Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 21: “Settle Matters Quickly” and the Heart 08.29.18

Matthew 5:25-26 (NIV) “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Modern medicine has given us several forms of “cardiography.” Before surgery, a cardiogram is often required to measure the condition of the heart before the body is challenged. We are a heart-conscious society. Many millions of Americans take statin drugs daily to reduce the cholesterol levels in the blood hoping to impede the clogging of the heart arteries. Imagine if we could take a drug to clear out our spiritual hearts?

My point is simply this: do I have a heart to “settle matters quickly?” Or is my spiritual heart clogged with vanity and pride and self and condescension towards my fellow sinners? And how does this closing statement from our Lord Jesus Christ touch on the matters of the heart (we will stop modifying the word heart with “spiritual” at this point; we get it.)

First, let’s review the importance of the heart. Interesting that the word “heart” … “kardia” appears 153 times in the English Standard Version of the New Testament. It refers to the deepest part of our emotions and feelings and values. It is that private place that only we know about. And one other knows about. God Himself. A great example is found in Acts Chapter Eight when Peter rebuked an indecent man named Simon who thought he could buy the power of the Holy Spirit.

We read: Acts 8:20-21 (NIV) Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.”

That should give us pause. God is assessing our hearts. He knows who we really are and what we really care about. Consider the many statements of Jesus about the heart. Here are just two:

Matthew 12:34 (NIV) “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

We mentioned this in an earlier article. If we want to know what’s in a person’s heart, just listen to their words. Self included. This may be why many of the ancient Christians set aside whole days determined not to speak as a way of being reflective. Not talking but listening to self. So….

Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV) Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

This phrase “all your heart” is the key. Is my heart divided between love of God and neighbor and love of self? Ok…now let’s try to connect our opening verse and see why in the world Jesus would finish this teaching about murder with this statement:

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Because the heart that is totally committed to God and neighbor is a peacemaking and reconciling heart! And it is a smart heart! Why? Because it wants matters resolved. In ancient Roman law, two people in a dispute were expected to come together before the court. If they were able to settle matters between themselves BEFORE they got to the judge, the case was dismissed. But if they did not get things settled, they could not return to negotiations after the court got involved. So, Jesus just told us for our own sakes and because it is pleasing to God, we must cultivate reconciling hearts.

So, we are all the way back to this verse from Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) “ Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Literally: “Keep, guard, build a wall around your inner self…(labe) for out of it come the well springs of life.” This is all part of the ancient teaching that there is something inside of us that either wells up to righteousness and God-centered joy or to the darkness found in self-absorption.

Remember what Jesus said to the woman he met at the well? John 4:13-14 (NIV) “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Our Lord is saying that your inner heart … self… is what you are about. Watch what you put into it! We all see the vulgar nonsensical trash that our culture is spewing forth. I often wonder at this marvelous but unrealistic statement from the Word of God: Psalm 101:3 (NIV) “I will set before my eyes no vile thing.”

In summary, we want undefiled hearts that purely see the Glory of God and want to live accordingly. So, we should allow no time or energy to be wasted in disputes. Get them settled to the best of our ability.

“Oh God, grant out of your storehouse of mercy that I would have a tender heart that is eager to be reconciled to everyone whenever possible. Just as you have settled natters with my soul when I came to Jesus, make me to be a person who loves peace making.”

Peace. Pastor Alberta

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