Lectionary Commentaries for November 1, 2020
Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Gospel

Commentary on Matthew 23:1-12

Greg Carey

In Matthew 23 we encounter a sustained condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees, placed upon the very lips of Jesus.1

This lectionary excerpt constitutes the first twelve of thirty-six or thirty-nine verses, depending on one’s analysis. Among other things, the passage presents us with a perennial question: What makes for authentic teaching? Jesus praises the content of his opponents’ teaching, but their conduct does not comport with their words.

Jesus almost surely did engage in controversy with the scribes, Pharisees, and other authorities, but this particular speech also reflects Matthew’s distinctive point of view. Matthew 23 apparently elaborates material we find in Q (Luke 11:39-52) and in Mark (12:37b-40). Discerning preachers will take note of Matthew’s situation and agenda before plunging too quickly into their own sermons.

Matthew’s Gospel emphasizes Jesus the unauthorized Jewish teacher. Chris Keith points out that Matthew portrays Jesus as a teacher of the law who lacks the literacy and scribal skills of other authorized teachers yet impresses audiences with compelling authority (Jesus Against the Scribal Elite: The Origins of the Conflict). After his unsuccessful appearance in the Nazareth synagogue (Matt 13:53-58), Matthew’s Jesus performs his teaching in public spaces outside the synagogues.

Yet Matthew’s Jesus interprets the law under his own authority. While Moses records God’s words on a mountain, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) Jesus ascends a mountain to pronounce his own interpretation of that law. Furthermore, Matthew’s Jesus insists that his followers observe the law faithfully: he has come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it, and his disciples had better exceed the righteousness of the experts (5:17-20). In Matthew Jesus teaches his disciples a distinctive way to fulfill the law, a teaching that invites conflict from other authorities.

One way to avoid anti-Judaism in our preaching is to find the deeper challenges that lie beneath Matthew’s specific language. Almost all interpreters believe Matthew’s Gospel emerged during a formative and conflicted moment in the emergence of rabbinic Judaism. With Jerusalem and its temple decimated, Jews began the process of imagining what it would mean to follow God without a central temple for pilgrimage and sacrifice.

During this period authoritative teachers of the Torah emerged. Matthew’s Gospel reflects conflicts between Jesus’ followers and their fellow Jews. One such conflict peeks through in Matthew 28:11-15, which reports a rumor that “has been spread among the Jews to this day” to the effect that, having stolen Jesus’ body, the disciples proclaimed a fraudulent resurrection. Matthew’s Gospel, then, involves a conflict regarding who has the authority to interpret Judaism in this new era—and Matthew promotes Jesus’ authority over other options.

The problem, of course, is that too many preachers contribute to anti-Jewish sentiment by condemning the scribes and Pharisees. Many who hear our sermons will assume that Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus’ opponents speaks for actual Jewish attitudes—both in the ancient world and in our own. Responsible preachers will not waste time condemning ancient Jewish movements that did in fact capture the loyalties of many people, and probably for good reasons. Instead, we will identify that deeper set of issues that underlies the conflict: What makes for authentic teaching? That question transcends ancient polemics. It presses beyond modern ones as well.

With its harsh and sustained polemic, Matthew 23 may strike congregations as a bit of a shock. But Matthew has prepared its audience for this speech by escalating the conflict between Jesus and various authorities. We have already seen that Jesus calls his followers to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (5:17-20), and we know that he has engaged in other controversies throughout the Gospel. Things really intensify when Jesus enters Jerusalem and creates a disturbance in the temple.

At that point the chief priests and the scribes express consternation (21:14-15). On the next day the chief priests and elders challenge Jesus’ authority directly (21:23). (Notice how Matthew identifies several different groups as Jesus’ opponents.) Jesus then tells two parables, the Two Sons (21:28-32) and the Tenants (21:33-41), which the chief priests and the Pharisees take as an attack upon themselves (21:45).

Generations ago commentators routinely dismissed Matthew’s “clumsy” style of narration. Matthew links one controversy story to another with phrases like “And again” (22:1), “Then” (22:15), and “On that day” (22:23), along with participial phrases that indicate proximity between one story and another (21:45; 22:1, 15, 29, 34, 41).

