Matthew and the Stinking Fish

Watch world events." And the world is full of "events"! Events that dismay, distract, even disgust us. I guess you could say we are "dis"ed.

The world is completely entranced with personal economic status, the political soap opera, the stock market, events in Iraq and Y2K. I say itís all a stinking fish.

Now a red herring that has been dead a while is a stinking fish. And a stinking fish is a diversionary tactic. Let me explain. A red herring is a term used to describe the practice of drawing a fish across a trail to confuse the tracking dogs, or to divert attention from the real or important issue. A red herring is not necessarily a lie or innuendo. The issue may be mostly truth, or even all truth, but nevertheless a diversion.

An example is the Y2K problem. Letís focus on that. According to many well-qualified experts, there may be vast shutdowns and supply problems. So we should stock up emergency supplies; food, water, blankets, gas, etc. But there is another school of thought. Please read the following verses from Matthew 6:19-34 carefully. Most Bibles divide these verses into sections, but letís think of them as one principle.

Matthew 6:19-24, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."

Here we are introduced to the possibility that too much concern for our economic welfare may lead to covetousness. Let's compare Ezekiel 33:30-33, "Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as My people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them."

Now to continue in Matthew 6:25-26, "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" The emphasis here has shifted to Faith. Does Luke 18:8 come to mind? "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?"

The thought here is to not put undue emphasis on things of this world. "Take no thought" literally means to take no anxious thought; donít let worldly things consume or distract you. The world and even the Church seems overwrought with the hype of the news; especially evident in the concern about the stock market, Y2K, and Christmas sales.

Matthew 6:27-34, "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

There is a progression. As covetousness (undue concern about our lives) rises, it replaces faith in God and idolatry reigns.

Isaiah and other true prophets took note of world events, but if you notice they did not say "Watch world events." Their messages were essentially to not be deceived by world happenings. Letís consider Matthew 24:24, "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." What are these great signs and wonders?

Signs and wonders can attract or distract. Take a look at Mosesí miracles; Acts 7:36, "He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years." God's miracles through Moses were to attract attention; especially of Pharaoh. But the purpose of the signs and wonders in Matthew 24 is to distract, to deceive, ó even the elect if possible. Are not the things happening in the world deceiving or distracting us today? Are they not served to us by false Christís and false prophets? Satan is subtle; I donít think these signs to deceive us are great, in the sense of grandeur, but great in the magnitude of the deception.

Paul explains the cleverness of Satanís deceits, even calling it a mystery. II Thessalonians 2:7-15, "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle."

Let me paraphrase the above verse in the context of our topic. "That they all might be condemned who had no faith in the word of God, but were covetous, and idolators, lacking faith in not believing what I said in Matthew chapter six."

Iím not saying reasonable preparations are not in order. As someone pointed out; years ago people routinely had six months supply of canned goods and a supply of wood to burn. Today a storm could easily knock out power for one or two weeks especially for those in the country. What are reasonable preparations? I guess it depends on your circumstances and your faith in God. If we are so anxious to prepare for our physical needs; how much more should we take extra precautions by prayer, study, and fasting, that we be not deceived.

Again; remember Luke 18:8, "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" So, as you prepare, keep your nose in the air and follow the directions in Matthew 6:19-34 till all odor of stinking fish is gone. Are you anxious? There is much comfort in the Psalms, especially Psalms 11, 18, and 91. Please take time to read them now and youíll have more desire and time to seek you first the kingdom of God.

ó written by Steven J. Kieler W