The words of Jesus in modern verse

paraphrased and annotated by Donivan Bessinger

2. Spiritual Life

[Section Index,  21-30 ]

21. The Sermon - Beatitudes When crowds gathered around him on a hillside and on a plain, Jesus sat down and taught them.

You who are feeling quite low                                                                 a
     are happily fulfilled 
For the spiritual realm is yours.
You who are weeping                                                                             b
    are happily fulfilled
For you will be comforted.
You who are meek 
     are happily fulfilled
For the earth is yours.
You who are hungry and thirsty for goodness
     are happily fulfilled
For your hunger and thirst will be satisfied.
You who are compassionate
     are happily fulfilled
For compassion will be shown to you.
You whose heart is pure  
     are happily fulfilled
For you will see God.
You who try to make peace among others 
     are happily fulfilled
For you will be called one of God's own.
You who are persecuted for trying to serve the good 
     are happily fulfilled
For God's own realm is yours.
When people abuse you and lie about you  
Then you are happily fulfilled.
Rejoice! Be glad!
You will have a great spiritual reward.
Haven't they always done the same
To God's great people?
You are the salt, the seasoning,                                                                c 
   of creation.
But what if that salt should loose
   its saltiness?
It wouldn't be good for anything.
It would just be trampled underfoot.
You are the light of creation.                                                                    d  
You can't hide a city on a hill.
You don't light a lamp and put
   it under a basket, either.
You put it on a stand
   so that the light can shine
   through the whole house.
Be like that. Let your light shine  
So that when people see the good
They'll praise God.
But are you rich?                                                                                     e  
Then I am sorry for you,
For you already have reached your goal.
Are you already full?    
Then I am sorry for you,
For you will become hungry again.
Are you laughing now? 
Then I am sorry for you,
For next you will weep.
Does everyone praise you now?
Then I am sorry for you,
For they also praised those who led others astray.

             [21] [T] 