Matthew is not clumsy but intentional. This series of controversies pits Jesus against the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, the Pharisees, the Pharisees’ disciples, the Herodians, and the Sadducees, sometimes in teams. Matthew introduces Jesus’ invective at 23:1 with another transitional marker: “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples.” Jesus’ criticisms throughout chapter 23 constitute a final response to the pressure he’s been receiving throughout his stay in Jerusalem.

Looking beyond Jesus’ opponents in Matthew 23, we see something else. The criterion for authentic teaching amounts to a fit between content and conduct. True teaching, Jesus says, manifests itself at two levels.

First, authentic teachers live according to their own precepts. We might underestimate the remaining verses in Matthew 23 by limiting them to a critique of hypocrisy. After all, Jesus employs the term “hypocrite,” which connotes a stage actor in Greek, six times in chapter 23 and on several other occasions in Matthew.

Surely play acting lies in view. But there’s more. Jesus’ speech sends us back to Augustine’s classic criterion for faithful interpretation: Scripture’s purpose is that we should love God and love our neighbor. How often do we encounter teachers who espouse “correct” doctrine in hateful, demeaning ways? True teaching does not abuse other people.

Second, authentic teachers do not promote their own status. It’s not particularly common for professional teachers, whether pastors, professors, or others, to accept moves “down” the professional ladder. We all enjoy a prominent seat or desk from which to pontificate. We all like our name in the credits, on the cover, or on the sign. But Matthew identifies authentic teachers as servants who seek neither promotion nor acclaim. Few of us fit that bill.


Notes

  1. Commentary first published on this site on Nov. 2, 2014.

First Reading

Commentary on Micah 3:5-12

Margaret Odell

Lectionary texts are like photographs: when they are cropped and framed in certain ways, our attention is drawn to some features and not others.1

Today’s selection from Micah is no different. By beginning with the denunciation of prophets who speak favorably only when they are paid, we are asked to draw comparisons between these false prophets and Micah, who alone is filled with the power and spirit of the Lord to speak truthfully. And when this text is paired with the Gospel lesson, we are invited to see the ways in which both texts contrast the inadequacy of human teaching with true teaching from God. Yet when we step back from this particular frame and examine Micah 3:5-12 in its literary context, we gain a different perspective on the vital connection between prophetic teaching and just practices essential to communal peace and stability.

By beginning with verse 5, the lectionary reading implies that the subject of Micah’s attack is false prophecy (Micah 3:5-8). However, the immediately preceding stanza in verses 1-4 and the concluding stanza in verses 9-12 indicate that the larger issue is the establishment of justice and equity in society at large. In Micah 3:1-4, Micah calls the heads of Israel to account with a sarcastic rhetorical question: should you not know justice? The question rests on basic hierarchical assumptions about the responsibilities of the more powerful and elite members of Israelite society to care for the less fortunate. The prophet answers his own question by accusing the leaders sabotaging justice by choosing evil over good. Rather than enumerating specific injustices, Micah likens their deeds to cannibalism. With their unjust practices, the heads of Israel are, in effect, consuming the very lives and bodies of those who most needed their protection.

The lectionary reading picks up at this point with an announcement of judgement against the prophets. Although it is possible to read this unit as a separate charge against a different group, the food imagery makes it more likely that the prophets are not innocent of the leaders’ wrongdoing but in fact benefit from it. Hans Walter Wolff has noted that “what comes out of the mouths of these prophets” depends on what has been put into it;2 thus well-fed prophets proclaim peace but stir up war against those who “put nothing into their mouths” (Micah 3:5). It doesn’t take much ideological criticism to see that prophets’ message cannot be trusted because they have allowed themselves to be bought for food. But the charge is more gruesome in two respects.

First, the underlying Hebrew is far more graphic in portraying the well-fed prophets as having a “bite between their teeth.” The imagery suggests an animal-like savagery, which is all the more gruesome when it is read in connection with Micah 3:1-3, where Micah accuses Israel’s leaders of busily flaying the body politic piece by bloody piece. If it is these leaders who are feeding the prophets, then it is tempting to imagine that the “bite” in their teeth has been drawn from this common pot. When it is seen that they are benefiting from the savagery of their patrons, the falsity of their declaration of peace is all the more apparent. As the intermediaries through whom the leaders inquire of God, the prophets fail for the same reason. By feeding off the destruction of Israel, they too have exchanged evil for good and are caught in a darkness of their own making.

