The Practices of the King Matthew 5:1-7:29, cont’d.
Matthew 5-7 The Sermon on the Mount, cont’d.
:27-30-It is not enough to just not commit adultery. You should not even allow thoughts that lead to lust to stay in your mind. There is an act of adultery that is physical and there is also an act of adultery that is mental. And often, the mental will lead to the physical. So, get rid of the thought before it has time to develop further into lust. Verses 29-30 give an extreme example of just how important this is. It tell us that sometimes this thought process begins, or develops, as a result of things that we see, or touch. We are told that if we cannot stop looking or touching in such a way…to gouge out your eye, or cut off your hand. This is strong language. It is not telling us to literally do these things. But, it is showing us by way of comparison with the severity of such an action just how serious our preventive response should be. Better to lose these body parts temporarily…than to participate in sin and lose ourselves eternally.
:31-32-It is not enough to divorce your wife and try to be cordial in doing so. Unless she has committed adultery…don’t divorce her at all. If you divorce her and she remarries, she and her new husband are committing adultery…and you have a level of responsibility as well because you caused it.
:33-37-It is not enough to think you only have to be truthful when you “swear to God” that it is so. People had given such emphasis to taking oaths (because the Bible strongly condemns perjury-Exodus 2:7; Leviticus 19:12; Deuteronomy 19:16-19) that they had begun to see a distinction between things said under oath, and things that were said in ordinary conversation. They wouldn’t lie under oath because that was forbidden, but, in their thinking, that didn’t necessarily apply at other times. In fact, they had even developed a structure of oath giving…there were different levels of oaths that required different levels of truthfulness. These levels went from swearing by Heaven, to earth, to Jerusalem, to your own head. Jesus told them to stop playing these mind games. Instead, your word should be truthful at all times…whether you are under oath, or not. If you are not telling the truth it is evil…no matter what level of oath you take.
:38-42-It is not enough to just not retaliate to the same degree to which you were injured. The law of “lex talionis” (law of retaliation, cf. February 17, Leviticus 24-25) allowed a person to demand satisfaction to a certain degree when they were injured (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19-21). Originally, the intent was that this degree would be the maximum amount of retaliation that could be demanded. Over time, this degree became the standard amount that would be automatically demanded. No consideration was even given to not exacting retaliation. Jesus said that instead of our first impulse being to retaliate back…be willing to suffer the injury without demanding satisfaction in return. The intent is that the process of injury and retaliation be stopped, or at least the degree of retaliation be lessened. There may even be times when you will have to suffer further injury in order to stop this process. This does not mean that a person should never try to protect themselves from being harmed, or that there is never a time when a person who is being harmed could strike back. There may come a time when this is necessary. It takes wisdom to know how far to allow such abuse to continue. As a country preacher once told me, “You’ve only got two cheeks.” But, if given the opportunity, our first intention should be to attempt to stop the violence from escalating…by being willing to suffer.
:43-48-It is not enough to just love those who love you. Jesus tells us that we should also love and pray for those who are our enemies, those who persecute us. Don’t forget, God blesses those who are good and those who are evil. As His children…we should have the same character and behavior of our Father. Don’t treat one person one way and another person another way…based on what you think they can do for you. Instead, treat people in a way that is based on what you can do for them. If this is your pattern of behavior, then you are demonstrating that you are a mature child of the Father.
Prayer: Lord, I confess to You that there are times when I only see others for what they can give, or contribute to me. Help me to be their blessing, instead. I pray so often that You will send someone to witness to my friends and relatives who are lost. I pray that You will use someone to meet their needs. Maybe right now, there is a person who is praying for You to send someone to minister to the life of one of their friends, or relatives…and I am the someone You are sending. Please let me be the answer to that person’s prayer. Use me to touch the life of another person…for You and for Your glory.