritual as well as physical well being.  

19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
James is winding down now, and as he begins to close his Epistle, he encourages people to remember, “we’re in this together.  We are our brother’s keeper – spiritually as well as in any other way.

James Study - Session 4


It is easy to laugh at these prayers.  For one thing, they are our prayers – or at least paradies of our own prayers.

Who among us has not prayed something silly and selfish, or prayed for the wrong motives.

James opens chapter four with this teaching about prayer:

4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you?
2 You want something but don't get it.
You do not have, because you do not ask God.

So does that mean all we have to do is ask God?

Are we like those teenagers in the film clip praying that we win the election, or that God give us a nice pair of leather pants?

No – James goes on with verse 3:

3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

When you ask, you do not receive it.

All of us have prayed prayers that were left ungranted.

James says that the reasons our prayers may go unfulfilled is because we ask for the wrong motives.  We see that in the prayers of the video we just watched, but we are guilty of it as well.

We often ask for things that are our will, not God’s will.

Why do prayers go unanswered?

Moses died on Mt. Nebo, his prayer that he would be able to enter the promised land was refused.

Paul prayed three times for the removal of that "thorn in the flesh." He never tells us exactly what that meant, but whatever it was, he prayed earnestly that it would be removed from his life. But it wasn’t. Instead, he was compelled to make the best of it for the rest of his life.

Even Jesus prayed a prayer that was left unanswered. Jesus cried out in the garden, “take this cup of suffering from me.” He prayed that he would not have to suffer death on the cross. Instead he had to suffer the pain of it.

The Bible is full of unanswered prayers.

There are many reasons, it is more complex than a simple answer – but in James we see that one reason is that we sometimes misunderstand the nature of prayer. We pray out of selfish motives.

True prayer is God-centered.

But we often turn prayer into a self-centered activity.

In the New Testament book of James, we are told (James 4:3), “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

The object of prayer is that God might be glorified. At times we think of prayer as an Aladdin’s lamp which we use to glorify self. We often think of God as a genie who is at our bidding and command.

A theologian once said, “Our prayers often reduce God to nothing more than a Cosmic Bellboy, who is neither very bright, nor very reliable.”

Can we not pray for ourselves? Of course, but we should pray for ourselves unselfishly. Unselfish prayer for self is prayer which seeks not self-centered comfort but Christ-centered conformity to the will of God. Prayer is not an end in itself but a means to a greater end which is to glorify God.

The Bible promises that God will hear our prayers. It never says that God will obey our orders – and sometimes that is the way we treat prayer. So of course, God may not answer such self-centered prayers.

There is no better example of a self centered prayer than that one that Jimmy Stewart prayed in the movie, Shannendoah, “We plowed this land, we planted it, we harvested it, we cooked it, but we thank you anyway.”

What is our motive for prayer?  For some it is an empty ritual.  We see that in the film clip from Meet the Parents, in which the poor groom to be has to pray before the meal, and for him it is a meaningless prayer because it is a ritual, nothing more.  He is left gasping for words.

The motivation of our prayer may be nothing more than that of a superstition, rather than of a relationship with God.

It’s like rubbing a rabbit’s foot. Or reading a horiscope. Even people who don’t believe in superstition may occasionally practice these, thinking, “What’s the harm?”

During World War II, General Patton was given the task of rescuing some soldiers trapped behind enemy lines. The weather was not cooperating, however, and the tanks could not reach the men, nor could the planes provide proper air cover. So on December 8, 1944, Patton called on Chaplain James O’Neill and asked, “Do you have a prayer for good weather? We need a break in this weather if we are to win the war.” O’Neill looked through some prayer books and couldn’t find the right one, so he composed the following prayer.

"Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations."

When the chaplain delivered a copy of the prayer to the General, Patton ordered the minister to make 250,000 copies and to see that every soldier in the Third Army got a copy. Two days after the copies were distributed, there was a break in the weather and the Americans were able to advance.

A few months ago, I saw an interview of one or Patton’s soldiers who had kept his copy of that prayer. He said he used it whenever he was in trouble. He said the prayer at the deathbed of his mother, and it didn’t heal his mother. He said the prayer when he was diagnosed with cancer, but it didn’t heal him. He concluded that prayer didn’t work at all.

