‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister,* and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court* with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
‘It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
‘Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
Sunday, February 12, 2017
This Sunday most churchgoers will hear more of the fifth chapter in Matthew. Two weeks ago they heard the Beatitudes and last week listened to Jesus stress the importance of keeping the Old Testament laws. The teachings that immediately follow Jesus' discourse on the O.T. law and the need to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees point out how everyone is guilty of sin and all fall short of the goal of exceeding the "righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees" by giving added meaning to the laws concerning 1) murder, making anger with or between one of the brethren equally bad, 2) adultery, by making ogling a good looking woman equivalent to adultery and making divorce (except if for unfaithfulness) the equivalent of adultery, and 3) not to take an oath by anything since a simple "Yes" or "No" from one of Jesus' followers should not need additional proof of truthfulness.
I consider these verses some of the most damning of Jesus' teachings. Every preacher giving a sermon today knows they are also guilty of the sins Jesus lists and should be feeling the weight of those sins as they mount the pulpit.
If all of us are sinners by Jesus' definition, how then are we to enter the kingdom of God? The good news is that we have Jesus, our advocate, someone who will stand beside us on the day of judgement and place his hand on our shoulder and say, "This one is with me."
Thank you Jesus for caring for a sinner like me.