22. The traditional law. Jesus gave to the traditional law a much broader interpretation.

I have not come to do away with the law                                                 a
   or the teachings of the Prophets.
I have come instead to fulfill them.
Not one bit of the law can be abolished
Until all creation is finished. 
If you disregard the law 
Even in the least way
And you teach others to do that too,
You take the lowest place
   in the spiritual realm.
But if you live within creation's law                                                           b 
And you teach others to do that too,
Then your place in the spiritual realm
   is great indeed.
Unless you have more goodness than 
   those narrow-minded religious leaders                                                  c
You will never enter the spiritual realm.
You know our ancestors were told 
   `Thou shalt not kill', and 
   `Whoever kills shall be liable to the court.'
But I say you are liable to the court 
Even when you are angry with someone
   without a reason.
A harsh insult brings you to the High Court                                              d
But if you merely call someone a fool
You risk the spiritual fire. 
Suppose you are bringing your gifts to the altar 
And on the way, remember
That you are on bad terms with someone.
Leave the gift beside the altar.
Go and straighten the problem out,
Then come back.
That's when you can make your gifts at the altar.
Why do you not discern in yourselves                                                      e 
   what is right?
What if someone accuses you?                                                                f
Better make friends quickly!
If you don't, he might turn you over to the judge!
The judge would give you to the guard
The guard would put you in jail.
You wouldn't get out until you'd paid the last cent!
Remember our ancestors were told                                                         g
   `You shall not commit adultery.'
I say, just looking at a woman improperly
   is a way of committing adultery.
What if your right eye causes you to sin?                                                  h
   Pluck it out!
   Throw it away!
That's better than throwing your whole body
   into the spiritual fire.
What if your right hand causes you to sin? 
   Cut it off!
   Throw it away!
That's better than throwing your whole body
   into the spiritual fire.
Remember our ancestors were told                                                         i 
   `You can divorce your wife with
   only a certificate of divorce.'
Haven't you read this?                                                                              j
In the beginning God
   `made them male and female'
So that `a man should leave
   his father and mother
And be joined to his wife,
   as one body?'
They are no longer two
   but one.
Whatever God has joined
   no human should pull apart.
Moses allowed divorce                                                                           k 
   because people were so dense
But that was not
   the original plan.
I say, If a man is unfaithful to his wife                                                       l 
   divorce makes her guilty of adultery, too.
I say, a man is guilty of adultery
   if he marries a divorced woman.
I say, a woman is guilty of adultery
   if she divorces to marry again.
Only some people                                                                                   m 
Are ready to understand this --
Some do not marry
   because of how they were born and
Some because of their life situation, but
Some do not marry
   for the sake
   of the spiritual realm.
Remember our ancestors were told                                                         n 
`You shall not swear falsely';
Whatever you swear to do, you must do.'
I say, don't swear at all.
Certainly don't swear by heaven --
That is the throne of God.
Don't swear by earth, either -- 
That is part of the throne, too,
The resting place for God's feet.
Don't swear by Jerusalem --
For it is the holy city.
Don't even swear by the hair of your head. 
Say a simple `Yes' or `No.'
Anything more than that
   entangles you in evil.
Remember our ancestors were told                                                         o 
`An eye for an eye
A tooth for a tooth.'
I say, Don't resist an evil attack.
If someone hits you on one side of your face,
   offer the other side, too.
If someone sues you for the coat off your back,
   offer your shirt as well.
If someone forces you to go a mile, go two.  
If someone begs from you, give something.
If someone wants to borrow something, help out.
If someone steals something, let him keep it.
Remember our ancestors were told                                                         p 
   `Love your neighbor,' 
   Hate your enemy.
I say, Love your enemies.
Pray for those who abuse you
   so that you may
   inherit the spiritual realm.
God makes the sun to rise 
   on the evil and on the good.
God sends the rain
   on the just and the unjust,
So what do you gain
By loving only those who love you?
Even the tax collectors do that!
What do you gain 
If you greet only your closest friends?
Even the heathen do that!
What do you gain                                                                                    q 
If you lend only to those who can 
   do you a favor?
Even sinners lend to sinners
   expecting to get it back.
Love your enemies. 
Do good.
Lend expecting nothing in return.
Your reward will be great.
You will be God's children.
God is kind to thankless people, 
   to evil people.
You be compassionate, too
Even as the Creator of the cosmos
   is compassionate. 
Be spiritually whole, complete                                                                 r 
Even as the Creator of the Cosmos
   is whole and complete.

             [22] [T] 

23. Spirituality as personal inner experience.

Don't make a big display about being holy.
   God doesn't reward that.
When you give gifts to the needy 
   Don't advertise,
Sounding trumpets like some comic actor
   bowing for applause!
They have what's coming to them!
No, do your good deeds quietly.
Don't even let your left hand see
What your right hand is doing!
   Keep it a secret. 
   God sees in secret.
   God will reward you.
Don't make a big display about praying, either.
Don't stand on the street corner like a comic actor
   or pray loudly in the congregation
   trying to impress people.
They have what's coming to them!
No. When you pray go into a private inner room.                                     a
Close the door.
   Pray to God in secret.
   God sees in secret.
   God will reward you.
And don't just repeat lots of empty phrases.
You won't be heard because of many words.
Besides, God already knows what you need
   before you ask.
This is the way to pray.                                                                           b
   Beloved Creator.
   You live as Spirit.
   Your name is so holy.
   Let your realm be here.
   Let your will be done here
   Just as in your spiritual home.
   Give us what we need every day.
   Release us from what we have done wrong                                           c
   And let us let it go
      when others have done wrong to us.
   Keep us safe from life's trials. 
   Keep us safe from evil.
   Your rule, Your power, Your glory 
   Are forever. Amen.
When you pray, you must completely let go                                             d 
What people have done wrong against you,
So that God can completely heal you.
Also, don't make a big display about fasting.  
Don't paint up your faces like a comic actor
   trying to look dismal!
They have what's coming to them!
No! Comb your hair and wash your face. 
Don't let other people know you are fasting.
   Fast in secret. 
   God sees in secret.
   God will reward you.
     [23] [T] 