But prayer had been nothing more than a superstitious ritual for him. Saying that prayer at the deathbed of his mother was meaningless, because it was not a prayer for his mother to be healed. It was a prayer for moderate weather and success in battle. That prayer had been answered.

But for this man, repeating the words of this prayer had become little more than a rubbing of the rabbit’s foot.

Prayer is sometimes spoken without any faith or belief.

In the New Testament book of James, we read in chapter 1, verse 6, that when a person prays, “he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

There are times when some doubt is natural and good.  It can be an important part of our faith journey.

Who was one of the famous doubters in the Bible?


He doubted.  Of course he did.  He was told news that needed to be vetted.  He demanded evidence of the resurrection.  If not for him, people would have said the apostles accepted the news of the resurrection based not on faith, but on gulliblilty.  But he insisted on proof.  “Unless I see the holes in his hands and touch the scars and put my hand in his side, I will not believe,” he said to his other friends.  Then he sees with his own eyes the risen Lord, and is given the opportunity to touch the risen Christ, but Thomas is satisfied.  And not only satisfied, he is the first to say, “My Lord and My God.’  His process of doubting produced a stronger faith. 

But there comes a time when you have to make a commitment and stop doubting.

And that is one of the continuing themes of the Epistle of James – it is time to make a commitment.  It is time to get serious about faith.  It underlies the issue of what James is getting at with his theme of “Faith without works is dead,” and it is part of what James is talking about with prayer.

Get serious.  Get real with your faith.

This is what James means in the following verses:

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

James is not saying we can never laugh or be joyful, but he is stressing the seriousness of our faith.  And he is trying to drive home the need for repentance and self examination.

This eighth verse, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” sounds so much like the catch phrase I’ve often seen in recent years, “If you don’t feel close to God, who moved?” 

We often feel distant from God because we are the ones who have moved away from him.

James tells us, Come near to God and he will come near to you.

11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters.[c] Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?

James is repeating something he has brought up before – this business of judging others.  He wants us to be doers of the word, not judges. 

We’ve talked about this earlier in James, how we are not to judge other people, but to drive this home we’ll end with a video about Christians who judge.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Lord's Prayer Study

(This single-session study on the Lord's Prayer was prepared for the "Study and Fun" group at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church)

What is prayer?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism answer is:
Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God,
 for things agreeable to his will,
 in the name of Christ,
 with confession of our sins,
 and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.

Do you have any memories of praying the Lord's Prayer as a child?

The context of the prayer in Matthew is a teaching deploring people who pray in public for show.
Jesus instructs us to pray in the manner prescribed in this prayer.

It was taught as an example for prayer, not to be the prayer we pray by memory. Verse 9a: note that Jesus tells his disciples to pray "this way." (He does not say pray "these words" or "this prayer.")
– and yet we find value in saying this prayer word for word.

On Easter Day 2007, it was estimated that many of the two billion Christians of all faiths shared in the celebration of Easter would read, recite, or sing the short prayer in hundreds of languages. (From Wikipedia article on The Lord’s Prayer)

Our Father,

  • "Our Father": We all are aware that God is not a male being who is physically our father as conceived in human terms.  But we call God “Father” because human language is all we have, and in human language, God is much like our father.
  •  and that God is also referred to metaphorically with maternal images. (Cf. Psalm 131.2; Isaiah 40.11; 66.13; Matthew 23.37.)
  • Psalm 131: But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
        like a weaned child with its mother;
        like a weaned child is my soul within me.
  • Isaiah 40:11  He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
        he will gather the lambs in his arms;
    he will carry them in his bosom,
        and gently lead those that are with young.
  • Keep in mind that in Jesus' time, in a patriarchal society, the father was the authority figure who was assumed to have control and power over the family. (Matthew 5.16; 26.39 and 53; Romans 6.4; Ephesians 1.17; and Philippians 4.20 are examples where the power and glory of God as father are emphasized.)
  • In the Old Testament, God as father also includes implications of God as our creator. (Cf. Deuteronomy 32.6 and Malachi 2.10; 1 Corinthians 8.6.)
  • We also see the role of God as father as one which emphasizes God's compassion and our relationship to God as children. (Cf. Matthew 6.26; 7.11; 18.19; Luke 6.36; 15.11-32; John 14.23; Romans 8.15; 2 Corinthians 1.3; Galatians 4.6.)