Against the willing collusion of the prophets and heads of Israel, Micah presents himself as one who alone is filled with power, justice, and might to declare Israel’s transgressions. It is widely noted in the commentaries that these attributes tend more frequently to be associated with the valor and wisdom of rulers and are not, as a rule, associated with prophecy.3 Thus the “I” speaking here may as easily be contrasted with the heads of Israel as with the prophets. Unlike these ruling elders who were to have known justice but who have instead built Jerusalem on bloodshed, and unlike the rulers, priests, and prophets who can all be bought, Micah exposes their delusion and holds them accountable for the coming judgment.

In his commentary on this text, Daniel Smith-Christopher draws intriguing parallels between Micah’s indictment of the prophets and our own knowledge-driven society, in which paid studies all too often support the agendas of those footing the bill. He writes, “Micah’s anguish is our own: Does [thus as it was written] money and privilege always corrupt the ability to see clearly? Is truth simply the tune called for by those who pay the piper?”4

In my opinion, this text exposes a yet more fundamental problem—the ways in which our unexamined appetites and self-interest make it possible for us to be bought off in the first place. What is distinctive about the “I” who stands apart from all this is the ability to speak independently of the pack, and to claim a higher, divinely granted power and courage to step out of the cycle of emoluments and inducements that greased the workings or privilege and power in Jerusalem. Only through this divinely granted courage could Micah describe reality as it really was, a bloody mess of human making.


Notes

  1. Commentary first published on this site on Nov. 5, 2017.
  2. Hans Walter Wolff, Micah: A Commentary (trans. Gary Stansell; Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1990), 102.
  3. Walter Wolff, 105.
  4. Daniel Smith-Christopher, Micah: A Commentary (Old Testament Library; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 120.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Joshua 3:7-17

Sara Koenig

In the first chapter of the book of Joshua, the title character is exhorted four times—in the space of eleven verses—to “be strong and courageous.”1

This exhortation to bravery does not just stand by itself; it comes with two clear reasons. First, in Joshua 1:6, God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous “because you will lead this people to inherit the land that I swore to their ancestors to give to them.”

The second reason why Joshua is to be strong and courageous is because God promises in verse 9, “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” These reasons are also promises that a future will be made secure, and that God will be present with Joshua in all the places he will go.  

The lectionary text gives an answer to a question that Joshua never asks, though perhaps he wondered it: “How do I know?” Abram asked that question of God in Genesis 15:8, and people of faith ever since have continued to wonder. How can I know that the things God promises will come true? How can I trust that in the future God will do what God says? In the miracle of the parting of the waters and the experience of walking on dry land, Joshua, the people of Israel, and all of us today are given a concrete way to know God’s trustworthiness.  

Though the lectionary begins with verse 7, the first six verses provide a geographical and theological setting. Joshua and the people leave Shittim and camp at the Jordan River, before they cross over. Geographically, Shittim is only about six miles away from the river, if Abel Shittim is the site.  

But theologically, there is a more dramatic distance between the two. Shittim is where the Israelites were in Numbers 25, when so many of them worshiped the foreign god Baal of Peor. At the end of the book of Joshua, the people will make a covenant to only worship the Lord, and leaving Shittim is a start.  

The lectionary selection begins with the Lord speaking to Joshua, telling him that this is the day God will begin to make Joshua great. Four things stand out in verse 7. First, the word “begin” signals that Joshua’s greatness is a process, not a task that will be completed in a single moment. Second, Joshua does not become great by himself, but it is God who will make him great.  

Third, Joshua’s greatness is not an end unto itself, but the reason for it is clearly stated: so that the Israelites will know that God will be with him, as God was with Moses. Fourth is the implication that the people need to remember the past. How could they know that God was with Moses, unless they retell the stories, and recite the history? In order to move into the future, they cannot forget their past.  

In verse 9, Joshua speaks to all the Israelites, inviting them to come and “hear” God’s words, but the experience they will have will involve more than just one of their senses. They will hear, but they will also see the waters “stand up in a single heap” (Joshua 3:13), and they will feel the ground under their feet as they cross over on dry ground (3:17).  

