Monday, July 13, 2015

The Law of Dominion versus the Law of Love

Someone in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." But He said to him, "Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?" Then He said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions." (Luke 12:13-15 NASB)

A man in the crowd spoke out and asked Jesus to intervene in a family dispute. He wanted his brother to divide the inheritance with him. The law required that the eldest son receive a double portion. Some commentators (including Matthew Henry) believe that this was a younger son who wanted a larger portion. He would have Jesus take from the older brother's legally obtained portion and give it to him. (The discussion about greed and coveting that follows suggests that this was not an inheritance that had been taken from him, but that he wanted to take it from his brother.)

When I read Matthew Henry's commentary on this passage, I was surprised. "In matters of this nature, Christ will not assume either a legislative power to alter the settled rule of inheritances, or a judicial power to determine controversies concerning them." 

This is so well written that I've copied a section of his commentary below. I know that, in this day of outrage, it may not be well-received. Remember as you read it that this was written in the late 1600's. This was a time of considerable unrest and severe religious persecution in England. Many people fled to the Americas to escape that persecution. 

"Now this shows us what is the nature and constitution of Christ's kingdom. It is a spiritual kingdom, and not of this world. 1. It does not interfere with civil powers, nor take the authority of princes out of their hands. Christianity leaves the matter as it found it, as to civil power. 2. It does not intermeddle with civil rights; it obliges all to do justly, according to the settled rules of equity, but dominion is not founded in grace. 3. It does not encourage our expectations of worldly advantages by our religion. If this man will be a disciple of Christ, and expects that in consideration of this Christ should give him his brother's estate, he is mistaken; the rewards of Christ's disciples are of another nature. 4. It does not encourage our contests with our brethren, and our being rigorous and high in our demands, but rather, for peace' sake, to recede from our right. 5. It does not allow ministers to entangle themselves in the affairs of this life (2 Tim. 2:4), to leave the word of God to serve tables. There are those whose business it is, let it be left to them, Tractent fabrilia fabriEach workman to his proper craft."1

I am not presuming to say how we should respond or not respond to the changes in freedom in our country. This is not a commentary for or against any current law or judicial ruling. I am quoting what a well-respected theologian, whose work has stood the test of time, has written. 

With that said, there is one phrase that I love ."Dominion is not founded in grace." It's a true statement. No matter how great the lack of grace in dominion, it does not change the rule of love. As believers, we must remember that Jesus gave us a Great Commandment, and it is that we must follow.

And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' (Matthew 22:37-39 NASB)

In questions of how we treat our brother or of how we treat our neighbor (even one with whom we disagree), the law of love must rule our words and our actions. This does not mean that we cannot take advantage of our legally-guaranteed rights, but it does mean that the exercise of those rights begin with the law of love.
Our Father, forgive me for my lack of love. Create in me a clean heart that loves You with every fiber of my being. Help me to love my neighbor as I love myself, even when we disagree. In Jesus' name, Amen.

  1. 1. "Text Commentaries: Matthew Henry (Blue Letter Bible: Luke)." Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 12 Jul, 2015. http://www.blueletterbible.org