which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;

  • Can we take the Lord’s name in vain by using this prayer?  If it means nothing?
  • "Hallowed be your name": "Hallowed" means to be holy, pure, sacred.
  • The "name" of God, both as a means of addressing God and an indirect way to refer to God, is to remain as holy, pure, and sacred as God is.
  •  Cf. Exodus 20.7 (the 2nd Commandment); Leviticus 19.12; Psalm 69.30; Daniel 2.20.
 thy kingdom come;
On one level – this is the Second Coming.
On another level – it is to reflect the coming kingdom NOW.  The Kingdom will come in the future and is reflected NOW by the hands of those faithful who work for a better world. These believe that Jesus' commands to feed the hungry and clothe the needy are the kingdom to which he was referring.
On another level – this is not the Second Coming in a global sense, but a spiritual growth in a personal sense. 
Scripture teaches that the "kingdom of God is in the midst of you" (Luke 17:21), or "within you" suggesting a psychological or spiritual condition of the individual. In this interpretation, the petition in the Lord's Prayer asks for this inner kingdom—that is, attainment of personal salvation, moral and psychological, and reference to this condition as "thy kingdom" suggests an implicit contrast between it and conditions dominated by selfish egoistic desires.

thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.

John Ortberg interprets this phrase as follows: “Many people think our job is to get my afterlife destination taken care of, then tread water till we all get ejected and God comes back and torches this place. But Jesus never told anybody—neither his disciples nor us—to pray, 'Get me out of here so I can go up there.' His prayer was, 'Make up there come down here.' Make things down here run the way they do up there.”[17] The request that “thy will be done” is God’s invitation to “join him in making things down here the way they are up there.”  (Ortberg, John Ortberg. “God is Closer Than You Think”. Zondervan,2005, p.176.)

Give us this day our daily bread.

            DAILY is such a common word in our vocabulary.  But the interesting thing is that when Matthew wrote the Lord's Prayer in his Gospel, the word that was used for DAILY was far from a common word (epiousios ).  In all Greek literature, the word that is translated as DAILY appears nowhere else except here in the Lord's Prayer.  We're talking about 1000s of books, millions of scraps of paper that have survived in museums and archives, and not one of them uses this word that Matthew uses for daily.

            Oh wait -- there is one.  It is a scrap of paper that was apparently a shopping list -- a grocery list.  On that piece of paper is the word DAILY.

            Even though the word is so rare, it is easy to translate because it is a combination of two common words.  We do the same thing today, for example a pistol is often referred to as a hand-gun.  Two words used together to refer to a weapon.  Or a trolley is often called a street-car.  You get the point.

            Matthew and Luke both record the Lord’s Prayer with a word for “daily” that combines two common words and it has left scholars struggling with what Jesus meant with this prayer. (Epiousios seems to be a combination of the Greek words epi (upon or for) and ousia (needed sustenance) creating a sense of “for today’s needs.”)

            The combination of words that we translate as DAILY can be understood as "give us today what we need for tomorrow."  That sounds wonderful, but it is out of touch with the rest of the Gospel teachings.  After all, it was Jesus who said immediately after teaching his disciples to pray the Lord's Prayer, "Do not be anxious about tomorrow, what you will wear or what you will eat.  Today has enough concerns." (Matthew 6:25)

            Other scholars have said that this unusual word for DAILY means "the day's necessary things." 

            Anyone who has ever taken a look at the food labels on cartons has seen the explanation of the vitamins and minerals and calories.  One phrase on that label is "daily minimum requirement."  Food makers sell cereal based on how it has 100% of the daily minimum requirement.

            So with this meaning, the prayer asks only for what we need -- not for what we want, but what we need. 

            Actually, I believe the answer is both.

            In the Lord's Prayer we are praying that God will give us today what we will need for tomorrow, so that we will not have to be anxious for things.

            And it also means that we are asking only for what we need.  Not what we want.

And forgive us our debts,
as we our debtors.

The Lord’s Prayer ought to be the one prayer that all people memorize and that we can all say together.  But gather any group of English speaking Christians together and what will happen?  They will do just fine until they come to the phrase, “Forgive us our…” and then let the chaos begins.  Part of the group will say “debts,” part will say “trespasses” and part will say “sins.”