24. Spirituality and serenity

Don't worry about accumulating                                                              a
   lots of material things.
They'll just rust and decay.
   Or maybe get stolen.
Watch out.                                                                                              b
Avoid wanting material things.
Life is not about
   having lots of possessions.
There was a rich man
Whose land was very profitable.
The harvest was so great he
   didn't have room to store it all.
He said
`I'll tear down these little barns
   and build big ones.
I'll have room for all the grain
   and everything else I own.
Then I'll really be happy
I'll have everything I'll need for years
I'll eat, drink and party
   all the time!'
But God said to him
`Oh you fool! This is the night you die.                                                     c
All of those many possessions --
   Whose will they be now?'
If you build up treasures 
   for yourself
Then you are not rich
   in God's treasures.
Sell your possessions.                                                                             d 
Give to the poor.
Get the kind of purse that cannot grow old.
It's spiritual treasures you want to accumulate.
Those can't rust and decay.
Those can't be stolen from you.
Your heart will be where your treasure is.
Your eyes are the body's lamp.                                                               e 
If your eye is healthy
   your whole body is full of light.
But what if your inner light is really darkness? 
Take care of your spiritual eyes.
Don't let your inner self be dark.
If your whole being is light                                                                       f 
   wholly light
With no darkness at all,
You are a lamp
   bright from within.
You cannot serve two Captains at the same time.                                     g 
You'll love one and hate the other
You'll be faithful to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and the material world
   at the same time, either.
So don't worry about your life,                                                                h 
   What you'll eat
   What you'll drink
   What you'll wear.
Isn't there more to life than your body?
Isn't there more to life than your clothes?
Look at the ravens. 
They don't plant crops and harvest them
They don't store their food in barns
But God feeds them just the same.
Doesn't that apply even more to you?                                                      i 
And which one of you can grow an inch 
   by worrying about it?
So why are you worried about clothes?
Look at the lilies of the field.
They don't weave or sew
But even Solomon, rich as he was,
   couldn't dress like that!
If God can clothe the plants like that -- 
   And grass is alive only today,                                                               j
   tomorrow it's cut and burned --
How much more will God clothe you!
You have so little trust! 
Don't be worried about
   What you'll eat
   What you'll drink
   What you'll wear.
Even non-spiritual people want those things.                                            k 
Your Beloved Creator knows you need all that.
Put the spiritual realm first;
All these other things will come in their turn.
My little flock, 
You have no reason to fear.
The Beloved Creator
   took delight
In giving you the spiritual realm.
Don't worry about tomorrow.
Tomorrow's going to take care of itself.
You have enough to think about today!
                    [24] [T] 

