What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.14-16

“Christian Evangelization Includes Good Works”

Matthew 5:14-16

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.14-16

Matthew 5. What is wrong with the world? What would people say? What would you say? Perhaps first what is wrong with the world is “the fall of religion” …since religion has declined, we’re worse off morally… next most popular answer may be … “religion” itself.

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Perhaps its a lack of respect for elders, unregulated capitalism, international conflict, greed, alcohol, the economy, the rich, premarital sex, liberals, the unemployed, not sharing our wealth, lawyers, racism, air pollution, ocean contamination, animals going extinct, the collapsing economy, poor education system, poor prison system, rejection of intelligence and rewarding ignorance,

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…. maybe what’s wrong with the world is … depression, anger, we can’t live with ourselves nor with others, what’s popular is more important than what’s right… maybe that’s it…, or TV ratings over truth, corrupt politicians, immorality on the radio, too much violence-filled TV, technology that has given us everything we could ever want and stolen everything we really need, jobs that don’t pay enough, role models today that are really bad role models, corporations telling you to buy, buy, buy and keep up with the Jonses, always trying to fit it.[1]

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Is anything in that list really what’s wrong with the world? At least some of those things are not contributing to the betterment of society, but dig a little deeper. Why are those things going on in the first place?

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The Bible’s answer to the question “What is wrong with the world?” is that by our very nature, we are alienated from God … separated from God, not reconciled to God, at odds with Him, even fighting against Him. Because of man’s rebellion, God has plunged the world into darkness unable to find his way in this world.

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What we’ll see this morning is that humans by their very nature are in the dark!…alienated from God, excluded from the life of God.

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This is the mass of humanity, this is what would describe what is going on even in many religious buildings this morning … people are in the dark, excluded from God! And because many are excluded from the life of God, the world is experiencing the turmoil that it does.

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What is the solution to this? Matthew 5:14-16 … speaking to true disciples of Jesus Christ…

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Matthew 5:14–16 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

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Jesus’ solution to the darkness of sin and rebellion that is all around are the good works of Christian people that draw people to truly worship the LORD. I’m preaching this morning that “Christian evangelization includes good works.”

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The Lord Jesus, back in verses 3-12, told the world what Christians looks like. Their poverty of spirit and their mourning over sin, their being controlled by God, their hunger and thirst for righteousness, mercy to others, their transparency and sincerity…true disciples are not hypocrites, and they make peace between others and are sometimes persecuted for it.

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And they don’t hide from it, they get out there and influences others! True disciples are the salt of the earth, they prevent the world from spiritual rotting [hands back] . But true disciples go beyond that and are also, verses 14-16, the light of the world.

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TRANS: That Christians are the light of the world assumes something about the world, doesn’t it? Jesus’ teaching here certainly implies that the world is dark!

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  1. The nature of the world: Darkness
    1. The darkness of their sin

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      Jesus says…

John 3:19–20 19 “This is the judgment, that the Light [that’s Jesus] has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

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The works of humanity are evil…everyone does evil…and everyone who does evil hates the Light. People hate Jesus. They hate the Light and they do not come to Jesus the Light because they are afraid that their works of evil would be exposed.

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And they want to keep their sin, though they are ashamed of their sin…they fear that their deeds will be exposed. Humanity wants to keep its pride… and keep it covered… they want to keep their desire for self-promotion and self glory… and to keep it from being exposed…People want to keep their own dark ambitions… and keep it away from any spiritual light perchance God might convict them of it …

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And so they reject the Light of Jesus Christ who has come to expose their deeds. Their lies, their theft, their desires and passions, the lust and money loving…the world loves its darkness… the world loves its sin.

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TRANS: The world is dark and its sin is dark and the world’s thinking is dark. If you have your Bible, turn to…Ephesians 4:17

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  1. The darkness of their thinking

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    I really would like to emphasize this passage. Toward the end of Ephesians 4:17, Paul mentions the Gentiles. Technically, Gentiles are non-Jews. Here however, Paul is using the term to refer to those who have not trusted in Jesus Christ and do not follow him.