            I am occasionally tempted to change the wording of the Lord’s Prayer in our worship services.  I’ve thought of trying to please everyone by making the congregation say, “Forgive us our DEBTS, as we forgive those who TRESPASS against us.”

            So, what is it that Jesus wanted us to say here?

            This is an interesting phrase in that the word Jesus used here is an uncommon word.  The word for “sin” or “debts” or “trespasses”  is a word that is used only one other time in the New Testament, and only once in all of the Old Testament.

            There are actually five different Greek words that are used in our New Testament for the concept of “sin.” The most common is a hunting phrase – it means “missing the target.” (Hamartia)
            I had a professor in Seminary who went hunting for rabbits one day.  He talked about seeing a rabbit, taking aim with his rifle, and pulling the trigger.  He missed, but the rabbit was frightened and began to run.

Being a bit of a dumb bunny, the rabbit was disoriented and began running toward the hunter.

            My professor took aim again and pulled the trigger.

            He missed again, and the rabbit kept running.  It ran right between my professor’s legs.  My professor turned took aim, pulled the trigger.
            And missed!

            Missing the target – the failure to be what God wants us to be.  The failure to meet His divine expectations.  That is sin. 

            When Jesus teaches the Lord’s Prayer in Luke’s Gospel, the word that is used is this very common word for sin – “missing the mark.” But in Matthew’s Gospel, the word Jesus used is a different, far less common word.

            The word that Matthew uses is a financial word that means debt, or a failure to pay that which is due. (Opheilema ).  It is used in only two other places in the Bible, and in both instances, it is a financial term. (Romans 4:4 and Deuteronomy 24:10)  However, it was used in some of the non-religious literature as a word referring to sin.

            The philosopher Plato used this word as a child’s obligation to pay the debt he or she owed to the parents (Laws 717B ).  God is described in the Lord’s Prayer as our Heavenly Father, and we owe him a debt.  He has done much for him, we therefore ought to give Him honor, praise, obedience, and yet we fall short of paying that debt.  We always will.

            That explains two versions of the Lord’s Prayer – “forgive us our sins/forgive us our debts”  -- but where does the word “trespasses” come from?  It comes from the words Jesus says after the prayer.  “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
            The word that is used there for sin is neither one of the other two words we have discussed – missing the mark or owing a debt of obedience.  The word here refers to stepping into some place you have no business being – and the English word for that is “trespassing.” (Paraptomata.  A similar word, parabasis actually is closer to the word “trespasses” and is often used in the Bible for “sin.”)

            You’ve seen those signs in the woods and in the countryside. 

            “No Trespassing!”

            “Violators will be shot.”

            “Survivors will be shot again!”

            But it is more than simply walking willingly into a place where you don’t belong. 

            So we have these three levels of meaning in this petition of the prayer:

  • Missing the mark – we aim for the target of living a godly life, and we miss.

  • Debts – we owe an obedience to God, and sometimes we don’t even try to pay it.

  • Trespasses – our lives skid out of control and we end up in a place we don’t want to be in life.

And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.

James 1:12–15 teaches us that God tests or tempts nobody, some see the petition in the Lord's Prayer as implying that God leads people to sin. So this is a request that we not be led by ourselves, by others, by Satan into temptation.

Since it follows shortly after a plea for daily bread (i.e., material sustenance), it can be seen as referring to not being caught up in the material pleasures given. A similar phrase appears in Matthew 26:41 and Luke 22:40 in connection with the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

[For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.]
The doxology of the prayer is not contained in Luke's version, nor is it present in the earliest manuscripts of Matthew. It is thus absent in the oldest and best manuscripts of Matthew, and most scholars do not consider it part of the original text of Matthew.  Modern translations generally omit it.

The first known use of the doxology, in a less lengthy form ("for yours is the power and the glory forever"), as a conclusion for the Lord's Prayer (in a version slightly different from that of Matthew) is in the Didache, 8:2.

That is a very early Christian document dating back to the second century AD.  

This doxology has similarities with 1 Chronicles  – "Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all."

Let's end our study by praying together the prayer our Lord taught us to pray.