“Search me, God, and know my heart” (Psa. 139:23).
Read Matthew 5:21–32
21 “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.’ 22 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.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
25 “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. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 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. 30 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.
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
New International Version (NIV)
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ReflectDo you ever struggle with moral frailties?
In today’s reading Jesus doesn’t offer bland reassurances. Instead he offers the scrubbing brush of direct confronta-tion. Jesus uses a set of contrasts, shifting between clichéd truisms and real spirituality. Each starts with “You have heard that it was said…” and then pivots, “But I tell you…” The first statements were sound, but the counterpoints touch deeper heart issues: anger, hypocrisy, lust and marital failure.
Jesus raises the prospect of being thrown into prison (25) or of cutting and gouging out the physical instruments of sin (29,30). He was using hyperbole, of course, yet he was also deadly serious. Sin threatens our lives. As much as the religious leaders in Christ’s day were too willing to entertain ungodly desires, we must not go there. And if we are there already, we’re being called to turn back and seek the transformation only Jesus provides.
Later in the sermon Jesus will say more about the dilemma of entangling sins. For now we need to face reality and take our first steps into the obedience Jesus invites.
A sound diagnosis comes before receiving a cure. If you find anything of yourself in this reading, receive it as a gift of God and respond appropriately, ready to listen and act.
If there is any area in which you need to repent, do so. Pray that God will strengthen you to stand firm in following him