Lord, help us to appreciate the revolutionary quality of these words that You spoke.
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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“For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matt. 15:19)
Matthew 5:21–48 lists six antitheses, introduced by formulae such as “You have heard that it was said” or “It has been said,” about certain aspects of the Law. Each is then followed by Jesus’ “But I tell you,” where he explains the true meaning and purpose of each statement under consideration. Actually, what Jesus highlights here are specific examples of the perversion of the Law of which the religious leaders themselves are guilty—and his correction of such abuse and misinterpretation.
Take, for example, the sixth commandment: “You shall not murder” (Exod. 20:13). The Pharisees restricted this commandment to the act of murder only. They believed that if they refrained from spilling blood in killing they had kept the commandment. Jesus, however, disagrees with their understanding. The extended application of this commandment applies: the malicious anger and insults we throw at others are horrible; so is every action and thought by which we hurt others. A failure to forgive, which runs deep within us, is equally damaging. Jesus challenges us to search deep within ourselves and to be more sensitive to these evils. Once we are aware of them, we are to deal with them immediately. Let us take the initiative to amend a strained relationship, apologize for the wrong we commit, and forgive those who hurt us. If we want to avoid committing murder in the New Testament system, we are to live in peace with others. Jesus extends a similar application to the issues of lust (27–30) and divorce (31,32).
These are hard sayings. We may rather see our enemies suffer than forgive them, but let us remember that we too have offended God, and yet he chooses to forgive us. We do not deserve the grace God has extended to us, so who are we to withhold it from others?
Is there anyone you know you need to forgive? Will you do the right thing?
Lord, please do a work in our hearts so that we can carry out these commandments. Help us to appreciate Your beneficence toward us so that we can reciprocate toward others