Tag Archives: hope

Adultery

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Matthew 5:27-30

Jesus continues in these verses to go straight to the heart of Jewish Law; this time commenting on the seventh Commandment. The commission of adultery would seem to involve quite a bit more than a roll in the hay in Jesus’ view, since guilt took place when the man looked at another woman with desire. Others have commented on this extensively, and I’m happy to let you consult them for their wisdom, for this post, I will assume that the words speak plainly enough. The principle, in my view, extends beyond another man’s wife and goes to any possession of another person; house, car, furniture, TV… whatever. It isn’t yours, and “lusting” after it is a spiritual problem.

Jesus makes this point in verses 29-30 by the use of some hyperbole. Even most literalists will agree that Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation, the tearing out of eyes and chopping off of hands. However, the right eye and the right hand are illustrative of the principle I mentioned, for they represent the things we cast our gaze upon, and our deeds. Is our gaze always upon the possessions of others or things we cannot or should not have? If so, then our gaze is clearly not on the “things that are above”. What about the things that we do? Are we just about getting “things”? Maybe we are all about taking things…

With this in mind, we step back and look at the larger Kingdom concept: How does our gaze upon the spouse of another effect the community of believers? How does it affect the relationships involved? How would this affect our own marriages?

Unlike previous teachers, Jesus is going way beyond the mere commission of a physical act and into the inner thoughts and motivations of the heart, for in the Kingdom of Heaven, sin in whatever form brings about relational problems between believers and God.

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God’s Sacred Children

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Matthew 5:21-22

In the Kingdom of Heaven, high priority is placed upon relationships and community amongst the followers of the Lord. The old Law prohibited murder; any Pharisee could have told you about that, but Jesus went far beyond the merely outward manifestation of contempt for others, zeroing in directly on the private thoughts and inner motivations of people, even though they might not act upon those thoughts. Yes, the sixth Commandment prohibited murder, but in the Kingdom harboring anger against a brother or sister is equally offensive to God. Calling a person a fool or saying “Raca” (empty headed, good for nothing; a fool) is equally egregious to God, for in doing such a thing, we are demeaning one of God’s sacred children.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:23-24

A person who is bringing a gift to the alter is a person looking for some form of reconciliation with God, depending upon the occasion. Jesus is telling the people that they must not do this when they are in need of reconciling with another person; they must reconcile with that person first, and then with God. I am often saddened when speaking with people whose relationship with God is suffering because it is being blocked by their relational problems within the community of believers. It could be unforgiveness, or it could be a guilty conscience for something the person has done; both are significant stumbling blocks to relationship with God.

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

Matthew 5:25-26

Jesus uses a metaphor here to illustrate His point: Lawsuits. If we are involved in a dispute, particularly if we have a claim against us from someone, we must settle that claim to restore that relationship. The obvious parallel is our situation with God, in which we are sinners who have offended God and seek reconciliation with Him. Having received His grace, we cannot simply ignore our debts (financial and otherwise) with others in the community, for to do so is to disrespect and dishonor one of God’s sacred children; this is a very significant principle of walking with Christ. Each human being is one of God’s sacred children, so important to God that He sent His Son to die for them. To dishonor, disrespect or demean any one of these children of God is to dishonor, disrespect and demean God.

Jesus and the Law

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:17-20

Lest anyone should have the wrong idea about Jesus, He takes the opportunity at the this point to clarify His relationship with the Law of Moses, pointing out very clearly that He had no intention of abolishing it. As we read this, we might wonder why He stuck this paragraph at this point in His remarks; the answer is an interesting one. As He has gone out proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven, healing the sick and chasing out demons, Jesus created quite a stir to say the least. He has given us the character traits of the new follower of God, He has shown us a new mission for God’s people in the last section, but even though there are new elements He is introducing into Israel, He is not doing away with any part of the old Law; no, He has something quite different in mind.

He is going to fulfill both the Law and the Prophets!

Notice that in this passage, Jesus is still mentioning the Kingdom; in the Kingdom, people won’t be approaching the Law in the same way that they have been used to handling it, and it may well be that the people have never really handled it correctly, or as God intended. The reason for this is simply that the Israelites had the idea that they could become righteous by keeping the Law by their own force of will, and as we know, they were never successful for long and often fell into total rebelliousness when they failed. In this implication throughout the rest of this sermon, Matthew once again is linking the story of Jesus with the history of Israel.

