20 “I tell you, then, that you will be able to enter the Kingdom of heaven only if you are more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires. 21 You have heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be brought to trial.’ 22 But now I tell you: whoever is angry with his brother will be brought to trial, whoever calls his brother ‘You good-for-nothing!’ will be brought before the Council, and whoever calls his brother a worthless fool will be in danger of going to the fire of hell. 23 So if you are about to offer your gift to God at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift to God. 25 If someone brings a lawsuit against you and takes you to court, settle the dispute with him while there is time, before you get to court. Once you are there, he will hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, and you will be put in jail. 26 There you will stay, I tell you, until you pay the last penny of your fine. 27 You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But now I tell you: anyone who looks at a woman and wants to possess her is guilty of committing adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose one of your limbs than for your whole body to go to hell. 31 It was also said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce.’ 32 But now I tell you: if a man divorces his wife, for any cause other than her unfaithfulness, then he is guilty of making her commit adultery if she marries again; and the man who marries her commits adultery also. 33 You have also heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not break your promise, but do what you have vowed to the Lord to do.’ 34 But now I tell you: do not use any vow when you make a promise . . . 37 Just say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ – anything else you say comes from the Evil One.”
In this part of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus contrasts the demands he places on his disciples with the demands of Judaism as taught by the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees. Jesus teaches that it is not enough just to keep a code of moral and religious rules, but rather his disciples must focus on doing everything God requires.
In these few verses Jesus touches on some powerful areas – anger, disputes, lust, divorce and honesty. Jesus’s teaching illustrates the need for us to control our thoughts and emotions before they result in outward actions. He deliberately exaggerates to make his point. So removing your eye or cutting off your right hand is not to be taken literally but demonstrates how ruthlessly we must deal with sinful thoughts that can lead to sinful actions. Sin is not something we can live with. We must remove it completely, and as quickly as possible.
Jesus’s teaching lays bare human frailties. Right living starts with right attitudes. Which of the areas Jesus mentions challenges you most? Is there anyone you need to make peace with? How do you deal with thoughts and emotions that can lead you into sin?
Bring today’s Gospel reading humbly before God. Allow your prayer to flow as you listen to what he says to you.
Slowly read today’s verses from Psalm 119. Pause after each verse and meditate on it before moving on to the next one.
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