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    These Gentiles are lost and without Christ, in the dark! That is exactly what Paul says about them… verse 17 … These Gentiles walk … They live in the futility of their mind. The minds of the unbelieving are futile in the sense that their minds do not reach the goal of pleasing God in any way. And the reason that they have a mind that does not reach the goal of pleasing God is because verse 18 they are darkened in their understanding …and the reason they have a dark understanding is because they are, out of their own desires, cut off from the life of God. They run from the light, loving darkness.

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    As little bits of light of the knowledge of God are brought upon the human heart, the human heart suppresses a lot of that knowledge. “God is going to judge you for your sin” and the unbelieving world laughs and scoffs at such an idea, suppressing that truth.

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    ILL: it’s like every human being is born in a flood of light. The brightness of the sun is flooding over him continually. And over the course of months and years, each person apart from the work of God… each person… slowly builds his house in such a way so as to prevent light from entering in. At first, his simple house just has 2x4s… And the 2x4s get closer together… And then as he sits in his house and looks up he still sees the cracks filling with light and so he puts filler in there to prevent any light from entering in…until he is completely in the dark.

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    Every human being is doing just that with the knowledge of God… Everyone knows, even scientifically, that life cannot come from nonlife, that something can’t come out of nothing, that the universe didn’t create itself. He knows God is powerful, even the atheist knows God’s wisdom because God has made it evidence to him, he has simply, on an intellectual level, rejected that knowledge…

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    …and every human being even knows that God is angry with them because of their sin, Romans 1:32…Even though everyone already knows this, people block out the knowledge of God that he’s given through creation and his own conscience… and they do that with his own sin… his love for his darkness fuels his hatred for the light… And he uses his sin to fill in the cracks so that no light can come through.

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    TRANS: Dark thinking results in dark of sinful living.

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  2. The darkness of their living

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    Still in Ephesians 4… Now, verse 19 having become callous, they have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. This is the life of a human being … out there in the world…and perhaps it’s true of someone here this morning… You long for sensuality, the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness… You long for it to practice it … not that you sin and hate your sin … but you long for it and you just give yourself over to the evil lusts of your own heart… the thirst for violence and hatred, anger and sexual immorality.

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    More and more rejection of the truth, increasing desire for one’s way and an outright rejection of their Creator.

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    APP/ARG: You know what I think? I think it is difficult for you to accept that this actually describes people that vast majority of people who don’t follow Jesus. You think, “Well, my neighbour is pretty nice. She seems to want to help me when I need it.” Or, “there does seem to be some pretty good people out there who don’t believe Jesus; I mean, they volunteer their time.” I think we fail to understand the depth of our own depravity.

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    Do we really believe Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” We are, apart from the work of God, in a desperate condition! Desperately sick!

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    It’s not that our hearts have a cold or we just have a bad case of the sniffles, “You know I’m not perfect; I have a few shortcomings…” No, the natural human spirit is so wicked that it’s like we have cancer, heart disease, AIDS, and our main arteries are all bleeding, because we’ve been in a horrible accident … . We are desperately sick! this is the human condition; this is your heart outside of Christ.

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    TRANS: Because of the darkness of sin, and the darkness of our understanding… that results in the darkness of our living…all this now leads to the darkness of judgment.

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  3. Dark judgment

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Jesus says … Matthew 25:30 30 “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

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TRANS: That is sufficiently clear. The whole world is headed over the cliff! So what is the solution to all this darkness? The darkness of sin, sinful thinking sinful living… And what is the solution to the darkness of judgment? The solution has something to do with Christians. Back to Matthew 5:14

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ILL: At this stage in the life of our family, it’s easy to come up with family illustrations. One night after family devotions, I brought my family into one of the rooms in the basement. And we turned out all the lights. As the lights were turned out I asked, “what do you think of the darkness?” Rosie was terrified and Hudson said, “I can’t see anyone so I feel like I’m all alone.” Pazli said as only Pazli can, “I like the darkness!”

