Building Treasure in Heaven Series, Part 4
Over the past two articles in this series, we have been exploring an episode in Matthew 23:23. Jesus is challenging his religious opponents to step back and look beyond the fussy minutiae of religious law to see the bigger picture. What is it that God really expects in our daily actions as disciples? Jesus suggests there are three central virtues in the Christian life: justice, mercy and faith. Today, we look at our call to walk by faith.
Facets of Faith
I believe Jesus is thinking of Micah 6:8 when he draws attention to these virtues. In that famous passage, Micah writes, “What does the Lord require of you except to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God?” The justice and mercy of Jesus’ list line up nicely with the list in Micah. But at the end, Jesus names faith, while Micah talks about ‘walking humbly with your God.’ Is there a mistake here? No, in fact, this draws our attention to the truth that ‘faith’ is bigger than our modern definition of ‘believing what we don’t know by reason.’
I want to try and capture this larger picture with two reflections on faith. (Part two will overlap with the next set of virtues I will be looking at from the Apostle Paul: faith, hope and love.) Faith is essential to the Christian life; it is essential to building Treasure in Heaven. Walking by faith captures the fullness of our relationship with God.
On the one hand, faith does mean to believe and trust in God. I will reflect on this aspect of faith on Friday. It also means ‘to be faithful.’ In other words, walking by faith is a way of life. We want to live our whole life for God, slowly bringing everything we do in line with the Gospel. To help us understand what this ‘way of life’ looks like, the Bible uses the simple image of walking: faith is walking humbly with your God .
‘Exercising’ Faith in the Bible
In Biblical times, walking was the main way of getting around. If you had to walk a long way, it was easier to travel with others. On the way, you would have a lot of time to talk and get to know each other. Walking was a form of companionship.
With this in mind, the Bible uses the image of walking to describe our relationship with God. In Genesis, God walks in the garden, looking for Adam and Eve. After the Exodus, God promises Israel, “I will walk among you and be your God.” It also refers to how people related to God. Both Noah and Enoch, who were righteous, ‘walked with God.’
In Revelation, Christ promises that the remnant from Sardis will ‘walk with me.’ And in one of the favourite stories of the New Testament, we have the image of Jesus walking with two disciples on the way to Emmaus. Christian interpretation has taken this story as an analogy for the Christian life as a journey with Christ. In 2 Corinthians, Paul says that we walk by faith, not by sight.
Walking also represents living a life of virtue. In Psalm 1, the righteous person does not ‘walk with the wicked.’ And in the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar learns that God will humble those ‘who walk in pride.’ Psalm 15 praises those who ‘walk blamelessly.’ There are many more verses, but I think the idea is clear.
So why does Jesus point us in this direction when he is talking to the Pharisees? The answer to this question helps us to see what he means by being faithful. Remember, the issue was that Jesus believed the Pharisees were being religious for all the wrong reasons. They wanted to show how ‘holy’ they were. They wanted to be greeted with deference and honour, and they used their place in society to belittle and shame others. For Jesus, this is not true faithfulness.
The way of Jesus is the simple way. It is the way of a humble heart marked by love, that trusts God, wants to do justice and loves mercy. God wants us to walk by faith, depending on him. To walk with God humbly IS true faithfulness.