Lectionary Commentaries for November 5, 2023
Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


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.


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

First Reading

Commentary on Micah 3:5-12

Carolyn J. Sharp

What would our lives be like without the prophetic word?¹ A life without vision: no joyful discernment of God’s purposes for ourselves, no gradually unfolding perception of the Holy Spirit at work for justice in our communities. It’s a grim prospect. We would struggle to eke out a bleak existence in the shadows of hopelessness with “no answer from God” (Micah 3:7). Confusion would cloud our efforts to pray about those things beyond our immediate sight. Human nature being what it is, we would become less motivated to seek the good.

Without the prophets’ words of rebuke and their insistent calls to return to the covenantal truths of Scripture, we would hoard what we have and fight those who press contrary claims. We would conveniently forget to remember the poor. A shallow theology of quid pro quo would reign, with rulers administering faux justice “for a bribe” and clergy teaching the faithful “for a price” (3:11).

Micah is outraged about false prophets–those seers-for-hire who assure the people of well-being and peace, so long as they receive the requisite financial compensation. False prophets not only rob people of the chance to repent, they underwrite a system of corruption that allows Israel’s spiritual and political leaders to continue wreaking havoc on the lives of those whom they should be serving. Abhorring justice, perverting equity, building Zion with blood–this is what the people of God can expect from their leaders when prophets do not tell the truth.

What is the most devastating result of all? Jerusalem will be destroyed. The place where God has caused the divine Name to dwell in the midst of God’s beloved people–holy Zion itself–will be “plowed as a field” and made “a heap of ruins” (3:12). Micah tells us that God’s very presence among God’s people is at stake.

Believers dare not take the prophetic word for granted. Hearing that word is never easy, though, because it holds us and our communities accountable. We would much rather hear words of “shalom.” Imagine a false prophet offering the annual report for your congregation:

  • Certainly our church is doing all it can for the poor!
  • Naturally, we strive to act with compassion in every aspect of our lives!
  • Of course we give sacrificially to bring near the kingdom of God, rather than hoarding our wealth!
  • God has nothing but fabulous blessings in store for us. Good work, everyone!

But our incarnational God knows the truth of our lives. We fall short daily, and we must repent if we are to be in honest relationship with God and one another. Therefore, God stirs up prophets to speak the truth to us–not to condemn us, but to invite us into more authentic discipleship and deeper love for others.

Congregations need to hear that the prophetic word is real and powerful. In our increasingly secular and narcissistic world, many have become jaded about the possibility of social change and the effectiveness of the Church’s witness. The radical force of biblical faith is not so obvious these days, especially to those who idolize worldly power, those who barely know the Bible, and those unfamiliar with the history of Christian witness. Here, Micah offers us three points that are excellent resources for preaching the Gospel.

First, Micah invites us to think about the desolation and darkness of a world without prophetic vision. Help your congregation to imagine what communal life would be like without Martin Luther King Jr.’s stirring use of Amos 5. Invite them to consider how impoverished our Eucharistic theologies would be without Jeremiah’s new covenant as a source for New Testament witnesses to Christ (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 8:6-13, 10:16-18). Spiritual discernment and social justice work would be positively anemic without the truth-telling of the prophets.

Prophecy is about candor and hope. Find creative ways to embolden your congregation to embrace candor and hope, two spiritual virtues that every believer needs in order to negotiate the challenges of  twenty first century life.

Second, Micah offers himself as witness, not only for his own ancient community but for future generations who read the Book of Micah. “As for me,” Micah thunders, “I am filled with power, with the spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin” (3:8). Because Micah loves his people, he will not allow them to continue in their prideful and destructive ways.

Are Micah’s words uncomfortable for us? Certainly–just as it is uncomfortable when loved ones carry out an intervention with an alcoholic, or when a therapist declines to play along with a client’s dysfunctional script. But without truth there can be no repentance and no transformation. Thus, Micah is an invaluable companion for individual believers and for every community that seeks to please God. It is good news indeed that Micah continues to walk with us.

Third, Micah invites us to engage Scripture as a richly multilayered resource to help us repent. Micah’s testimony in 3:12 is taken up by the mighty Jeremiah centuries later, precisely to underline the point that prophetic words of judgment are meant to catalyze repentance (Jeremiah 26:18). The goal of those shocking Old Testament oracles of judgment, which many believers today find so repellent, is to encourage repentance. The God of the prophets is a God of mercy who whispers, “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone. Turn, then, and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32).