There is no mystery about the reason for this experience, for Joshua tells the Israelites in verse 10: “By this you will know that the living God is in your midst, and without fail he will drive out before you the Canaanites … ”All the dramatic events that occur are so that the people will know that God is with them and will give them victory. And the events are dramatic! 3:4 tells us that the people must keep a distance of 2000 cubits—about three-quarters of a mile—from the ark.  

And even if it is not the crossing of the Reed Sea in Exodus 14, neither is it just some trickle. Joshua 3:15 tells us that the crossing happens at the time of the harvest, when the river is at flood stage. The Jordan River also drops significantly in elevation. Its headwaters are at Mount Hermon, 9000 feet above sea level, and it ends at the Dead Sea, 1400 feet below sea level, so the Jordan is one of the fastest flowing rivers of its size.  

The priests march ahead of the people bearing the ark, and as soon as their feet touch the water of the Jordan, it stops flowing, so that the people, spread out over a mile, cross over on dry ground.  

In the Persian period, the term “Beyond the River” becomes a technical imperial designation for the land of the Israelites (cf. Ezra 3:11). Again, this can be understood geographically, that the Israelites settle into the land that is west of the Jordan River. But again, there is also theology in this name that ought to be remembered each time it is repeated: they crossed over the river led by God, on their way to the land God had promised to their ancestors long ago.  

The purpose of the Israelites crossing the river is to fight and ultimately conquer the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. There is plenty of encouraging material in this text to preach on, but we ought not to ignore the aspect of the conquest. Another way to translate the Hebrew word ‘abar, “to cross,” is “to pass by.” Even when we are not conquering people groups, as the Israelites did, there is a danger of “passing them by” in the sense of ignoring them.  

Today, we may not have the experience of seeing a rushing river stop and crossing through it on dry ground. But we have these stories that bear witness to the truth that God is among us, will do what God has promised to do, and will give us victory.


Notes

  1. Commentary first published on this site on Nov. 2, 2014.

Psalm

Commentary on Psalm 43

W. H. Bellinger, Jr.

Most interpreters today treat Psalms 42 and 43 as one psalm because a number of Hebrew manuscripts present the psalms together in one text and because the psalms share vocabulary and themes.1

The refrain in the two psalms (Psalms 42:5, 11; 43:5) is the clearest sign of their unity. The practice of separating the psalms may well have begun with the Greek translation and reflect a distinction between prayers of complaint and of petition. This treatment will consider Psalm 43 in the context of the full text, Psalm 42-43.

The text is a prayer in three parts moving from complaint to petition and ending in hope. The speaker is in crisis and engages in a dialogue with the self in the refrain as a way of articulating the significance of the crisis and of moving forward. The crisis may be sickness or it may be exile from the temple as the life-giving place of worship, of encounter with the living God. The psalm uses poetic imagery in ways that make the language adaptable for a variety of settings in life.

The psalm’s setting in life is complemented by the literary setting in the book of Psalms. The psalm begins Book II of the Psalter; its superscription indicates that the text begins a collection (Psalms 42-49) of Korahite psalms. Korah was the Levitical leader of a guild of psalmists (1 Chronicles 9:19; 2 Chronicles 20:19). Korahite psalms often exhibit a community emphasis and a community lament follows this opening psalm of Book II.

The emphasis of the psalm’s placement here seems to be exile from the temple and brings to mind the ancient Israelite community’s experience of exile and the longing for return to Zion or the temple as the defining place of worship. So it may be that a representative of the community voices the prayer of Psalm 42-43 in the crisis of exile.

The text’s opening stanza (Psalm 42:1-5) begins with the striking image of the deer thirsting for water when there is none. Just as water is necessary for life, so also is the divine presence. The speaker remembers powerful worship services of communion with God and yearns again for that life-giving reality. Tears rather than the nourishing divine presence mark life in the current crisis. The second stanza (Psalm 42:6-11) again remembers God, but in the context of the waves of the current crisis overwhelming the speaker. With verse 9, the text begins the transition to petition, the emphasis of the third stanza (Psalm 43).

