Matthew 5:46

If you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect? Even the tax-collectors do as much as that.

(Revised English Bible)

I think this whole section, from Matt. 5:17 to 5:48 is very strong and challenging. From Jesus’ affirmation and strengthening of the law, transcending the written law for a deeper moral purity, to His urging us to love our enemies.

I give the quote because, coming after so much seriousness, it strikes me as funny, such a wonderful put-down: “A tax-collector would do that!” I don’t mean to be mean to tax-collectors — everyone has to have a job. What the verse says to me is that this behaviour is as mundane and unremarkable as that of a mundane and unremarkable bureaucrat.

The verse breaks the tension and allows a laugh, but it sustains the truth, just like the best jokes. And like the best jokes, it comes in a 1-2, and leaves us vulnerable and susceptible to the real, very serious punchline in 5:48:

There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.

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