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And then, I strike a match … And everyone stares at the light…it’s comforting now, because you can see!

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  1. The nature of Christians: Light

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    Jesus says of true disciples of Jesus Christ…

Matthew 5:14 14 “You are the light of the world.

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ILL: That’s talking about true of disciples of Jesus, we call them Christians. Christians are the light of the world. But let’s be clear…You aren’t a Christian simply because you go to a church. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.

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But Christians aren’t the light of the world because they are better than everybody else, it’s because they trust in the One who is the Light.

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ILL: Christians are like that struck match in my basement that night. That match didn’t light itself, neither are Christians light in and of themselves … but a Christians is light because the Master strikes him like a match so that he shines.

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Jesus is first the Light of the world; then Jesus makes His followers lights as well.

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Jesus is the Light

When Jesus came and lived in Capernaum, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which is quoted in Matthew 4:15–16 “THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI, BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES— 16 “THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

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Later in His ministry, Jesus lifted up His voice and said …

John 8:12 12 … “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

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GOSPEL: Whoever follows Jesus Christ… Whoever seeks him, whoever desires Him, whoever longs for Him, whoever wants to live like Him and learn from him… if He follows Jesus Christ will not walk in darkness because he is following the Light of the world and so he himself and will have the Light that gives life… Eternal life.

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At the end of his ministry, when that Light of life was crucified on the cross. And for 3 hours in the middle of the day from noon until 3 PM, a miraculous darkness fell over the whole land (Mark 15:33). And that darkness, as we’ve already seen in the Scripture but also in Amos 8:9, Zephaniah 1:14, and Joel 2:31… Darkness is a symbol of God’s judgment.

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In the darkness on the cross, God is judging his own Son Jesus Christ. Why? Because God put on Jesus Christ all of the sin of the world… And in those few hours God is judging all of that sin, pouring out His wrath and anger upon Jesus Christ. Jesus therefore pays for the entire punishment for our sin that we deserve for all of sin.

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We deserve the wrath of God for our sin. But Jesus Christ, in the darkness of those hours, took on God’s wrath and anger for us so that we don’t have to… Jesus took the darkness of God’s judgment on the cross so that we don’t have to be cast out into the “outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

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TRANS: Now, the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead so that all who trust in Him and now take up their own cross and follow Jesus, they are now given eternal life and now they become the light of the world with Jesus.

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Christians are the light

Jesus said in John 12:36 that Christians are the light of the world.36 “While you have the Light [meaning Himself], believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” Trust in the Light and you become a son of the Light…and are therefore the light of world with Him.

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And so Philippians 2:15 15 …prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,

5 for [1 Thessalonians 5:5 says] you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;

8 but you were formerly darkness [Ephesians 5:8], but now you are light in the Lord; walk … live as children of Light.

TRANS: So what are Christians to do then? What are Christians to do?

  1. Duty of the Christian: Public ministry

    Jesus illustrates what He’s talking about …

    1. Matthew 5:14–16 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

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    2. Illustrated
      1. City on a hill not hidden

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      Jesus first illustrates his point describing a city set on a hill. In the first century ancient near east, cities were built on hills. They were easier to defend that way. A city of any size would also emit light.

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      Before the days of light pollution as we experience from our man-made street lights, when it was dark outside in the ancient world, it was dark! Cities would provide light because of the fires, lamps, or torches, used to make light.

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      Picture yourself out on a long journey by foot and as the night falls the glow from that city … ah…you know exactly where to go! No matter what would happen, you could by no means ever hide that!

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      APP: Just like you can’t hide that city’s light, a true Christian’s light cannot be hidden. It is impossible for that to happen. A Christian will give forth the light of Jesus Christ in his life. It will happen since you can’t hide that light. Since Jesus is the Light, His followers are the sons of Light. There will be therefore a similarity between Jesus and His followers.

