Jesus has just said our righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees and scribes. Naturally he goes directly into the Law that they knew. They knew it not because they read it somewhere or studied it for themselves. They heard it. From whom? The Pharisees, scribes, Rabbis/Priests. They were reliant upon them for the law. The word heard is important. The Greek (akouó) literally means to learn from a teacher. The people learned the law by hearing it. But it was colored by the delivery, perhaps. What was the issue Jesus had with the Pharisees? They were very good on the outside, made great public gestures, but they did not live what they taught. Their hearts were not involved. God had had this same issue with Israel before. Isaiah 58 is a great example of this. The Israelites were complaining that they were praying, and God was not listening and doing. His response was they weren’t doing it right. Their hearts weren’t in the right place.
So, Jesus goes into the thou shalt nots the people had heard. He was not altering them. He was teaching them with the correct intent behind them. He was telling what they really meant without the “rabbinical understanding” attached. He gets rid of the Pharisee slant.
Guys, it’s all about the intent of your heart. All of it.
“The internal attitude is what the law actually prohibits.” John MacArthur
“We miss the intent of God’s word when we read his rules for living without trying to understand why he made them.” NIV Life Application Study Bible
Do Not Murder
Being angry isn’t good either.
Wait. What? I can’t even get mad?
Anger here is origizó, meaning to be angry as expressing a fixed anger or a settled opposition. Settled opposition is positive when inspired by God and always negative when arising from the flesh. Sinful (unnecessary) anger focuses on punishing the offender rather than the moral content of the offense.
The Pharisees didn’t murder so they felt righteous. However, they were angry with Jesus, and it grew and grew and turned into the groundwork for the schemes that led to his crucifixion. They didn’t actually commit the murder. But they sure did a lot to make it happen.
Do Not Commit Adultery
Seems easy enough. You can admire beauty and attractiveness without being lustful about it. Right? And how do lustful thoughts about someone not my spouse really hurt anyone? Because it does. How does that help how you feel or look at your partner? How does it strengthen your intimacy? How would they feel if they knew your lustful thoughts for someone else?
Unpopular belief: Sex is for marriage.
God provides strong rules about sex for believers because “sexual sins have the power to disrupt and destroy the church. Sins involving sex are not innocent dabblings in forbidden pleasures, as is so often portrayed, but powerful destroyers of relationships. They confuse and tear down the climate of respect, trust, and credibility so essential for solid marriages and secure children.” NIV Life Application Study Bible
This is more a statement about the covenant of marriage. Divorce was common and at times rampant and often for really stupid reasons…just like today. Rabbis even said it was totally fine, basically saying if you don’t like your wife just get a new one. She let herself go? She’s a terrible cook? Divorce granted. God disagrees. He intends for us to enter into marriage once and for life. He wants us to treat it reverence and respect.
Genesis 2:24 says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Does that sound like it wants divorce? Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule and they are between you and the Lord. As a child of divorce, I am proud of my mama for leaving. Her divorce has been redeemed and God has blessed her and me for the past 30 years from her second marriage. You will not convince me otherwise. (That’s not to say God loved the idea of the divorce in question. I argue he had more of an issue with the marriage that led to it.)
Yes is Yes and No is No
Say what you mean and mean what you say. Leave the oaths for the things that matter.
Eye for an eye was set up as a rule so the punishment fit the crime. It is not a call for retaliation. Go back and read the anger part.
Love Your Neighbor
Yes, even if you hate him. In fact, pray for him.
Jesus makes righteousness accessible to everyone. He tells us how to do it. He shows us. And when we can’t quite do it, he makes up the difference.
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