Entry into the Kingdom will require a great deal more than the Law as presented by the Pharisees and teachers of the law, for they taught obedience to Law through legalistic minutia, a teaching that God did not bring to them. As the larger story unfolds, we will see time and again their legalistic approach colliding with Jesus’ kingdom approach, for they simply could not fathom His teaching, for Jesus’ approach was to rely in faith upon God for righteousness, rather than on earning it by their own efforts, and frankly, this conflict is still with us today.

Beginning with 5:21, Jesus will teach His listeners how the Law should be applied towards one’s neighbors, which as we will see, runs a great deal deeper than anything the Pharisees had in mind, for their legalism by minutia was only effective in making a person look impressive to other people, while Jesus’ approach was allowing God to work in the lives of the people, to His glory.

There is a Point to the Beatitudes

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16

Jesus has just given us a series of character traits or attributes in the beatitudes, but so far, we have attributes without a purpose; in these verses, Jesus gets to His larger point.

To illustrate, He uses two metaphors, salt and light. Salt had many uses in the ancient world, thus it is very difficult to nail down the exact use Jesus might have been referring to; He just didn’t say. Over the years, people have chosen a possible use and claimed it as the thing Jesus had in mind, but to be perfectly honest, such a position is only a matter of speculation, so let’s try to avoid falling into that trap; we’ll just look at salt as a basic and useful substance. As an example, I’ll mention what were probably the two most common uses of salt, as a food preservative, and as the basic ingredient for seasoning food. For either of these uses, if the salt loses its saltiness, i.e. its usefulness, then it is worthless. If we, as “the salt of the earth” lose our usefulness, then we might fit into that same category.

This image becomes crystal clear in His next metaphor, light. We, as we exhibit the traits of character that Jesus spoke of in the beatitudes, become the “light of the world.” Imagine if you can, a world filled with the meek, the poor in spirit, peacemakers, and all of the rest of those attributes, next to what we are used to… this is what Jesus meant here by “the light of the world.” Light does no good if it is hidden from view; it’s just like salt that has lost its saltiness, so He tells us to let our light shine forth in this dark world as a contrast to the norm, to the glory of God.

That is what “Kingdom” is all about.

I mention this because the Sermon on the Mount is set in the context of Jesus proclaiming the Kingdom, and these verses wrap up the introduction of the Sermon. If you are looking at it from a structural point of view, the first 16 verses of this chapter set forth the thesis of the rest of Sermon, and as we continue, we will see an expansion upon this theme of bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven on this earth in the here and now.

Blessed Are You

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Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:11-12

In verse 10, Jesus said that those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed; here He gets personal, for now He isn’t referring to someone else, or some group of individuals, now it is about “you”. People may speak all sorts of evil against us as followers of Jesus; what should our reaction be  should we pop ‘em right in the mouth?

It wouldn’t seem so; Jesus says we should “rejoice and be glad”, of all things.

Really? We should rejoice and be glad when people are speaking against us because of our faith in Christ?

Yes we should, for great is our reward in heaven.

Jesus didn’t exactly say so here, but our reward here on earth won’t be so bad, since it is a relationship with Him. In the old days, people spoke against the prophets in the same way that they spoke of Jesus’ followers; both were persecuted, sometimes killed in the process, but they seemed to be OK with all that, for they knew that they had a great reward awaiting them, and because they, like Abraham, believed God’s promises.

So now we conclude the Beatitudes, with an implied question dangling: The patriarchs believed God’s promises and endured. The prophets believed God’s promises and endured. The early Christians believed God’s promises and endured. Do we believe God’s promises?

Persecuted Because of Righteousness

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Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:10

As a rule, do you expect to see a righteous person persecuting another person because the persecuted person is righteous? My guess is probably not. If this is true, then what sort of person persecutes another because they are righteous? Again, my guess is that it would have to be an unrighteous person; it stands to reason, right?

God does not bless unrighteousness.

Righteousness happens when a person lives in accordance with the will of God, and when a person lives this way, he or she is considered by God to be “righteous”, and relationship between that person and God is in place; thus in this life such a person is blessed. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven; they are blessed for all eternity and with this, we are back to where we started in 5:3. In our next post, we will see that verses 11-12 expand on this theme to take us to a whole new level of purpose and blessing; see you then!