Oaths


Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors,"Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow." But I say to you, do not swear at all; not 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. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your "Yes" mean "Yes,"and your "No" mean "No." Anything more is from the evil one.   Matt. 5: 33-37 

The quote Jesus uses is not an exact quote from a particular old testement text, but the texts in Ex. 20:7, Dt. 5:11 and Lv.19:12, tells us the purpose of oaths were to guarantee ones truthfulness by calling on God as a witness.

Now, let's keep this in it's proper place. Jesus is not refering to a court of law, where witnesses are to be "sworn in" to tell the truth.He's talking about everyday relations with one another. It's about keeping your word.

The use of formulated oaths,do not swear at all; not 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. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black, were often an attempt to avoid envoking the divine name, thus God was not a witness and you didn't have to keep your word. But the fact is , they are all related to God.And especially now, that we have been adopted in to His family through faith in His son, Jesus Christ, God's name is envoked in everything we  SAY and DO.

Oath-taking presupposes a sinful weakness of the human race, the tendency to lie. Jesus expects of His disciples a truthfulness that makes oaths unnesessary.

Divorce


It was also said "Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce." But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife(unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matt. 5:31-32         

In todays world nobody wants to talk about divorce. At least in the way scripture talks about it.

Whoever divorces his wife, causes her to commit adultery. We'll get to the exception clause in a second. If divorce is a valid option, why did Jesus state, that those parties would be commiting adultery? Simple. Marriage is for life. Let's look at another passage from Matthew's gospel concerning this topic.

Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him saying,"Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?" He said in reply,"Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said,'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must seperate." They said to him,"Then why did Moses command that the man give a bill of divorce to dismiss her?" He said to them,"Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife(unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery." Matt. 19:3-9 

Man and woman decide to get married.They handle the physical part.God joins together and makes the two, one; spiritually. Man must not seperate what God has joined together, just as man must not kill what God has created.

Some scholars understand the exception clause to be a modification of the absolute prohibition. Others say it may have been particular to Matthew's community, the violation of Mosaic law forbidding marriage between certian blood and/or legal relationships(Lev. 18:6-18). Marriages such as those are refered to as incest(porneia) the word is also translated harlotry, adultery and fornacation.

In Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18, Jesus prohibits divorce absolutely. Even Paul in 1 Cor. 7:10-11, speaks in reference to Jesus' prohibition on divorce.

We can see everywhere in our culture, when we make exceptions to the rules, we erode  the moral fabric of society. We are then desensitized to sin and the effects it has on our society, and we are left scratching our heads asking," What has happened to our culture!?"

But it's not to late, God the Father, has offered forgiveness and healing through Jesus Christ His Son. It's ours to recieve. His grace is offered. Now it's up to us.

Adultery


You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already commited 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 to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. 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 to have your whole body go into Gehenna. Matt.5:27-30.  

Jesus again confronts the sincerity of our hearts. If we look at, and lust in our hearts, adultery is committed. As lust is defined it is an intense or unrestrained craving; an overwhelming or obsessive desire. 

In a heart that is unrestrained toward sin, where is it's capacity to love? If we are overwhelmed with fleshly desires, how can we serve God?

Why not take these intense, unrestrained cravings, these overwhelming obsessive desires and use them in a righteous way and not a sinful way.

An unrestrained love for God, His Word and His holy Church. An overwhelming desire to serve others in love. An obsessive craving to tell others about what Jesus Christ has done in our heart, life and family.

God does not wink at adultery. Adultery is a division of the heart. You cannot serve two masters, you will hate one and love the other(6:24). This is true in the spiritual as well as the physical realm. Look at some of the Old Testament scriptures that refer to Israel's relationship with God as adulterous.

Whatever causes you to sin, tear it out, cut it off. It may be hard to do but, the benefits are much greater when you do. Besides, Jesus is there to help in all our struggles, and to overcome them with us.

Much of the immorality within the church can be directly related to a casual attitude toward sexual sin.

 Could it be that our influence as the church on society, can be directly related to our casual attitude toward God?

Anger


You have heard that it was said to your ancestors," You shall not kill; and whoever kills wil be liable to judgement." But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement, and whoever says to his brother," Raqa" will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says,"You fool," will be liable to firey Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny. Matt. 5: 21-26. 

The next six examples of conduct Jesus gives, all deal with personal relationships. These are not suggestions, these are commandments. "You have heard it was said," is what the letter of the law taught. "But I say to you," is the intent of what the law taught. And no better teacher we could have than God Himself.

