The Sermon on the Mount starts in Matthew 5:1. Jesus went up into a mountain and began to teach a multitude of people who were following Him, His disciples being there too. This is referred to as the Sermon on the Mount and is the lengthiest teaching from Jesus in one setting. In our reading, the sermon ends at Matthew 7:29.
Jesus’ sermon was full of authoritative teachings that astonished the people. It was a short summary of instructions and guidance on how to live a fulfilled Christian life. It should always be emphasized that Jesus wants the best for His children. Some of His teachings can be difficult to understand at first because it goes against our fleshly human nature. Even so, rest assured that He has good reason for all that He requires His children to strive for in their walk with Him.
Let’s look over this collection of teachings and see how they apply to our lives today.
Matthew 5:3-10 are referred to as the Beatitudes. It shows us that there are blessings for those who have godly qualities, and that there are blessings for those that are going through hard times.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”Matthew 5:3-10
Verses 11 and 12 remind us that people will oppose our service to the Lord, but our heavenly reward will outweigh the negative reactions of others by far.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.Matthew 5:11-12
Verse 13 says, “You are the salt of the earth…” Salt is a preservative and a valuable substance. As the children of God, our “saltiness” slows the damage of an ungodly society. If we lose our saltiness, we’ve lost much of our purpose.
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.Matthew 5:13
Verses 14 through 16 teach us that we are the light of the world. The Holy Ghost within us is not meant to be hidden. When others see the light of God shining through us, it draws them to glorify our Savior with the opportunity to find redemption for their souls!
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.Matthew 5:14-16
Verses 17 through 20 does not teach us that we should throw away the Old Testament.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 5:17-20
To grasp the significance of Matthew 5:17 we have to look at Matthew 22:37-40. Jesus didn’t come to destroy the Law, but to show us how to fulfill it.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Matthew 22:37
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
When we live righteously, God doesn’t want it to be a show for others. He wants it to be from our hearts.
God doesn’t only see our actions. He also sees the issues in our hearts that bring us to our actions. Verses 21 and 22 are a merciful warning from the Lord to remove anger from our hearts against our fellow Christians (and non-Christians), and to not harbor bitter feelings or let them fester in our hearts.
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.Matthew 5:21-22
Additionally, if we know that someone has something against us, God wants us to correct the situation as quickly as possible. Make things right. Throughout the Bible, the two main themes that are most important are our relationship with God, and our relationship with our fellow man. God isn’t concerned about who was right or who should apologize. He doesn’t give excuse to us as victims. Grudges and hard feelings ruin friendships, families, church bodies and other relationships, as seen in verses 23 through 26.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.Matthew 5:23-26
As it is today, so it was two-thousand years ago. Adultery is hurtful. Verses 27 through 30 shows us that we can’t allow ourselves to look at the opposite sex with lust because it will plant a seed in our hearts and causes irreparable damage.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.Matthew 5:27-30
Verses 31 and 32 talk about divorce. Divorce is a very serious and destructive situation in many cases. While God has given an exception, He doesn’t want His children simply throwing in the towel because they are bored with each other, or because she still burns toast after five years of marriage.
It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.Matthew 5:31-32
Verses 33 through 37 warns against making oaths. Jesus taught that saying “yes” or “no” is sufficient.
Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 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 even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.Matthew 5:33-37
Verses 38 through 42 lets us know that we shouldn’t jump at any chance to be up in arms over every little inconvenience or unfair treatment we encounter. There is balance in this teaching, as there are other places in the Word that address those who desire to take advantage of this passage of scripture for selfish gain. No worries, God has given additional guidance on these topics. He is not saying that we should lose our homes and be defenseless against being attacked because of the actions of another person.
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You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.Matthew 5:38-42
In verses 43 through 48, Jesus is addressing relationships again. We cannot show kindness only to those we get along with. Showing kindness to everyone, regardless of their relationship with the Lord, is what our Savior desires. We must remember that He knows the heart of every man, and it is His desire that no one perish. By showing His love, we will certainly lose enemies and gain new friends.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.Matthew 5:43-48
As we enter chapter 6, Jesus is continuing His teachings, and is telling His listeners that they should not seek to gain the attention and applause of others for our righteousness. Those things become their reward instead of the blessing from God they would have received. We need not confuse this with never doing a good deed because others might see it. By all means, if we see an elderly man who has fallen on a busy street, waste no time in helping him! But to silently shout, “Hey everybody, look at what good thing I am doing!”, we are focusing on personal gain rather than simply helping someone because we care about their well-being. This is taught in verses 1 through 4.