The third stanza (Psalm 43) petitions God to act as a defense attorney in the face of dominating enemies who are bullying the petitioner. The call is for justice. The enemies appear to be those who see the crisis at hand and find the root cause in the life of the speaker. So while the enemies have not caused the crisis, they certainly have made it worse with their mocking of the one who is praying.

The contrast is with God who is the one who provides refuge. God’s light and truth (verse 3), in contrast to the darkness the enemies bring, prepare for arrival at the temple and encounter with the light of the divine presence found in the special sacred place of worship. This light elicits praise from the speaker, praise accompanied by the harp. The praise recounts God’s deliverance from the crisis at hand. The final word is not the chaos of the crisis but a word of hope and trust. The text concludes with petition to the God who comes to save, the God of hope affirmed in the final occurrence of the refrain (Psalm 43:5).

The concluding refrain continues the dialogue with the self, identified with the Hebrew term often translated “soul” (Psalms 42:1, 2, 5, 6, 11; 43:5). The etymology of the term has to do with the neck or breath or desire. Most commonly the term has to do with the person or self and so is at times translated with the pronoun “I” or “me.” Genesis 2:7 pronounces the man to be a living “soul,” a person or being.

People today often speak of having a soul, but the Hebrew Scriptures view a person as a soul — a living, breathing self with various dimensions (physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual). The Older Testament — and Psalm 42-43 — views the person in a holistic way. Some today speak of dividing up persons into mind, body, and soul or speak of the immortality of the soul possessed by a person, a soul that returns to immortality at death. Leaders of the church have at various times suggested that the task of the church is to save “souls” and ignore other dimensions of life. These views are not in line with the holistic view of life found in the Bible and in particular in the Older Testament.

Psalm 42-43 portrays the person at prayer in the midst of simultaneous despair and hope, not unlike the experience of Jesus during the crucifixion (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46). In the midst of the despair of the crisis, there is still God’s persistent love and trustworthiness. In this psalm, much of the hope is tied to liturgical realities.

The liturgical experience speaks to the self in the midst of the experience of exile and divine absence and that interaction makes it possible to move from exile to dialogue with God who is present in worship. The psalm concludes with a hope found in God who must quench the thirst of the one praying. The experience of exile, whether geographical or spiritual, yields to hope.

Many today experience seasons of crisis, and our culture suggests that we depend upon ourselves for help rather than upon God. The result is isolation and fear. The psalm’s journey toward hope rests in divine initiative. “The poet yearns to be surrounded by the believing and worshiping community: to participate in the worship services of the Temple and to celebrate with the people the presence of God in their midst.

This is not the kind of private piety or spiritual individualism that is often manifest in churches today.”2 God’s help in the context of the worshiping community brings full living. This honest text suggests that both despair and hope come in life and that both can lead one forward. The psalm moves beyond a private mourning to hope found in the worshiping community God has created. The psalm is an important word of good news in our culture of anxiety, isolation, and despair. The New Testament also speaks of thirst for God (Matthew 5:6) and of God as the one who quenches such thirst (John 4:14; 6:35; Revelation 21:6).

Psalm 42-43 was used on the Easter Sunday on which Augustine was baptized. The text’s water imagery and the divine quenching of thirst fit the occasion. Life is dependent upon God just as life is dependent upon water. Augustine said, “The thought of (God) stirs (the human being) so deeply that he cannot be content unless he praises you, because you make us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.”3


Notes:

  1. Commentary first published on this site on Nov. 2, 2014.
  2. Bernhard Anderson, Out of the Depths: The Psalms Speak for Us Today, 3rd ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox 2000) 66-67.
  3. J. Clinton McCann, Jr., “The Book of Psalms,” New Interpreter’s Bible, ed. Leander E. Keck, et al (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996) 853-854.

Second Reading

Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Jane Lancaster Patterson

In my experience, it is rare to hear a preacher on a Sunday morning who is willing to tackle an epistle of Paul.1

The result is that very few Christians today have the chance to be formed by Paul’s teaching on a regular basis, even though letters like his were apparently the first type of literature that Christians were concerned to write, to read aloud, to memorize and pass on to others. Paul had only recently left Thessalonica when he wrote this letter, and it still contains the buzz and energy of his engagement with this relatively new assembly of Christ-believers (1 Thessalonians 1:5-6, 2:1-9). The task of the preacher, then, is to help present-day Christians come into contact not only with the letter, but with the flesh-and-blood people whose lives and commitments shaped it.

