Ron Miller is the chair of the Religion Department at Lake Forest College in Illinois where he has taught for 30 years. He is also cofounder of Common Ground, an adult education group that has been engaged in interfaith religious study and dialogue since 1975. Miller is the author of Wisdom of the Carpenter: 365 Prayers & Meditations of Jesus and The Gospel of Thomas: A Guidebook for Spiritual Practice. In this top-drawer volume in the Skylight Illuminations Series, he states his purpose: "Approaching Matthew's gospel as a path of personal and societal transformation opens up a new form of inquiry. We find in the text truths consonant with our deepest human existence. We see there possibilities for the transformation of individuals and societies." Miller claims that the teachings of Jesus play a more central role in this gospel than his atoning death. He regards Matthew as Midrash, an enhanced version of Mark and a New Law.
Miller's commentaries on various passages from the gospel are spiced up with observations from other religions. For instance, when he discusses the Christian idea of sin, he points to the Hindus who see human beings as ignorant, the Buddhists who see us as sleepy, the Muslims who call us to pray five times a day because we forget that only God is God, and the Jews who have the concept of an evil inclination. In his assessment of the First Beatitude, which is interpreted as "You're successful if you're spiritually receptive, you have room for God's reign" (Matthew 5:3), the practice of openness is essential: being receptive to all that God has to offer.
Miller makes many poignant observations. On the verse "When people ask you for something, give it to them; when they want to borrow something, lend it to them," he notes: "The whole sense of individual ownership symbolized by our gated communities, our home security systems, and our panic rooms stands in sharp contrast to the world Jeshu describes, one that is more reflective of a consciousness before fences were built to separate what is mine from what is yours. Few people embodied the spirit of Jeshu more than the thirteenth century saint of Assisi, Francis. The motto he gave to the brothers who gathered around him in community was Meus et tuus non habitant in domo nostro: 'Mine and yours do not live in our house.' "
Miller also has many insights to offer on the paradox of losing our life to gain our life, the meaning of Jeshu's mention of being perfect, the crux of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, and forgiveness as the lifeblood of the spiritual life. He concludes his commentary on Matthew with: "For Jeshu did not preach religion but reality, and no one religion has a corner on reality. Humanity will never meet in a common religion; it can meet, however, in a common reality: the consciousness of our divine nature and the realization that we can indeed live in peace."