The endgame may be approaching, but we take another break from that here and return to our moralizing. Which starts off in a rather charming fashion, extolling the virtues of children! (A much more pleasant idea than staining them with original sin…) I wish the strongest statements weren’t in support only of “these little ones which believe in me” (from Matthew 18:6), but we’ve seen rather worse in that regard. And I like the parable of the sheep, too, “if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?” (from Matthew 18:12).
In between those bits, we have “Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.” (Matthew 18:8, with a similar bit about eyes in Matthew 18:9.) Which is a tough message, but yeah, doing the right thing sometimes requires tough choices. And the good thing here is that you’re cutting off your own hand or foot: cutting off somebody else’s to (in your view) help them is a different matter entirely.
The chapter ends with preaching forgiveness: “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22), followed by the parable of the king and his servants in Matthew 18:23-35. Which is great stuff, though I am a bit bemused by Matthew 18:34, “And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him”: I understand where the king is coming from there, but tormenting somebody (Lattimore translates the word as “torturers” rather than “tormentors”) isn’t going to pay the bills, either. Still, it’s an expression of the Tit for Tat strategy, and I’m happy with that; quite a chapter, all in all.
Matthew 19 is more of a mixed bag. I take my marriage very seriously, but that doesn’t mean that I support the strong anti-divorce pronouncements here. (E.g. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder”, from Matthew 19:6.) If I felt that Jesus appreciated sexuality or sexual equality more, then my reaction would be somewhat less negative, but still: marriages are more complicated than that. And the bit about eunuchs in Matthew 19:12 just seems odd.
Then we return to the themes that we saw in Matthew 18:8-9, this time taking the spin of selling your wealth to help the poor. Which is hard, but necessary: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (from Matthew 19:24). I’m not entirely comfortable with this, but maybe that’s just because it’s something that I don’t practice nearly as much as I should.