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      TRANS: I mean, who would want to hide their Christian light, anyway?

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      1. Light on a lampstand

      Jesus says, “nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. ”

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      Who in their right mind would light an oil lamp and put it under a basket? You don’t do that … You don’t even put in on the floor, you put that oil lamp on the lampstand…having it high up there so that all can see the lamp…

      putting it up there gives light to all.

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      You make that oil lamp on that lampstand conspicuousprominent … you put that oil lamp on display and you make it stand out and stand big! The taller it is the more prominent it is, the greater the light in the house.

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    3. Applied

      Just like a city illuminates the dark countryside for weary travelers of this world or just like a lamp inside a house set high up on a lampstand provides light for all within it, just like that…

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      Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

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      Like the city set on a hill and a lamp on a lampstand, Christians are to let their light shine before men. And that light is defined there in the verse as “your good works.” So Christians, you let the light of your good works stand out. Others have to be able to see your good works!

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      You never know what weary traveler of this world might be looking on and seeing how you are blameless and innocent, patient when wronged, … having all goodness and righteousness and truth…gracious, … not participating in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even exposing them … how you are kind, loving, refreshingly distinct, a servant, a faithful employee, one who gives mercy to all, easily forgives, provides for the needs of others … And as a refuge full of light in a dark world, they then gaze at you and turn to you to bask in the light of the grace that you emanate.

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      This is the way the Christian church should be: Let your light shine! And shine it before men!

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      I think this implies that naturally, Christian, you may be timid to let your light shine, to be a real Christian before others. To often, Christians are not bold with the truth about who they are. It’s too easy to hide your light, to put it under a basket and not act how you need to act before others…to hide yourself away in your own house and family and not be out with others sharing the light of Christ in this dark world.

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      You are to let your light shine before lost people.

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      A timid Christian is really pointless…as much as it is pointless to hide your oil lamp or that you could hide a city on a hill…. Nevertheless, evidently you have to command Christians to let their light shine, because Jesus did…so, be bold, be light, be strong in the grace of Christ. The more you grow in appreciation for the gospel of Christ, the more you’ll want to share it. Praise the Lord, work on that. Lift up your voice to Him in joyful praise and so lift up your voice to others about Him.

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    If you do that, Christian, and let your good works, your rich Christian character, shine before people, they will want to come and bask in the light of your Christian character… And glorify your Father who is in heaven.

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    This is evangelism. Christian, as you live out the Christian life, those of us in our church, our children, and those out in the community who are not Christians yet, will see your good works and because you testify that you are a Christian and because you preach Christ and plead with others to come to Christ… Then, when you do good works and you exhibit Christian character, they will come to a point where they truly glorify the heavenly Father and they do that because they too now are trusting Christ.

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    Because of your testimony, because of your witness, because of the words that you say and by the way that you live… They come to observe your life and are able to see that you are different… That there is light in your life… And they will be attracted to you and will wonder at what kind of a person you are… And will realize that the Light of life has put His light into your life… And they will be attracted to the Light of the world, Jesus Christ.

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    Both need to be there though. Good, Christian character and deeds….as well as preaching Christ. How else will they know to glorify your Father if they don’t know about Him. Live Christ and preach Him. Both must be there for a true testimony and witness.

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.14-16

Beloved, we can’t influence this world as salt and light alone. We need each other.

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ILL: Salt only functions with other grains of salt; light is light when combined with other photons…but only one photon, one grain of salt … that’s useless.

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Together, together…We must prevent the spiritual and moral decay of society and we must let our Christian character shine. This demands that we encourage each other, strengthen each other, disciple each other, get down and dirty into each others’ lives so that our little church on this hill will be all that Jesus Christ wants us to be.

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310 The Light of the world. Since Jesus is the Light of the world, John 8:12, those who trust in Him become sons of Light, John 12:36.

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Go to Matthew Main Page

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  1. http://www.raptitude.com/2011/07/what-is-wrong-with-the-world/

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