Tonight we continue our study in Matthew 5, picking up in verse 17 and continuing to verse 32. In verses 17 through 20, Jesus is addressing a topic that had most likely come up through His teachings. This has to do with how Jesus’s teachings related to the old Mosaic law. He said that He has come to fulfill prophecies, to fulfill the Law, indeed to be a progression of God’s official relationship to mankind. He underlines the importance of adhering to the commandments and of teaching them. Jesus concludes this section by making a judgment on the scribes and Pharisees, who made it a point of following the law to the letter, but for all their effort in keeping the law, their righteousness lacked. The scribes and Pharisees concentrated on outwardly keeping the law, but their hearts were not in it. If we focus on perfecting our righteousness as compared to the efforts of the scribes and Pharisees, we may enter the kingdom of heaven. Empty actions not supported by selfish intentions are worthless.
In verses 20 through 26 Jesus makes progress on clarifying the state of mind that God may have intended for man to have when the Ten Commandments were first handed down. It is not enough for us to not murder, slander or wish ill. Rather, within our hearts there should abide a sense of love, compassion and good honest intentions for all fellow men. In this passage, Jesus tells us that it is sin to be angry with a brother for no reason, and worse sin to speak evil to him. Jesus is telling us that our hearts should be pure and honest, not self-seeking or judgmental when it comes to relationships.
Also in 20 through 26, Jesus instructs that if we come before God and have evil in our heart to our fellow brother, it is wrong. The worship and honor that God desires from us should be clean, untainted by grudges or anger. It prompts is to look inside ourselves and ask: Who do I hold in disdain? Who do I actively dislike? What is keeping me from loving my brother or sister? Sometimes we have to do some work on ourselves before we are ready to meet God. And God can help us with this. It is usually a “me” problem because we cannot control others, but we can control our reaction to what irks us about them. Staying upbeat and always assuming positive intent can help tremendously with troublesome relationships. The penalty for not keeping your side of the street clean will be high.
Moving on to verses 27 through 32, Jesus addresses marriage and adultery. And in this section Jesus continues on with the theme seen earlier around wishing ill of someone/murdering them. Earlier, Jesus acknowledged that murder was a sin, but He also said that thinking ill of a brother without cause was a sin too. In this case, Jesus acknowledges adultery as a sin but also says that the things that lead to adultery are sins too.
Moreover, if something valuable to us cannot be kept valuable because there is too much temptation involved, better for us to drop the whole business altogether. Plucking out one’s eyes is gruesome indeed, but Jesus makes this point to say that heaven is so great, it is worth any price at all.
The two verses on marriage that conclude tonight’s study are clear and plain. It was once permissible under the law of Moses to divorce without pretext, but now it is only allowable under God if sexual immorality has occurred. This means one spouse engaging in extramarital infidelity. The accordant logic is at work here as well in the latter part of verse 32. There is a chain of logic at work here employed by Jesus which stresses the holy institution of marriage. Marriage is to be taken seriously and soberly.
Tonight’s lesson centers on intent. If I really intend to get to heaven, how am I treating my brothers, sisters and fellow man? Is my intent with my friends, neighbors and relatives honest and good? Do I want the best for them and help them when I am able? My intentions should be to have a positive impact, whether big or small. And in matters of the heart, regarding the true intentions of my heart concerning my marriage also, am I pure?