To the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. Freely you have received, freely give. Hunters for humility.

Matthew 10:5-7


These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 10:5-6)

 

Why did Jesus send his disciples to the Jews, and expressly forbid preaching to the Gentiles or Samaritans? Blessed Theophylact explains that this was to deprive the Jews of any excuse, such as

 

“the apostles were sent to the Gentiles and because of this we Jews did not believe”[1]



 

This is not a totally implausible excuse. Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law, and therefore followed it. If He had sent his disciple to the Gentiles or Samaritans first, or even along with the Jews, in the mind of a Jew, He would have been breaking the law. Jesus took pains to not openly do things that appeared to be contrary to the law (or what the contemporary Jew thought was the law), except in certain circumstances (e.g., healing on the Sabbath, talking with the Samaritan woman at the well, and others).

 

One must note here that the “law” in the mind of the Jew of Jesus’ time was much more than the Ten commandments and other ordinances contained in the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Jewish (and Christian) canon, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers) . The Jews had created a bewildering mix of rules that interpreted the original law in the minutest detail. Jesus refers to this when he rebuked them:

 

But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Luke 11:42 )

 

In this ultra-legalistic climate, Jesus would have been certainly condemned out of hand for sending his disciples to preach to anyone except the Jews.

 

 

And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:7)

 

Blessed Theophylact explains that this phrase: “freely ye have received, freely give” indicates the two virtues, humility and non-possessiveness[2]

 

We have the proverb that we should “give with an open hand”. This applies equally well with receiving, since all that we receive from God is a gift (of which we are undeserving). The Christian knows that since all good comes down from God the Father of lights[3], he attributes no good to himself, and does not attempt to “possess” it, that is think highly of himself because he has some virtue, or success or good thing. He receives all God gives with an open hand, ready at any time to freely give to others what he has freely received.

 

.How in practice do we do this? The perfect answer is to become holy! What is the long answer for us not yet, but becoming more holy ones?

 

All sin and virtue begins in the mind. This is the place to start. We must constantly remind ourselves of our condition, and God’s grace. One of my favorite “mindset” verses is Jesus’ instruction to His apostles:

 

So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. (Luke 17:10)

 

It is hard to be humble! We must think about this virtue, but we must reinforce our thoughts with our actions. We should be like hunters, looking for opportunities to humble ourselves. If our eyes are open, we will see them! Such an opportunity may be dishes we have not dirtied, an undeserved rebuke, being treated unfairly, kindness to someone we do not like. The possibilities are truly endless.

 

Humility is an internal virtue of the mind, but it is expressed with the body and the mind. Since we can so poorly control our mind, we must bring our body under subjection. It is possible to be kind when we do not feel kindness, to help when we do not want to help, and to hold our peace when our thoughts are not peaceful. From such self-control and truly, asceticism, we will learn to be humble.

 

Of course, none of this “humility” happens in a vacuum. We must surround ourselves with an orderly life (as orderly as we are able to make it), of prayer, and fasting, confession, communion, and not watching the “Tonight Show” instead of saying our evening prayers. And in the midst of all this, we must seize, like a drowning man seizes a line, every opportunity to humble ourselves. This we must do with discretion and wisdom, because we are not capable of ALWAYS humbling ourselves.

 

 

Matthew 9:36-10:8 is read on the 3rd Monday after Pentecost:

 

     36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. 1 And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. 2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

 

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-06-24.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-06-24.doc

 

New Journal entries are posted on our BLOG: http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Archive of Journal Entries: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL were the text was found. We would love to hear from you with comments!

 



[1] Blessed Theophylact, The Explanation of the Holy Gospel of St Matthew, Chrysostom Press, Pg 84.

[2] Ibid, Pg 84

[3] Jas 1:17 KJV  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Share

6 Responses to “To the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. Freely you have received, freely give. Hunters for humility.”

  1. Really, we all know how hard it is, sometimes grievously, to learn to be god & humble, when it takes to reinforcing our heroic inentions with practical actions! “It is possible to be kind when we do not feel kindness, to help when we do not want to help, and to hold our peace when our thoughts are not peaceful”- possible, but it takes a constant work on ourselves, which is impossible without our Holy Church & our participation in all that takes place there. As we cannot change ourselves withiout Christ. I sometimes have a feeling that I’d continue forcing myself for kind actions & incerting good thoughts into my poor head (at least pacify the bee-hive of the great variety of contradicting thoughts that are nesting there all the time) all my life long and it’ll end in nothing. But i fight with this thought, I know I shouldn’t give in! It occured to me that the theorem of Lobachevsky of 2 parallel straight lines may be an illustrative example: of this. He states that they finally cross in the space (though it’s hardly believable, but he proved it – as far as I know…). Thus we can also observe this in our life: our intentions & thoughts & readiness is one line, and our deeds (or the lack of them – depends) is the other one. But we should go on, and believe that some day they will cross. God unites them, if we remain faithful & persistent…

  2. Deborah says:

    To hold all that we have with an open hand not only makes it easier to freely give to others, but it also makes it easier to give things back to God when the time comes. When my fist is tightly clenched around something I do not wish to let go of, not only is the process of prying each finger off of it, incredibly painful, but it also makes it difficult for me to receive the next thing that God is going to give me. Blessed be the name of the God who in His loving wisdom gives and takes away.

    Natalia, I really like your analogy of parallel lines and Lobachvsky’s theorem. To us, in this present life, it does seem impossible that all that we are and all that we desire to become will ever converge. Blessed be the name of the God who unites the parallel lines of our wills and His.

  3. “makes it easier to give things back to God when the time comes.” Dear, it is so difficult for me!!! All my nature protests against this return. The more precious His gift is, the more greedy I am. I appropriated the most dear gifts, especially one….and I can hardly imagine what’ll be when the time comes…I just hope He will help me to survive & give Him what is really His. I realise this is of my poor faith (which is tested in such moments as well). But maybe the feeling that whom we love belong to us eternally is a revelation of our realisation of the Eternal Life. May God help all of us not to forget about it when the time comes.

  4. Deborah says:

    One of my favorite quotes, written by a man who was martyred not long after he wrote this in his journal is “He is no fool who gives that which he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose.”

    By releasing into the hands of God, the good things that He has given to us and that are so dear to us, we are storing them up as lasting treasures in Heaven. To attempt to hang on to them down here is to simply watch them turn to dust in our hands.

  5. Yes, indeed! more than that – we cannot hang on to ourselves down here!

  6. Deborah says:

    Father, Bless,

    Continuing to think about your post…it seems to me that another reason for Christ beginning His ministry with the Jews is that the Jews were His family, His people. “Charity begins at home” as the saying goes..”To the Jews first, and then to the Gentiles” as Paul said several times.

Leave a Reply