Matthew 5

1 Jesus' primary audience is His disciples here, but He sets up the crowd so that they too could benefit. Jesus' words are for all people in all times and places.
3 Notice that all these blessings are in the present tense. Yes, heaven will be better than anything we can imagine will, but we can have a taste of it now.It is also important to realize that all these characteristics work together.Only when we recognize our need for God does he come to help us. God leaves the proud and self-sufficiency to their own destruction.
4 In the spiritual progression, recognition of our sin (need) leads to mourning.
5 Meek is not weak. Kindness is often difficult, and sharing faith in Christ is not popular in a world that does not want God.Kindness here is allowing God to begin working in you.
6 The one who loves God earnestly will seek to be right with God.
7 One who has accepted God's mercy will display God's mercy. This idea is also reflected in the Lord's prayer (Mat 6:12).
8 Purity refers to having a single devotion. The godly man does not switch between following God and following something else. God is pure, and only the pure will see Him (and live).
9 A son of God is one who accepts God's peace treaty. After making peace with God, he will then become God's ambassador to men, inviting them to join God's peace treaty.
10 The world does not treat followers of Christ very well. But we can be happy knowing that we share in God's kingdom.
11 No one likes being told they are wrong. Very often, even if people know they are wrong, they refuse to admit it and will defend themselves. As ambassadors for Christ, we can only tell the world what God says about the world. God says that the world without Him is wrong. But we can be happy knowing that we are on the right side.
12 We can also rejoice knowing that we will be rewarded. We share both the suffering as reward of the prophets.
13 Salt, in its chemical nature, can not "lose" its saltiness. If salt could lose its saltiness, then it would be would be worthless. If a Christian could lose his fervor for Christ, he would also be worthless.
14 Physics shows us that darkness must give way to light. Light can be blocked, but when it does shine, darkness has no choice but to flee. We are to be visible to the world.
15 We can not and should not hide Christ in our lives. We should give light to our house, light to our city, and light to all men.
16 Our godly attitudes and good works display evidence of our devotion to Christ. The important things is that these works glorify God, not ourselves.
17 This would later cause much controversy in the church. When non-Jewish people began to accept Jesus as the Savior, some Jewish believers objected saying that they must first become Jews before they can accept Christ. What Paul explains is that yes, the Law is given by God and will not be taken away. But Jesus fulfilled the Law for us because we are not able to. We share in Jesus' fulfillment by grace through faith.
19 It is easy for each of us to see how we break at least some of the "least" of the commandments. Even though Jesus' death for us takes up the slack, we should still strive to obey God, and we should certainly encourage others to obey as well.
20 The religious leaders of the day had a self-righteous ritual religion. These men cared more about their image than their love for God. But their efforts didn't make them right with God. Only God's work in us can make us right with Him. Faith in Jesus makes that possible.
21 Jesus now delves into explaining some of the finer parts of the Law. Jesus' first teaching concerns the spirit of the law. The letter says, "do not murder." But the spirit of the Law says, "anger leads to murder." This was first seen in the conflict between Able and Cain.
22 When we become angry with someone, we start devaluing him as image bearers of God. "Raca" means "empty head" and is probably equivalent to "air head" in modern slang. Calling someone a fool means that the other person has no discernment. This kind of destructive criticism does not lead to any resolutions.

Jesus often described the religious leaders of the day as fools. Does this make Him hypocritical? No. On one hand, His chastisements were always accompanied by explanations of their foolishness from which they could repent. It was not empty criticism. On the other hand, Jesus is God, and is the only one capable of making an accurate assessment of a person's character.

On our part, we can tell when a person acts foolishly when measured against the Bible, but we can not call the person a fool because we do not know all the information. If we see someone acting foolishly, we must approach the situation with a spirit of love. Our hope should be to help the person make godly choices without condemning him.

23 Jesus next explains that being right with God also entails being right with other people. Note that the one making the offering is the offending party. If he is to be right with God, he will go to the offended person and attempt to make peace. In the meantime, the offering is left at the altar as a pledge to return to give it.
25 If someone wants to sue you, make every effort to settle the matter out of court. If you are indeed in the wrong, it is better to settle the matter without being humiliated in court or prison.

It is difficult to argue with someone who agrees with you. It is important in any such situation to attempt to find some common ground. Compromise is usually less painful that going through the legal system.

Paul later expands this to encourage Christians not to sue fellow Christians at all. No matter who is right in such a situation, the Church loses because it becomes apparent to those outside that such people have neither love nor God's wisdom.