Just as Jeremiah reflects on Micah, many Scripture texts elaborate on earlier witnesses, nuancing and reframing them for changing circumstances. Encountering this inner-biblical dialogue, we learn to treasure Scripture as a dynamic, living tradition. Every congregation invited into Scripture’s richness will find its spiritual life deepened, challenged and illuminated. Courage and compassion will blossom. Here is the truth we gain from Micah: love of God and neighbor will flourish in every community that dares to heed the prophetic word and repent.


  1.  Originally published on this site on November 2, 2008.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Joshua 3:7-17

Bryan J. Whitfield

This summer I waded across a short stretch of the Rio Chama in the depths of a canyon the river had carved in the New Mexico desert. There seven of us celebrated a river baptism and shared communion on a sandbar in the brisk morning air. That night the words of a spiritual came to mind, unbidden: “Jordan’s River is chilly and cold, chills the body but not the soul.” That was my experience of the Chama as well, and I began to reflect more deeply about rivers and rituals and the experience of the Israelites who follow Joshua out of the desert.

These pilgrims face a crucial moment of transition. The only leader they had known, Moses, has died. They are not yet sure that God will be present with Joshua to the same degree. They do not know whether they can claim the land God promised. A generation of desert wanderers fed on manna, they do not know how to build homes or eat from the produce of the land (5:12). More immediately, they do not know how they will cross the Jordan, leaving behind old lives for new.

These uncertainties emphasize that the book of Joshua tells the story of transitions: changes of leadership, of geography, of culture, and of vocation. The book begins immediately after the account of Moses’ death (Deuteronomy 34:1-12) with God’s command to Joshua to cross over the Jordan River with the Israelites (Joshua 1:1-4). Following God’s instructions (1:1-9), Joshua tells the people they will cross the river in three days (1:10-11). He then sends two spies to survey the land. They find shelter in the house of Rahab, who helps them escape over the city wall in exchange for a promise they will spare her family when they take the city (2:1-21). After hiding for three days, the spies return and report to Joshua (2:22-24). The next day, the Israelites march to the Jordan, where Joshua gives the Levitical priests and the people directions for crossing the river (3:1-6).

God then speaks to Joshua (3:7-8), telling him the crossing will assure the people God is with him, fulfilling God’s earlier promise (1:5). The priests are to enter the river carrying the ark, the rectangular box containing the two tablets of God’s covenant with Israel. They are to stand in the riverbed with the ark, the visible symbol of God’s presence, and the people will then cross over.

Joshua next addresses the Israelites, describing both the result of the crossing (3:10) and the process (3:11-13). This demonstration of God’s power will prove that God, the Living One, is in their midst and that God will remove the people of the land (3:10). The symbolic choice of seven names to describe these groups emphasizes both the ethnic diversity of the land and the totality of the removal. Joshua stresses the universal sovereignty of Israel’s God: the ark of the covenant of “the Lord of all the earth” or “all the land” will pass before them (3:11).

Joshua explains that when the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the ark rest in the water, the river will break off, standing in a single heap, just as the water of the Sea of Reeds had done for their parents whom God led out of Egypt (Exodus 15:8; Psalm 78:13; Psalm 114:3). These two crossings bookend the journey from slavery to freedom and join the two generations in a shared experience of liberation.

After receiving Joshua’s words, the people cross the Jordan (3:14). As the priests’ feet touch the water’s edge, the river rises in a heap and stands upstream (3:15), just as Joshua had said. The priests stand immobile in the riverbed until all the people cross (3:8, 13, 15, 17; 4:9-10). Later, the Israelites remember the crossing by erecting memorial stones and by retelling the story of their experience (4:19-24). They create a recurring ritual that recalls this crossing and interprets it for future generations.

The Israelites’ transition encompasses leadership, geography, culture, and vocation. Whether our transitions mirror theirs or reflect others—marriage, parenthood, mid-life, divorce, illness, retirement, or bereavement—ritual can strengthen our lives, providing links between chapters of our pilgrimage. The crossing of the Jordan highlights several ways that effective rituals sustain our faith in God’s power and providence.

  1. Ritual grounds us in the foundational story of God’s delivering love. For the Israelites, that story was the miracle of passing through the waters of the sea and escaping slavery. Crossing over the Jordan re-enacts that foundational deliverance. Christians extend the story of the freedom of that first Passover in narrating the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus through baptism and communion.
  2. Ritual connects us through time and space with all those who share the experience. Crossing the Jordan joined the Israelites with their parents who crossed the Sea of Reeds, and their memorial stones linked them to future generations. For Christians, baptism incorporates us into the great cloud of witnesses who surround us when we break bread and share the cup. As a result, ritual reminds us we are not alone. Transitions may take us away from our old lives and connections, but ritual joins us to a new community of fellow pilgrims. Our journey is not a solitary one.
  3. Ritual uses symbols to mark the promise of God’s presence in a relationship of covenantal love. Symbols make God’s steadfast love and faithfulness concrete and tangible. For the Israelites, the ark of the covenant marked God’s presence. In Christian worship, both baptism and communion remind us of God’s presence in our lives as God’s covenant people.