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.Matthew 6:1-4
Verses 5 through 8 is addressing that same attitude of pride. He doesn’t want a show. He wants our sincerity.
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.Matthew 6:5-8
After telling us to not seek attention when we pray (as a side note, to lead prayer in church is not wrong when done with a humble spirit), He gives us a template of how we should pray. The Lord did not want us to simply repeat the words He spoke. He desires honest communion with Him, our individual expressions from our own hearts. He was giving us the general idea of how we should pray in verses 9 through 14:
Our Father in heaven, (address Him for who He is with our respect) hallowed be your name, (show Him reverence and adoration) your kingdom come, (desire His kingdom, joy, peace and righteousness) your will be done, (what He desires to do) on earth as it is in heaven (here as His will is done in heaven). Give us today our daily bread (ask for His provision for the things we have need of. We often add the needs of our loved ones as well.) And forgive us our debts, (ask for His forgiveness for the things we’ve done wrong) as we also have forgiven our debtors (check out own hearts to be sure we are harboring no ill feelings towards those who have wronged us). And lead us not into temptation, (help us to be full of the Spirit and to live righteously while helping us to resist temptation) but deliver us from the evil one (protect us against falling into sin).
In verses 14 through 15, He lets us know that our forgiveness from Him depends on the forgiveness we offer to others.
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For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.Matthew 6:14-15
Fasting, as mentioned in verses 16-18, is meant to be done similarly to how we do good deeds: in private. Make ourselves presentable as we do every other day, and quietly conduct our sacrifice to God alone.
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.Matthew 6:16-18
Jesus wants us to remember to set our affections on His kingdom. While it isn’t a sin to have nice things, our hopes and deepest desires should not be greater for the things on earth than for the kingdom of God (spoken of in verses 19 through 21).
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Matthew 6:19-21
Verses 22 and 23 address our complete commitment to the Lord. He needs to be our all in all, in order for our entire being having His light.
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!Matthew 6:22-23
Verse 24 talks about money. While money is a necessary tool in life, Jesus wanted us to understand that we cannot serve God completely when we are in love with money. The Bible teaches that the love of money is the root of all evil. We can certainly see that in the world around us, and God knows the depths of evil, or the loss of dedication that befalls those who chase after it.
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.Matthew 6:24
Jesus knew worry was something mankind struggled with and will continue to struggle with. He gave us a reminder in verses 25 through 34 He is in control, and when we allow Him to be our first priority, He’ll take care of the rest.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.Matthew 6:25-34
Chapter 7 begins by telling us not to judge. The truth is, we all must make judgments daily, and in many ways. We have to choose what is right and wrong regularly. Other translations use the word “criticize”, which fits well and brings better understanding to verses 1 through 6. We must navigate through right and wrong, however, we don’t need to be critical of those who are in various fallen states of life. We don’t know their story, their upbringing, nor the circumstances that led them to where they are. It’s harder to be critical when compassion is part of our character. After all, Jesus had compassion on us.
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.Matthew 7:1-6
Verse 6 wants Christians to know that they don’t need to tell everyone about every little detail of their Christian walk. There are things that non-believers cannot understand and are not necessary for them to understand before they are Christians themselves. Things like baptism, communion and worship don’t make sense to a non-believer that has never read the Bible. When God draws at their hearts, that is when He will begin to open their understanding with teaching.
Verses 7 through 12 let us know that not only can we ask, seek and knock for things we desire from God, He wants us to!
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.Matthew 7:7-12
Verses 13 through 23 give us strong warnings that we should take very seriously. Not every belief that claims to know Jesus is truth. There are false teachers and false believers. We need the wisdom and instruction from the Lord to discern the truth. Learning the Word and desiring full truth will aid us from being led astray.
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Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’Matthew 13:23
In verses 24 through 27, Jesus used the story of a wise man and a foolish man who both built houses. The wise man built his house on a solid foundation of rock, whereas the foolish man built his house on sand. When the storms came and hit each house, the house built on the rock stood, while the other fell. Our solid foundation is the Word of God. The faulty foundation consists of ideas and personal beliefs that are not Biblical. We cannot create our own spiritual ideas to make a God of our own form. We need His Word to learn His ways.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”Matthew 7:24-27
Let us take in each of these teachings of our Lord and apply them to our lives today. His ways are good, and He desires the best for us!