The God of More

by Matthew Benfield

I had a friend in college who was troubled by the high bar Jesus seemed to set. She pointed to Matthew 5:20: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds [perisseuse] that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” How could she possibly be more pious than they, she wondered. Jesus continues, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you” (Mat. 5:38-42). Fairness is often hard enough. But Jesus calls us to do more. But how are we supposed to find the resources to do more? This seems like a fight we cannot win, an impossible demand.

Well, it would be impossible if we were living on our own resources, but nothing is impossible with God (Mat. 19:26). Later in the same book Jesus is followed by a large crowd. His disciples needed to eat and they asked Jesus to send the crowd away, but he asked them to do more. “They need not go away; you give them something to eat” (14:16). Of course, their resources were low. They had nothing but five loaves and two fish (14:17). This was an impossible demand. They did not have the resources to do more. But we do not live by our own resources. They surrendered what they had to Jesus and he multiplied their meager food into a feast. They fed over five thousand and “they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over [perisseuon]” (14:20). They now had resources that were “more” that “exceeded” (the same word used to describe the necessary righteousness in Mat. 5:20).

It now becomes clear how we are supposed to have a “righteousness that exceeds.”

Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more [perisson] are you doing than others? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mat. 5:43-48). Those who believe in gods which are no gods are able to muster the love of neighbor. When we do that what “more” are we doing? We are behaving as if we serve a god which is no God. We are reminded, however, of our God of unlimited resources. He is able to love the good and have much “left over” for the evil. He is able to send rain on the just with more “left over” for the unjust. He is able to take our meager resources, our five loaves and two fish, and do “more” with plenty “left over.” We are able to live more because we serve the God-of-More. We bring him our meager patience, our meager love, our meager forgiveness, and little wisdom, and he increases it. He gives us “more” with plenty “left over” to share. We are made for more. And God is enough to make us more than we are.

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