Matthew Introduction – Part 7: Humanitarianism
5. (Why?) did Matthew NOT write his gospel?
Traditionally, inquiry into the author’s purpose is stated in the positive versus the negative as it is here.
However, this particular dialectic approach to Matthew’s gospel has enormous value – especially when
attempting to “root out” modern misconceptions about Jesus, His ministry or the Christian Faith in
general. As such, what follows serves as both an explicit apologetic (against the heresies of our day) as
well as an implicit guide to Matthew’s purpose and intent in writing.
5.5. To promote humanitarianism in the world.
The rise of the Social Gospel movement in the late 19th century brought with it a humanitarian view of Christianity. In other words, that the Christian religion established by Jesus had as an important part of its agenda, delivering humanity from societal evil. As a result, there are many within the Evangelical version of Christianity today who believe that churches should be devoted to ending world poverty, hunger, slavery, or abortion, and building schools, hospitals, orphanages or digging wells. Such work is considered that which most exemplifies the ministry of Jesus in the gospel accounts.
How we know this was NOT the purpose behind Matthew’s gospel nor the Jesus/Christianity presented in the Scriptures:
5.5.1. Matthew makes it clear that Jesus’ “humanitarian” efforts were directed exclusively at the covenant community (Mat 2:6 w/15:24, 30-31)
5.5.2. Jesus also instructed His disciples to have the same focus (i.e. humanitarian efforts are to be in relation to the covenant community) (Mat 10:5-8)
5.5.3. The only exception was in re: to those willing to love or listen to God/Jesus (e.g. Mat 8:5- 10 w/Luk 7:1-5; Mat 15:25-28). In the same respect, if anyone is unwilling to listen (including those in the covenant community), they are to be refused help. Never do we see help being given to individuals unwilling to listen to Jesus or His church (Mat 10:5-15; 2Th 3:6-15; 1Ti 5:3-15 – notice it is only those willing to listen or having a reputation of listening who are to be helped).
5.5.4. This paradigm (humanitarian efforts are to be directed exclusively toward the covenant community) is established by God’s Law (Deu 15:1-14 – “brother” = covenant community member; 15:4 is what Zacchaeus is referring to in Luk 19:8a; Exo 23:10-11; Lev 19:9-10)
5.5.5. This paradigm (exemplified by Jesus and established by God’s Law) was the focus of the first churches – the new covenant community (Act 2:44-45, 4:34; Rom 15:25-26; 1Co 16:1-3; 2Co 8:1-11, 9:12; Phi 4:10-16; Tit 3:14; 1Jo 3:17-18)
5.5.6. Jesus’ teaching on the good Samaritan is meant to reinforce this (not negate it) (Luk 10:25-37 – “neighbor” = same as brother, covenant member, see Lev 19:17-18; 1Co 6:1).
5.5.7. Our response to persecution –not humanitarian effort, is the instruction in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount address (Mat 5:43-48 w/Rom 12:19-20; Pro 25:21)
5.5.8. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, it is actually our care and love for one another as the church (not our care for world) that draws people to Christ and best preaches the gospel (LBS) (Joh 13:34-35; Mat 5:13-16 – historically, people were attracted to the church [city on the hill, light of the world] and becoming members bc they knew this is what was required in order to receive her care [salt]; today people can get care from Christians without the need for such a commitment—so why ever commit? As it re: to LBS/Gospel – Mat 6:33).