25. Spirituality and personal integrity.

Judge not, so you won't be judged,                                                          a
For you will be judged by the way
   you judge others.
You will be measured by the same yardstick
   you use to measure others.
Condemn not, so you will not be condemned.                                          b 
Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Give, and you will receive.
How is it that you can see some dust                                                       c 
   in someone else's eye
And not see a two-by-four in your own?
Do you think you can clean the dust 
   from someone else's eye
When you have a two-by-four in your own?
Then you're a hypocrite! Take the two-by-four 
   out of your own eye
Before you try to clean a speck of dust
   from someone else's eye!
Value what is holy.                                                                                  d 
You don't throw holy things to the dogs,
   They'll drag them to the dump.
You don't give pearls to hogs.
   They'll just grind them up
   then turn on you.
Ask. It will be given you.                                                                         e 
Seek. You will find.
Knock. The door will be opened.
Everyone who asks, receives. 
Everyone who seeks, finds.
Everyone who knocks has the door opened.
:   When you seek, keep seeking until you find.                                        f 
:   When you find, you will be surprised
:   You will marvel
:   You will reign over the All.    ::
Enter by the narrow gate.                                                                        g 
Many try to get in the easy way, but
The easy way in leads to destruction.
The gate that leads to life
   is narrow
   the way is hard.
Only a few actually find it.
But many try.
Watch out for false teachers.                                                                   h 
They come dressed like sheep
But they're really hungry wolves.
You will know such teachers 
   by the fruit they bear.
Do you get grapes in a briar patch?
Do you get figs from thistles?
A good tree bears sweet fruit.                                                                 i 
A bad tree bears poisonous fruit.
A good tree cannot bear poisonous fruit.
A bad tree cannot bear sweet fruit.
A good person produces good                                                                j 
   from the treasure of the heart.
An evil person produces evil
   from the treasure of the heart.
The mouth speaks what is in the heart.
Yes, you will know false teachers
   by the fruit they bear.
Not everyone who calls me `Lord'                                                           k 
Gets into the spiritual realm --
Only those who live within the will
Of the Beloved Creator of the Cosmos.
Someday many will say to me, `But, Lord,                                               l 
Didn't I preach in your name?
Didn't I denounce evil in your name?
Didn't I do all sorts of great things in your name?'
Then I'll say, I never saw you before! 
Get out of here! You're evil, not good.
Then they'll say, `But, Lord, 
Didn't I eat with you?
Didn't I drink with you?
Wasn't I there in the street when you taught?'
Then I'll say, I never saw you before! 
Get out of here! You're evil, not good.
Why do you call me `Lord'                                                                      m 
When you don't even do what I teach you?
Everyone who hears my words                                                                n 
Everyone who acts on them,
Every such one is wise
Like the one who built a house on rock.
The rain came.
The flood came.
The hurricane came.
  But the house didn't fall.
  It had been built upon rock.
Everyone who hears my words
But does not act on them
Every such one is foolish
Like the one who built a house on sand.
The rain came.
The flood came.
The hurricane came.
  That house fell, and fell hard.
  It had been built upon sand.

     [25] [T] 

26. On spirituality and ritual fasting: The disciples asked why Jesus didn't ask them to fast like John's disciples.

Would you fast at a wedding feast?
No, certainly not while the bridegroom was there!
Someday the bridegroom will be taken away.
That's when to fast.
No one would sew an unshrunk patch on old clothes.
  It would shrink and tear away
  It would only make things worse.
No one would put new wine into old wineskins. 
  The wineskins would burst
  The wine would be lost, and the skins.
No one likes new wine after drinking 
   wine which has been aged.
   It's the aged wine that is good.
             [26] [T] 

27. The servant's place.

When a servant comes in from the field
Where he has been keeping sheep or plowing
Do you say , `Sit here at the table with me?'
No, you say, `Fix my supper first.
Put on the servant's towel and serve me.
You eat and drink after I do.'
Do you thank 
The servant for doing his duty?
I think not.
Be like that.
When you have done your duty
Say, `We are only useless servants.'                                         a

               [27] [T] 

28. On self-righteousness. A parable `for those who think they are righteous and that everyone else is not.'

Two people went up
   to the temple to pray
One was a respected religious leader
One was despised, a tax collector.
The religious leader 
Stood up and prayed
`Thank you God
That I am not like everyone else
I fast twice a week
I pay every cent of my tithe.'                                                                    a
The tax collector 
Could not even bear to look up
But striking the breast, prayed
`God, have mercy on me.
I am a sinner.' 
I say that is the one who
   went home
   made innocent again                                                                             b
Not the first one.
Whoever tries to be great                                                                        c 
   will he humbled.
Whoever is humble
   will be lifted to greatness.
             [28] [T] 

29. The Pharisees test Jesus:   `Does the religious law allow paying taxes to Caesar?'

Why do you test me,
Show me a coin!
Whose likeness is on it?
Whose inscription is this?
Give Caesar 
   whatever belongs to Caesar
Give God
   whatever belongs to God.
             [29] [T] 

30. The widow's lepta    Jesus watched many wealthy people make their offerings at the temple; then, a widow put in two lepta, the smallest of coins.

This widow,
The poorest of all
  has put
More into the treasury
Than anyone else.
All of the others 
Gave only from their wealth                                                                     a
   what was left over. 
She has given from her poverty 
   everything she had,
The whole of her own life.                                                                       b

             [30] [T] 

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