Unfortunately, in the portion we hear today, Paul begins with the kind of statement that most irks contemporary western readers: he talks about himself as a model of faithfulness. But to be fair, he also speaks about the Thessalonians as equally worthy of emulation.

The embodied word

Yet behind Paul’s unabashed willingness to serve as a model for others is something taken for granted in his day and much needed in ours: the foundational understanding that the Gospel of Christ is not a set of ideas about Jesus or about God, but rather a set of embodied commitments to be a Word of God in one’s own context, however difficult (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

  • Even the letter itself was a physical and social event, as it was dictated by a small group of people (Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, 1 Thessalonians 1:1) in conversation with a paid scribe.
  • Then the letter would be carried by a member of the community who could also interpret or explain it if necessary.
  • And of course, it would be read aloud to the gathered community, who no doubt asked questions and made comments during the reading.

As you read, note the ways in which the letter is written to heighten the sense of physical presence of the authors with the community of hearers, even as their separation from one another is lamented (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20). In today’s passage, Paul says, “You remember…,” “You are witnesses…,” “You know…” (1 Thessalonians 2:9-11). In doing so, he summons up the power of their lived experience from when he was with them: what courage, honesty, and guilelessness look and feel like in daily exchanges of kindness and self-offering.

Called to humility

And just as Paul used a surprising image for his relationship with the Thessalonians earlier (the wet-nurse of 1 Thessalonians 2:7), he once again seeks out images of profound and humble service. He describes the manual work he did to support himself during the mission as “labor and toil.” His language is so vivid that the reader can almost recall the smell of him after a long day’s work.

Recent scholarship on the economic realities of the earliest Christians in Macedonia has shown that landless craft-workers like Paul worked extremely hard to make a meager living, just as he suggests, and that this way of earning an income was not one that was particularly respected.2 It appears that he has taken on this way of life as a choice, in order to live into the calling to mission that God has laid upon him.

Though it might seem on the surface that describing himself as the “father” of the Thessalonians was a bid for honor, the actions he chooses to enumerate as fatherly are not typical of a Greco-Roman patriarch: urging, encouraging, pleading (1 Thessalonians 2:12). The last word, translated as “pleading” in the NRSV is, in Greek, martyromenoi (witnessing), another reminder of how significant is the sense of physical presence in this letter.

The logos of God

On reading all of 1 Thessalonians, it is clear that the true power behind all that is life-giving is God. So, it is fitting that today’s lection, short as it is, end not with Paul, but with God, “who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). 1 Thessalonians 2:13 is a challenge to preachers: “when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work (energeitai) in [among] you believers.”

The Greek word logos (word) is a relative of the English word “logic,” and has to do not only with God’s words, but with God’s whole way of reasoning, God’s practical wisdom as it can be discerned over time. God’s word can actually be observed at work among people, enabling them to live with embodied faith, courageous hope, self-offering love. In this final sentence we arrive at the wide frame in which Paul’s labor and toil, his nursing and fathering, his Gospeling and encouraging make sense: the plan of God, on the one hand inexpressible, but on the other hand observable in the lives of ordinary people who allow the word of God to be at work among them.

This short passage is important for helping contemporary Christians move beyond the understanding of faith as an idea or a set of beliefs into the challenge of faith as a practice, a way of living in community with others. Just as Paul uses himself and others as models, the passage might inspire the preacher to seek out ordinary people among whom God’s word is clearly “at work.” Paul offers pointers to the kinds of evidence one might seek: humility, honesty, guilelessness, willingness to work hard at tasks that do not command others’ respect, willingness to share deeply of oneself, courage to take risks for the Gospel, all grounded in a foundation of complete trust in God.


Notes

  1. Commentary first published on this site on Nov. 5, 2017.
  2. See, for example, Peter Oakes’ chapter, “The Economic Situation of the Philippians Christians,” in The People Beside Paul: The Philippian Assembly and History from Below, edited by Joseph A. Marchal, 63-82 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2015).