Matthew 5:21-37

Today's Passage: Matthew 5:21-37

Much like when God gave the Law to Moses in Exodus, we see Jesus giving His disciples instruction.

The heart behind the Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandments is the same: God is teaching His creation what it means to live in relationship with Him and with those around them.

Exodus 20:13 - “You shall not murder”

Just as murder was prohibited in Exodus, Jesus affirms that murder is still prohibited. When I imagine Jesus saying this, I picture his disciples nodding along like, “Yea it is! We know that!” But our omniscient Creator can see deeply into the hearts of His creation, and He knows that sin has made us comfortable with making excuses.

In order for a death to be considered a murder, it has to be unlawful and premeditated. Murder cuts off life, it cuts off relationships, and it affects more than just the murderer and the victim.

Jesus describes our anger and resentment in the same light. Our anger cuts off relationships, it affects those around us, and ultimately is sin that leads to death.

Exodus 20:14 - “You shall not commit adultery”

Once again, Jesus affirms the Law given to Moses hundreds of years before, and once again Jesus cuts to the heart. The act of adultery does not happen by accident. In Proverbs 4:23, our hearts are described as the wellspring of life. When our eyes gaze upon others lustfully, our hearts become polluted and that spring brings forth death.

That is why Proverbs 4:23 urges you to guard your heart above all else, and that is the heart that Jesus is urging in Matthew 5. Pursuing godliness is not a passive response to sin, but an active choice to flee from and avoid sin at all costs.

Exodus 20:7 - “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

Exodus 20:16 - “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Verses 33 through 37, make me think of these two commandments pointing to the importance of the words we say both in how they honor God and how they reflect Him to a lost world.

As Jen Wilkin points out in her book Ten Words to Live By, names in biblical times hold more meaning than most of our names do in our modern, western culture. Wilkin says, “Any time we hear ‘the name of the Lord’ in a verse or passage, we can substitute ‘character of the Lord’ in its place. God’s name represents the sum total of His character.”

These commandments are not simply creating a list of “what not to do” but also insisting that we live in a manner that honors the character of God in word and deed.

Oaths are a way that we attempt to make up for our inadequacy. When I was in high school, I was late to school almost every day, and I would swear to the school secretary that I would never do it again if she did not mark me tardy. Low and behold, two days later, I was in the office making the same empty promise.

As humans we have a tendency to make promises but often an inability to keep them. Jesus knows that we are constantly changing, but He is not. Our God and Creator is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and He is perfectly consistent in His promises. We best point to Him when we repent of our sin, recognize our limits, and seek to pursue a steadfast character empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Written By: Paulette Black

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