16 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:19
Keeps and Teaches – Apparently Jesus did not view the Law as an “either/or” option. He says quite clearly that we are to keep and teach these commandments. That is the practical equivalent of discipleship. It’s not possible to be a disciple and simply keep in alignment with the Father. There is another condition. The point of discipleship is to reach out to others, not to store up a good life for yourself. But if you were Hebrew, you would have intuitively known this to be true. In the Hebrew culture, what helps one helps all and what harms one harms all. The sense of community comes before any consideration of individual well-being. Maybe that’s why there are only two great commandments: love God first and love your neighbor second (and, by the way, don’t get trapped in the current psychobabble about loving yourself in order to love your neighbor).
The Greek text uses the two words poieo and didasko. The meanings are pretty much what the translation says, but notice the order of these words. The priority of keeping (the Greek verb means “to do”) before teaching (the Greek means “to instruct verbally, to admonish and to influence the understanding”) is Jesus’ way of addressing hypocrisy. Oh, the sting of these words! You cannot effectively communicate what you do not practice. If you want someone else to see the light, you must be walking in the light. It is simply spiritually impossible for darkness to bring about light.
Jesus pushes us right into the heart of the commandments. They are not just good to know. Nothing important happens in your life by collecting valuable information about God’s word. In fact, God has designed His universe so that you cannot learn unless you put it to use. In God’s reality school, no one ever receives a social pass. You can stay in Kindergarten all of your life if you choose not to obey, and God will keep you there until you do obey because information can’t save you. Only obedience lifts your life out of the ditch.
We probably find this particularly difficult and uncomfortable. We have been taught all of our lives that gathering information is the first step toward effective decision-making. Get the facts, then the solution will present itself; but not in God’s world. God does not run Wikipedia. The Bible is not a storehouse of information. It is a recovery book and God is running a military campaign. He sends orders to the troops so that they can follow His plan of action. He does not need to give me all the information in order for me to know what to do next. Some things God knows are for His eyes only. So, in a world where I tend to withhold commitment until I see where things are going, Jesus reminds me that doing comes before teaching. If I am going to fulfill the great commission by making disciples, I must first be a doer of the word – no exceptions. Take a look at the order of your priorities. Are you Hebrew or Greek?
Topical Index: Discipleship