This Bible Study is part of the "The Gospel of Matthew" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series
Jesus went on, saying: "Let your light so shine". Christians are to be lights; we are to live the right way. Jesus said "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets". The disciples who were listening to Him were not under any illusion about what He was discussing.
Greetings friends, once again!
Matthew is one of the most important books in the Bible. It talks more about the Law of God, the way of God, than almost any other New Testament book. The Sermon on the Mount, which we are in right now, is almost like a miniature Bible. So open your Bible if you want to learn and follow with me verse by verse as we go through the book of Matthew. We'll start with a review of what we covered last time.
In Matthew, chapter 5, Jesus gave the beatitudes, or the "blessings." And He said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you will want to be like God. You will want to fulfill His purpose in your life.
Jesus went on, saying: "Let your light so shine". Christians are to be lights; we are to live the right way. Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets". The disciples who were listening to Him were not under any illusion about what He was discussing. They knew He was talking about the Ten Commandments, and Jesus went right ahead explaining this to them:
"Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so…"
Which one of the Commandments do you think is the "least?" Think about that! God doesn't have any "little" commandment among the ten; they are all important. But Jesus said:
"Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called [if he is even there] least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
Think about that, my friends! If you do, and teach, even the least of God's commandments, you will be called "great" in the kingdom of heaven or Kingdom of God. These two terms—"kingdom of heaven" and "Kingdom of God"—are used almost interchangeably in the New Testament. They both mean the same thing. The Kingdom is not in heaven. Just like the Bank of Morgan is not some little piggy bank that Morgan swallowed. Christ is talking about the kingdom of heaven. "Of" denotes ownership. The Kingdom of God is not bottled up inside of God—it is His Kingdom. So you will be called great if you do and teach even the least of God's Commandments. That ought to be pretty plain. Yet men have found ingenious ways, most clever ways, to get around obeying God's Law. They have all these arguments about how God's Law is done away, but Jesus Christ knows what Christianity is. I think that is pretty obvious on the face of it. Who should know what Christianity is except Jesus Christ—the very one who founded what we call Christianity?
He said in verse 21 and 22: "You have heard it was said 'You'll not murder,'" and then He goes on to show you are not even to hate your brother. You are not even to have a despicable attitude against your brother because that is the spirit of murder. Christ shows in verse 27: "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart". In your heart you are already thinking of adultery. You are already picturing it, doing it, in your mind! And that is committing adultery, Jesus said.
You are not to disobey God's commandments, even in the spirit. Christ's words are making the Commandments even more binding. He is not doing away with God's Law; He is making it even more binding! Christ is calling us to examine our very attitude, how we love God and how we love our neighbor. The Ten Commandments tell us how to love God and how to love our neighbor.
Last time we finished through verse 37, where we are told to let our yes be yes, and our no be no. We are not to display an arrogant self-will, saying: "I swear I'll do this or that" as though we could bring it about. We are not to do that. We are just to say yes or no. Jesus continued:
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'"
That is a quote from Leviticus 24:20. According to the Law, if you put another man's eye out in spite, your eye could be put out. That would slow up crime a lot, wouldn't it? It sure would! But that was a civil code for a carnal nation; we understand that and Jesus understood that.
"But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also."
You're not to think "How can I get even; how can I get back at this individual?" You are to recognize that every human being is made in the image of the Great God, and you are to love that person. Sometimes that is hard. But if you are picturing God, if you are picturing God's purpose, you're picturing Christ coming back to this earth as King of kings—knowing that all human beings being given a genuine chance to really know God—then you can begin to love anybody, no matter what they have done. You can! You should! So don't try to "get even" one way or the other.
"If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also."
This does not mean (as other New Testament examples certainly indicate) that you are to lie down and let people walk all over you continually. You don't have to do that. You shouldn't do that. On the other hand, in normal personal contact with other people, you are to let them take advantage occasionally. Let the other driver into your lane on the freeway. You don't have to box him off and block him off. You don't have to fight for your place all the time—you don't need this competitive, mean attitude toward other human beings that is so common in our crowded society. You are to give. You are to help. You are to serve. That should be your attitude. If someone, or some company, irrationally and unrighteously tries to take away everything you have, this doesn't mean that you should just give away your inheritance. On the other hand, you are to give—to give up to others, give way to others—in every way you can.
"Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away."
Other scriptures tell you to be careful about being assurance for someone else. Christ says: "Don't cast your pearls before swine" Give people things that they can use and rightly appreciate. But, generally speaking, your attitude should be to give. It is better to be too generous. It is better to be too loving, and to err on that side, than to be too strict and too harsh and too selfish and too mean—even if, for some of you men, you think your meanness is just "being macho." It is better to be too loving than to be too mean. In the end, you will see that this is right. In one way, love is the most powerful force in the universe, and we are to learn that lesson of love. God is love. He tells us that throughout the Bible. We are to be like God in all these ways.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'"
Where did this saying come from? This is not some new saying; it goes clear back to Leviticus 19:18 in the Old Testament. Moses did not come up with this; God inspired Moses to write: "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people [you are not to go around having wrong attitudes and grudges] but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD." He reminds us—"I am the one who gives life and breath, the one with life inherent within myself. I AM the one who gives you your life and others their lives." Love one another. Love your neighbor as yourself. Think about how you would like to be treated, then try to treat the other person like that. Treat people of other races the way you would like to be treated. Men, treat women the way you would like to be treated if you were a woman, perhaps weaker physically and maybe without as much prestige or enough money. Have kindness and mercy. Treat a little child the way you would want to be treated if you were a little child. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. Love your neighbor as yourself. That is a very, very powerful point and is one of the most important laws in the Bible. The first law of God is to love God with all your being, as Jesus said in Matthew 22. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. We've got to learn to practice that. Here it is, stated in the Sermon on the Mount:
"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."
Here Jesus tells us to genuinely love others, even if they are hurting us and persecuting us. Boy, that's hard to do. Yet we find that this is the attitude that we are to have—and this is expressed a number of places in the New Testament. I will just turn to one now, Romans 12:18, where God inspired Paul to write:
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
It all depends on your awareness of God, on your faith in God. If God is real to you—if you know that the Great God is there, and that He will cause things to work out for good-then you can learn to do that. Don't take vengeance yourself-wait for God to fight your battle. I have found, in my life, that this works. Sometimes God crushes enemies far more powerfully that you would do personally. He is POWERFUL! He will take vengeance in a way that is perfect and right. You have to rely upon Him and trust in Him, and He will fight your battles for you.
"…do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."
You are to be like God in all of this. That's the whole thing; become like God. He gives His Son and the rain to the just and the unjust. If you only love those who love you, you are like the tax collector—they love one another. He went on to say:
"Therefore you shall be perfect."
The Greek word translated as "perfect" can also be translated "full grown" or "mature". Be fully mature spiritually. In the Hebrew language, this word can mean "a sound sacrifice". So you are to be sound, you are to be fully grown. You are to be mature as a Christian. You are to be fully mature, spiritually—to be like God.
"Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."
You are to try, in every way you can—with the help of God through praying, through fasting, through meditation and certainly reading this Word, always walking with God—to try to reflect Jesus Christ in everything you think, in everything you say and in everything you do.
"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds [your alms or your good deeds you know] before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven."
Is your motive just to show off? If your motive is to give and then perhaps to incorporate the giving to some great big foundation bearing your name, to exalt yourself and your family name or to show off in some other way, you are not going to have any reward from God.
"Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets."
History tells us that some of the Pharisees literally had a trumpet blown when they gave something. They put something in the beggar's box, and someone would stand there and blow a trumpet—and there would be the "humble" Pharisee shuffling away in all his self-righteousness. That's ridiculous! Of course, that was a terrible perversion of the giving attitude.
"…that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly."
God will reward you openly! God is alive! God has all the power in the universe. If you learn to serve Him, to walk with Him, to teach and keep even the least of the Commandments, to forgive others, to lay down your life for your brethren, to let Jesus Christ live in you, and then to give, to help, to serve—just because you know it's right, because you want to honor God and not to show off to others—God, in His time, will reward you openly.
That's enough for this time, my friends. We are going to pick up at the end of this verse and carry right on through this magnificent Sermon on the Mount in the next section of this Matthew series. So I will see you right here next time.
This is Roderick C. Meredith for the Living Church of God.