Jesus was concerned about his disciples. It was a concern not for any physical danger that they were in; he was concerned about soul danger. He defined danger to the soul as contamination with hypocrisy. He was worried that they would get tainted with the “yeast” of the Pharisees who pretended that they believed but in reality were phony. The New Testament speaks of hypocrisy as “play-acting”, essentially a pretension that results in self-delusion. Jesus was warning them of the danger of religious performance on the outside and an inside with a heart that failed to discern any kind of spiritual truth. He knew that a discrepancy existed between outward conformity to religious ritual and the true state of the heart. He knew that this discrepancy revealed a faithless heart and a divided life.
Like the disciples, our souls are in danger. It is easy to put on a good front, go through the motions of religious ritual, fooling others and fooling ourselves. It is easy to slip into complacency about the state of our heart, not realizing that we are sliding into lives that are marked by division and faithlessness. When the behavior goes in one direction and the heart goes in the other, we feel divided. When the heart is divided, it implies a lack of fidelity or faith. The experience of that division is anxiety, dissonance and disharmony. Jesus is asking us to watch our hearts and to care for our souls, ensuring that we have lives of consistency and authenticity. He wants for us a life where the heart is faithful, or showing fidelity or faithfulness toward God. He wants for us a life where behavior mirrors that faith in a consistent and unified way. He knows that when our hearts and lives are unified and moving in the same direction, our experience will be peacefulness and harmony inside even if life is chaotic and dangerous outside. He wants for us a life that is authentically God-filled and God-lived.
Jesus was telling his disciples that this is the most important thing. . . . to have fidelity and faith toward God. It doesn’t matter what else life brings. What matters is the state of your soul. He reassures us that as God cares about the sparrow, how much more does he care about us, his children. Jesus says that we’re worth more than a million sparrows. He knows us. He loves us. He shows fidelity and faithfulness to us. That’s a reassurance we all need. That is a reassurance we can relax into. That’s a reassurance that leads to an authentic life.
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