The sin is murder. To kill. I think we can all understand and agree with that.We could also open up a whole other can of worms here but, for the sake of this lesson, we'll continue with the main point. If you murdered someone or killed someone purposely, then you faced the death penalty in Old Testement Law. Other restitution was made in cases of accidents but, you would face the death penalty for willfully killing someone. But listen to what Jesus teaches " Whoever is angry with his brother, will be liable to the judgement,"

Whoa!!!

Anger is the root to the sin of murder therefore, anger is sin. And look where it originates, in the heart. As the anger escalates, the insults become more vicious and the sin of murder starts to become a justifiable solution. See James 1: 14-15.

The punishment also escalates in each case and ends in the "firey Gehenna."

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and recall your brother has anything against you… 

Reconcilation with our brother is a must before we can worship. Have you had trouble worshipping lately, and can't put your finger on why? Does your brother have anything against you? Take the steps you need to take to get right with your brother and then come to worship God.

 As disciples, we have to come to God on His terms, and Jesus gives us the picture of what not reconciling with your brother will look like. We won't be released from prison until we've paid the last penny.

The law…


Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matt. 5:17-20

Let's break this section down into three parts.

1) Fulfilment of the Law: To be our righteousness, Jesus had to be sinless. Only God could accomplish this, and only man could benefit from it. Jesus had to be 100% God to pull it off and 100% man for the human race to be redeemed. That is why in Heb. 10:4 scripture tells us, the blood of bulls and goats are not adequate to take away humanities sins.

2) Whoever breaks one of these least commandments: Which commandments is He refering to? The beatitudes before or the law of Moses He is about to explain? It doesn't matter, they are all to be kept. They are also to be taught correctly, so others can live by the truth. Remember James 3:1.

3) Your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees: In a nut shell, the scribes and Pharisees were self-righteous. They went through the motions of religious rituals, thanking God that they were better than everyone else. The motivation of their heart was receiving the praise of men, rather than pleasing God. They had not accepted God's mercy and therefore couldn't show mercy.

Once more I will make the point that if we miss the point of the first beatitude, we'll miss the rest of the message. Blessed are the poor in spirit, we must realize who we are before the Holy and Righteous God and live according to His commands.

You are the light of the world…


You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. Matt. 5:14-16.

Let's look at the two examples of light that Jesus gives us here.

 1) A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. In the grand scheme of things, the city on the mountain can be seen by "all" even from far away. The details of the city aren't noticeable but, its existance can't be denied. Much like the Church.

2) The lamp on the lampstand gives light to "all" in the house. On a smaller scale, the light  lights up the house and when each house is lit up, the whole community is lit up. Presenting the "city" on the mountain, the Church on earth.

Just so, our light must shine before others. Christ must be the light that shines before others, not just at church, going through the motions, but in our lives. In our house, our community, our city. Doing the work of Christ, so the Father will be glorified in them. That means obedience and sacrifice. Isn't that the way Jesus glorified His Father?

A growing and thriving personal relationship with God, strenghtens the Church body. The opposite is also true. A stagnant, listless personal relationship with God, weakens the Church body.

Let us determine in our hearts, our souls and our minds this day to be salt. To be light. And may our Father in heaven be glorified, through Jesus our Lord, who lives and reigns with Him and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

You are the salt of the earth…


You are the salt of the earth but if salt loses it’s taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. Matt. 5:13

As disciples of Jesus, He says we are the salt of the earth. What does that mean? In first century Palestine, salt was used to season foods just like today but without electricity, it was also used to store and preserve food like meat and fish. That is still done today, but not as a nessesity. From their understanding of salts uses, they understood that Jesus was saying to them, as salt you would not be changed by the things around you but, you would change the things around you. So, we are called to preserve the earth, to keep it from spoiling. We do this by living out the beatitudes, loving God first and loving our neighbor as ourself. If we don’t love our neighbor, how can we love God (1 John 4: 20-21)? As we share love, it testifies to God’s nature and His presense in our lives. Just like salt, changing the people around us.

Doesn’t Jesus go on to say that if salt loses it’s taste, with what can it be seasoned? The taste would be it’s power, it’s effectiveness. If salt stops being salt, it’s no better than dirt. If it doesn’t do what it’s created to do, it’s not serving it’s purpose.

Jesus demands loyalty that remains and doesn’t diminish over time. As a disciple, we are called to action. He never intended for us to be “pew warmers”. He said ” Follow me.”

Let’s go where He would go.