Choosing this text as a focal passage for today’s sermon allows preachers to craft a service of worship to support those who face times of change. Such worship will use the power of ritual and symbol to strengthen trust in God’s providential care in moments of transition, grounding new patterns of life in the foundational narratives of God’s liberating love and grace.


Commentary on Psalm 43

Kelly J. Murphy

Hermann Gunkel, famous for his work on the psalms,1 once noted, “The individual complaint songs form the basic material of the psalter.”2

He continued, “The order in many of these psalms is a characteristic one; first, the wailing, almost desperate lament and the passionate prayer; then, suddenly, the certainty of deliverance in a jubilant tone.”3

Unsurprisingly, if we open a commentary on the psalms, we’ll likely find some formulation of the following “order” we should expect to encounter in the individual lament psalms: first, the psalmist invokes God; second, the psalmist states their complaint; third, the psalmist petitions God to do something in response; fourth, the speaker states their trust in God’s ability to carry out the speaker’s request; fifth, the psalm ends with praise for and/or of God.

Yet what certitude or sureness do we find at the end of Psalm 43? There the speaker exclaims, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God” (verse 5). These final words only point forward, to a time when the psalmist hopes to praise God again. There is no certainty.

The careful reader of the psalter will notice that they have already encountered the words that end Psalm 43 not once but twice before, both times in the immediately preceding psalm (42:5-6a, 11). The repeated lines are not the only similarity between Psalm 42 and Psalm 43. Both ask “Why must I walk about mournfully because of the oppression of the enemy?” (42:9; 43:2) and both lament the psalmist’s distance from God (“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” [42:2); “For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you cast me off?” [43:2]). Moreover, the speaker of Psalm 42 and the speaker of Psalm 43 each desire to come before God once again (42:4; 43:3-4). These connections, combined with the fact that Psalm 43 lacks a superscription, have led many scholars to suggest the two psalms should be read as one, an idea further supported by several ancient manuscript traditions that combine them.

Read together, there is yet another time where we see the speaker’s soul “cast down”: “My soul is cast down within me; therefore, I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar” (Psalm 42:6). While this line perhaps tells us the reason for lamentation (from the land of the Jordan, the psalmist is far from Jerusalem and God’s temple where they previously took part in pilgrimage [Psalm 42:4]), the psalmist nevertheless also remembers God from afar. Here we might invoke Desmond Tutu, who once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Even far from God, even taunted by enemies, even in the darkness of a moment when the soul feels disquiet, the psalmist remembers and hopes for God.

Next “deep calls to deep (tehom-el-tehom qore) at the thunder of your cataracts, all your waves and your billows have gone over me” (Psalm 42:7). The Hebrew tehom, “deep,” often signifies chaos. So “darkness covered the face of the deep” when God begins to create out of the primeval chaos waters (Genesis 1:2) and later the fountains of the deep burst forth to flood the earth, reversing God’s previous creation (Genesis 7:11). If the psalmist here is recounting an experience with God, it is one that draws on a Hebrew word often associated with chaos and, perhaps, darkness. Remember Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the great fish, where he recounts how “the waters closed in over me; the deep (tehom) surrounded me” (Jonah 2:5).

Yet even from here the psalm returns to hope and light: “By day the LORD commands his steadfast love” (Psalm 42:8). In fact, even at night, in the darkness, God’s “song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life” (42:8). The psalm continues to waver between hope and despair, light and darkness, petitioning God to act (“Vindicate me!” [Psalm 43:1]) but also asking “Why must I walk about mournfully because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Psalm 42:2). There is both positive anticipation, “O send out your light and your truth, let them lead me … Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4), and yet also a return to the psalmist’s troubled state, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?” (Psalm 43:5).

The individual lament may be “the basic material of the psalter,” but Psalms 42-43 prompt us to remember that these psalms take many forms and follow many orders. The ending “hope in God” does not require the psalmist—or any of us—to ignore the reality of darkness. Yet these final words point forward, even if there is not yet certainty or jubilation. Such an ending in a lament psalm captures how life can rapidly and repeatedly move from the despair of a “cast down” soul to hope, from the darkness of the deep to light, again and again.


  1. Originally published on this site on November 5, 2017.
  2. Hermann Gunkel, Introduction to the Psalms: The Genres of the Religious Lyric of Israel, completed by Joachim Begrich, trans by James D. Nogalski (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1998), 122 n. 2. Italics in original.
  3. Hermann Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form Critical Introduction, trans. Thomas M. Horner (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), 20.

