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Flourishing economies are hard to come by in world history.  Every now and again resources are found, technologies discovered, enemies plundered and wealth increases.  But usually it doesn’t last very long.  This is because, historically, people have only ever known two responses to wealth: we either horde it or we display it. We either squirrel […]

Signs of the times

When “wars and rumors of wars” hit the headlines, Christians will often proclaim, “This must be the end.”  And often they will point to Mark 13 as proof.   Yet in this chapter Jesus says something quite different: 7 And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such […]

Wars and rumors of wars

Whatever dominates the skyline of a city tells you what they worship.  In that ancient city of Babel, they sought a name for themselves so they tried to build a tower to heaven.  In a sense they worshipped themselves.  The ancient cities that Paul visited would have been dominated by massive shrines and temples, set […]

I would have gathered thy children as a hen gathereth her chickens

Jesus calls the Pharisees a lot of names in Matthew chapter 23. They are hypocrites – not practising what they preach. They are blind guides. They are absurdly imbalanced moralists – straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. They are whited sepulchres, they are serpents, vipers and murderers, the very apex of evil in […]

Whited sepulchre

Last time we considered the absurd lack of proportion demonstrated by the Pharisees.  They strained at gnats and swallowed camels.  In other words they obsessed over minutiae and ignored the whole point of the Scriptures. But how did it come to this?  How did they end up having such a diabolical problem with perspective? Well […]

Strain at a gnat and swallow a camel

“There was an old lady who swallowed a cow, to catch the dog, to catch the cat, to catch the bird, to catch the spider, that wriggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.   She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.  I don’t know why she swallowed the fly – Perhaps she’ll die!”  (Traditional Nursery […]

The blind leading the blind

Three times Jesus uses this image in the Gospels: “Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?”  (Luke 6:39) “They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”  (Matthew 15:14) “Woe unto you, ye blind guides.”  (Matthew 23:16) […]

They do not practise what they preach

—  The drug-taking sports star milking a squeaky clean image with the sponsors. —  The socialist MP who sends her children to exclusive prep-schools. The world despises a leader who does not practise what they preach.  And so does Jesus.  In fact Jesus leads the way in the condemnation: “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, […]

Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's

In chess terms they call it a “fork”.  Your opponent puts you in a position where, whatever you do, you will lose a piece.  The Pharisees and Herodians (not a natural alliance) gang up on Jesus “to catch Him in His words.”  (Mark 12:13) “They say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, […]

Out of the mouths of babes

We tend to use this phrase interchangeably with something like “Kids say the darnedest things.”  But Jesus was making a deeper point.  He wasn’t only referring to children but was encouraging us all to child-like-ness.  It is not just infants, but more generally it is the simple trusters in Jesus whose surprising wisdom will shock the […]