“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” – Matthew 5:33-37
Verbal integrity. Do you have it?
It seems that truthfulness is in short supply in this world today. Even in the tightly regulated area of our food supply, full-disclosure does not always mean we are given the complete truth. While the FDA closely regulates how manufacturers may label their foods, there are certain loopholes which allow food labels to be highly misleading. Or, to put it bluntly, be untruthful. For example:
“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” – Matthew 5:31-32
Can you say, “Controversial”? Today’s teaching from Jesus has spawned many debates over the centuries. Some weigh in on the ultra-conservative side and others on the super-liberal side. Some say God never allows for divorce while others say Moses allows for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatsoever. For example, according to first century Rabbi Hillel, a man could divorce his wife for the following reasons,
“Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.” – Matthew 5:5
Welcome again to week 3 of our 40 Days with Jesus daily devotions based on Jesus’ teachings from Matthew 5-7 we commonly call the Sermon on the Mount. Today’s teaching is another one which is sure to raise a few eyebrows.
You may be thinking, “Now wait a minute. This one’s not for me. People would run all over me and I probably wouldn’t survive if I became a doormat.” But is that what Jesus calls us to be?
“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” – Matthew 5:29-30
OK, so what’s up with this? Is Jesus advocating self-mutilation? Some have, with great zeal but little wisdom, followed these words of Jesus to the letter. Origen of Alexandria actually made himself a eunuch. (If you’re not sure what that word means, just look it up.) In A.D. 325 at the Council of Nicea, self-mutilation was finally declared a barbarous practice and officially forbidden.
But didn’t Jesus say that if our right eye causes us to sin we were to pluck it out? Should we take Him literally? I think not…otherwise just about every man would be in need of a seeing-eye dog. Jesus often used figures of speech such as metaphors and hyperbole. On this issue of interpreting such Scriptures literally, I am reminded of a quote from C. S. Lewis:
“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.” – Matthew 5:27-28
Now wait a minute, Jesus. You’re getting a little too personal now. But we should cut Him some slack here. He is after all… God.
Jesus was the master of communication. He knew exactly what He wanted to say and exactly how it would be received by His hearers. He never wasted a word. Paul O’Neil, a writer for Life magazine for many years would surely say that Jesus modeled “O’Neil’s Law” to perfection. Here it is: “Always grab the reader by the throat in the first paragraph, sink your thumbs into his windpipe in the second and hold him against the wall until the tag line.” Jesus did just that. No beating around the bush. Concise and to the point.
“Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.” – Matthew 5:25-26
Well, did you stop what you were doing yesterday and go to that person you offended? No? Perhaps you’re thinking they deserved it? Or maybe you’re not on speaking terms and you consider them an enemy. Well, I’m glad you brought it up. (Or did I? No matter.) Here Jesus adds this counsel regarding those we do not get along with.
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift”. – Matthew 5:23-24
Your relationship with God is the most important relationship in your life. From the eight powerful statements of Jesus we call the Beatitudes, it is clear that God wants to bless your life. Don’t get me wrong, the fact that God wants to bless your life does not mean He will guarantee you freedom from pain, a full bank account, physical safety, or smooth sailing. What He wants to give you is a new purpose, fulfillment, joy, and a relationship with Him.
“Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4
This is the second of Jesus’ eight powerful statements called the Beatitudes. One of the things about these statements that you may have already picked up on is the fact that they are all paradoxical. What they promise for what they demand seems incompatible and upside down to the average person. To be honest with you, this one seems to be more contradictory than the rest.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” – Matthew 5:21-22
Are we having anger issues? The following statistics are somewhat dated but enlightening nonetheless…
“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:20
How good is good enough? Good question isn’t it? Especially as it relates to our standing with God. It would be nice to know when the good works quotient would tip the scales in our favor.