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Woe to Us!

Romans 14:1-12 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

14 Now as for a person whose trust is weak, welcome him — but not to get into arguments over opinions. 2 One person has the trust that will allow him to eat anything, while another whose trust is weak eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats anything must not look down on the one who abstains; and the abstainer must not pass judgment on the one who eats anything, because God has accepted him — 4 who are you to pass judgment on someone else’s servant? It is before his own master that he will stand or fall; and the fact is that he will stand, because the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 One person considers some days more holy than others, while someone else regards them as being all alike. What is important is for each to be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes a day as special does so to honor the Lord. Also he who eats anything, eats to honor the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; likewise the abstainer abstains to honor the Lord, and he too gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives only in relation to himself, and none of us dies only in relation to himself; 8 for if we live, we live in relation to the Lord; and if we die, we die in relation to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord — 9 indeed, it was for this very reason that the Messiah died and came back to life, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 You then, why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For all of us will stand before God’s judgment seat; 11 since it is written in the Tanakh,
“As I live, says Adonai, every knee will bend before me,
and every tongue will publicly acknowledge God.”
12 So then, every one of us will have to give an account of himself to God.

I almost never do this, but I have reprinted the entire New Testament reading from the lectionary for today. I don’t have any deep insight today, either. Instead I have a straightforward protest, and a few things to point out.

First (and maybe last, and in-between as well!) when the New Testament is filled with this kind of teaching, on nearly every page, then I can only conclude that people who insist that the Bible teaches rejection, hate, coercion, and judgmental verdicts directed at our fellow human beings, well, those people HAVE NEVER READ IT THEMSELVES!

I also suspect that these same people are being discouraged by their ministers and others who claim authority over them, NOT to read the bible for themselves, but to rely on what they are told that the Bible teaches. I think that it is incredibly self-evident that those same ministers and authorities are not interested in following the Way of Christ, and are instead following the way of the Pharisee. Imposters; humbugs; phonies; pietists, that’s what they are!

In the words of Jesus, direct from the Gospel of Matthew:

Matthew 23; Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) 

23 Then Yeshua addressed the crowds and his talmidim: 2 “The Torah-teachers and the P’rushim,” (Pharisees) he said, “sit in the seat of Moshe. 3 So whatever they tell you, take care to do it. But don’t do what they do, because they talk but don’t act! 4 They tie heavy loads onto people’s shoulders but won’t lift a finger to help carry them….
13 “But woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! For you are shutting the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces, neither entering yourselves nor allowing those who wish to enter to do so….
15 “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You go about over land and sea to make one proselyte; and when you succeed, you make him twice as fit for Gei-Hinnom (rubbish dump) as you are!....16 “Woe to you, you blind guides! 17 You blind fools! Which is more important? the gold? or the Temple which makes the gold holy?....

19 Blind men! Which is more important? the sacrifice? or the altar which makes the sacrifice holy? 20 So someone who swears by the altar swears by it and everything on it. 21 And someone who swears by the Temple swears by it and the One who lives in it. 22 And someone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and the One who sits on it……

23 “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You pay your tithes of mint, dill and cumin; but you have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah — justice, mercy, trust. These are the things you should have attended to — without neglecting the others! 24 Blind guides! — straining out a gnat, meanwhile swallowing a camel! 25 “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Parush! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside may be clean too. 27 “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look fine on the outside but inside are full of dead people’s bones and all kinds of rottenness. 28 Likewise, you appear to people from the outside to be good and honest, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and far from Torah. 29 “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the tzaddikim, 30 and you say, ‘Had we lived when our fathers did, we would never have taken part in killing the prophets.’ 31 In this you testify against yourselves that you are worthy descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead then, finish what your fathers started! 33 “You snakes! Sons of snakes! How can you escape being condemned to Gei-Hinnom (rubbish dump)? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and Torah-teachers — some of them you will kill, indeed, you will have them executed on stakes as criminals; some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so, on you will fall the guilt for all the innocent blood that has ever been shed on earth…….

So I have this to say to all the gnat-strainers and camel-swallowers: Jesus was not vindictive. Ever! 

Jesus’s whole rant from Matthew’s Gospel is all about something which today we call “natural consequences”! There is no help; no recourse; no justice available for a person who is living a lie! Hypocrisy and power-mongering leave no space in a person’s heart for justice, mercy, and trust to arise! Deceiving, conniving, cheating, lying and manipulating will corrode a person from the inside out, and leave nothing behind that is good for anything but to be thrown in the garbage. That’s just how it is!

God does not condemn us, we condemn ourselves by shutting our eyes to the consequences of our actions, and denying that by doing so we are turning a blind eye toward love, kindness, mercy, generosity and well-being. Our willful blindness renders us, well…… BLIND!
There is nothing complicated about that, is there? Living a lie; building scaffoldings to support our delusions; running after fantasies in the form of status, power, and wealth leave us utterly unable to see what is real.

When Paul says at the end, “So then, every one of us will have to give an account of himself to God.” he’s not pointing fingers. He’s not saying, “You better watch out because God is going to judge you and punish you for all the things that I think you’ve done wrong!”  No indeedy! Paul’s saying that each of us is accountable for our own actions before God, and Jesus has made it quite clear what is important to God and what isn’t. “ For if we live, we live in relation to the Lord; and if we die, we die in relation to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”
Oh yes, and then there is this: “ who are you to pass judgment on someone else’s servant?”  We simply don’t have the authority to say, “Do what I tell you, not what your conscience tells you, or what Love tells you to do.”

Woe to us!

When we won’t look 

at what’s real, 

we suffer—

That’s all there is to it.


it’s hard to stick around 

and keep on practicing

seeing what’s real 

when such misery is all around. 


here I am, 

even if occasionally

I need to run away

and hide under my bed.


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