26 Note the irony. Since it is usually impossible to earn money in prison, it would not be possible to pay back a debt or a settlement from there.
27 The letter of the Law says that you may only have sex with your legal spouse. But the spirit of the Law says don't even desire to have sex outside of your marriage relationship. Thoughts lead to sin, and sin leads to destruction.
29 This use of hyperbole means that you should go to any extent to stop sinning. Obviously, removing and eye or a hand does not prevent a person from lust, anger, adultery, or murder. But in our daily life, if we find an area of stumbling, we should avoid it, no matter how "weird" it may seem to others. When we refuse to show restraint, we show the world that either 1) we are not truly followers of Christ or 2) Jesus' death and sacrifice has very little meaning and affect on our daily lives.
31 The letter of the Law says that a man can divorce his wife if she is "displeasing." The spirit of the Law says that divorce is only allowed (though not required) if the spouse has an affair during the marriage.Women were much more dependent on men in these days. If a woman was divorced, she often married another man. However, since she has already become "one flesh" with her husband, marrying another makes both of them adulterers, even if they do have a legal divorce. In God's eyes, they are still as good as married.I have heard it said that the men of this time were actually taking advantage of the Law and divorcing their wives over trivial matters. I have also read, that the Law was used to make it possible to "trade wives." If such things were true, it was indeed a great offense to God. We do see these things happen today since divorce is relatively easy.However, divorce is bad because it makes people break their commitments (i.e., they become liars), it destroys families, it confuses children, and mars the image of God that He has placed in each one of us.This might be extended to mean, if you do have a divorce because of sexual immorality, you should not remarry.
33 The letter of the Law said to keep every promise you make to God. But the spirit of the Law is that you should keep your word without having to back it up. The oaths Jesus describes here are not ones that have any consequences, and are thus worthless for accountability. Thus, swearing by heaven doesn't mean anything since heaven is not going to disappear if you break your word. Besides, heaven is far too important to be used in such a trivial manner. Likewise, the earth will not be crushed if you prove to weak to fulfill your promise. In fact, you don't even have a lot of control over your own body!Instead, you should keep your word because it is the right thing to do.
38 The letter of the Law says, "get revenge," but the spirit of the law says, "let God avenge you." We can bear all kinds of hardship when we know that God will make things right in the end.We can often turn attacks into object lessons of God's love and forgiveness. By turning the other cheek, the violent man should be able to see the foolishness of physical abuse, and perhaps be amazed that someone is willing to take it "in the name of the Lord."
40 If someone wants to sue you (presumably on false grounds) to get something you have, give it to them, and give even more. This shows that we value a right relationship with them more important than our possessions.
41 Roman soldiers could legally force non-Romans to carry his gear for "a mile." By going another mile, it gives the Christian a chance to develop a relationship with the soldier and display in a real way that God is willing to go to any length to reach him.
42 Either need or greed will cause people to ask (or demand) things you own. It is a blessing to be used by God to give to those in need. In the same way, each person is born with spiritual poverty, but God freely gives us spiritual riches when we ask Him to. To those who are greedy, we should be able to display that we know that true value is not found in things we possess, but in things of heaven.This does not sound easy at all. I will admit that I would be very reluctant (to the point of refusal) to give up my computer or house and some other things just because someone asked for them. I can be generous in other ways, but I must admit that I don't feel I would give up some things easily. This is probably an area of growth all of us Christians need to work on.We may not be willing to give up our possessions while we live, but we certainly will give up our possessions when we die.
43 This is not a statement in the Law, but was widely held as true (after all, it does seem natural). However, God's love overcomes such barriers. Holding on to hate prevents reconciliation. God demands that we attempt to establish good relationships with people so that He can use us to reconcile them to God. We can not do this without God's help. When our enemies see how we try to make things right, this should encourage them to do the same.

God loved us, even though we were once His enemies. No one is beyond God's reach.

45 Good and bad things happen to godly and ungodly men. But God can use His children to make any situation work out for the best.
46 "Being accepted" or "being loved" does not accomplish anything unless it calls us to a higher level of relationship with God and people. Evil people will love and accept one another, but their relationships do not draw them closer to God or make them better people. However, God can use relationships with godly people to take evil people out of Satan's control, and further deepen His relationship with those He uses.
47 God can even use small gestures of kindness. One should overcome those prejudices that unfairly darken his view of others or keeps him from even speaking to people who seem different.

Those who are "different" will foster relationships among themselves. As Christians, we need to extend God's invitation to all people. This is impossible to do if we will not love them and meet them where they are.

48 God, being perfect, reached out to us imperfect people. Since our desire is to be like God, we should also reach out to "imperfect" people, recognizing that we were (and in many respects still are) imperfect in God's eyes.