Second Reading

Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Kristofer Phan Coffman

There’s an important detail about 1 Thessalonians that every reader should keep in mind and it’s so important that I will repeat it at the beginning of each of my commentaries: 1st Thessalonians is the oldest book in the New Testament. It is the first of the letters of Paul, written before any of his other letters and even before the Gospels. This letter gives us a glimpse into the concerns of one of the first communities outside of Syria-Palestine to receive the good news of Jesus Christ. It is an under-appreciated treasure.

Knowing that 1 Thessalonians comes first helps to give us a leg up on reading Paul. This letter highlights the occasional nature of Paul’s teaching and the way in which he addresses the needs of individual communities. This means that Paul requires more work to read because, as much as possible, we need to place ourselves in the sandals of his first readers in order to understand the concerns of the letter.

The pericope begins with a verse that reveals another detail that many readers overlook when dealing with 1 Thessalonians and the letters of Paul in general. The letter, for the most part, is written in the 1st person plural. It uses the words “us” and “we” because Paul does not work alone. Though we call the letter “Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians,” the opening verse (1:1) makes clear that Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy are equal senders of the letter. 

The trio begin by contrasting their ministry with that of religious freeloaders (2:9). Put simply, they worked for their daily bread, while those who come after them expect to be supported by the community. This conflict over whether evangelists should receive benefits from their communities provides an example of attention to community concerns. Here, the writers object to people taking advantage of the Thessalonians’ generosity. In another letter, when some members of the community struggle with selfishness, Paul demands the opposite. In 1 Corinthians 9:9, he cites the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 25:4) to prove that communities should provide support for evangelists.

To show their seriousness on this topic, the letter writers continue by swearing an oath. In our contemporary western world, oaths carry little weight. They linger only in parts of legal procedure: the swearing of witnesses for a jury or applying for a passport. Both those cases, however, deal entirely with civil affairs. The writers of 1 Thessalonians, in contrast, call the Thessalonians and God as witnesses to the truth of their claims. They shift the playing field from human conduct to divine judgment, calling upon God to punish them if they are lying. Because their ancient audience took oaths so seriously, this sentence would grab their attention and underline the importance of the point being made. 

The letters of Paul overflow with metaphors and the authors shift from their oath to a metaphor based on the ancient Mediterranean family. Because the reading begins at verse 9, a reader might miss the way in which the trio use both maternal and paternal metaphors for themselves. They begin by using the imagery of nursing infants to emphasize the bond that they feel with the Thessalonian community (2:7). Then they shift metaphors to highlight the growth that they see. In a Roman household, a nurse took responsibility for the care and feeding of infants. As the child grew, the father became responsible for their education. By describing themselves as fathers of the Thessalonians (2:11), the trio emphasize that they have done more than just start the community. They have also contributed to the growth and education of their community.

This emphasis on the paternal role in education mirrors some of the conflicts seen in other Pauline letters. In Galatians, especially, Paul complains that later evangelists have placed themselves in the roll of “improving upon” or “adding to” Paul’s gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).Those competing evangelists try to restrict Paul and his companions to the role of nurse, acknowledging that the trio founded communities, but placing themselves in the fatherly role of educators. By following their oath with their claim to paternity, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy warn the Thessalonians against anyone who would claim that they need further instruction.

The abrupt shift from maternal to paternal metaphors reflects the fact that the Thessalonians have “grown up so quickly.” They accepted the trio’s preaching immediately (2:13), and then showed their understanding by enduring persecution (2:14). This reception of the word of God echoes another theme from the rest of Paul’s letters: True preaching of the Gospel comes from God, not from human beings (see also Galatians 1:11-12). It also may be a reference to Jesus’ preaching in the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:3-9; 14-20). In that parable, Jesus criticizes people who receive his word with joy, but then fall away under persecution (4:17). Jesus compares these over-eager recipients of his words to plants that cannot endure the sun because they have no roots. The Thessalonians, in contrast, by enduring suffering for the sake of the Gospel, show that they are not fair weather fans. They are like the good grain that hears the word and goes on to bear fruit (4:20). 

By contrasting human words with the word of God, the authors of 1 Thessalonians emphasize that the true Gospel is a power that works in and of itself. Humans may preach words, but unless the word comes from God, it will not accomplish anything. This may be a perplexing point to modern readers: how do words do things? When discussing this point in my classes, I have found the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien provides an apt illustration. I would point those who are fans of the Lord of the Rings to the beginning of the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, in which the wizard Gandalf warns Frodo that the Ring, a seemingly inanimate object, is trying to get back to its master Sauron. This scene may provide a useful illustration of this point for a sermon or Bible Study.