Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Devotional: God’s Standards For Daily Life #2, Matthew 5:33-48

Outline of Matthew 5.33-48

In the rest of chapter 5 Matthew continues with three more of Jesus’ examples, as he corrects the Jewish leaders misunderstanding of the Torah and explains the kind of lifestyle that God really requires from his kingdom people. God wants our words and actions to be absolutely truthful and honest, generously merciful, and graciously and unconditionally loving. Basically, what this means is that we are to act toward other people as God does and this is perfectly demonstrated to us in the actions and words of Jesus. Jesus’ actions were never controlled by what others did to him. He always acted based on who he is and what his Father had called him to do. This is an impossible standard for us on our own, but the good news is that Jesus’ authority and promises guarantee that, as we trust him, his spirit will work in us, as Jesus himself worked with his disciples, to grow us into the image of Jesus and do the work he left for us to do. We then can act as who we are in Christ and live that out before everyone we come in contact with.

First, God requires us to speak and act truthfully without manipulation. (5:33-37). Spinning the truth is nothing new. Jesus corrects the misunderstanding that only oaths in God’s name required the truth. Jesus makes the accusation that, instead of using oaths to affirm truth and commitment as they were intended in the Torah, the leaders were using clever language in their oaths to obscure truth and deceive people. Jesus’ point is not so much to forbid oathtaking but to urge us to be careful with the truth. Everything we say and think, in a way, should be spoken with oath-level truth because everything is related to God in some way. God owns your mouth and brain so they should reflect his character. God at the core is absolutely truthful with no lies in him, so everything we say and do should reflect his holiness and authority. The point is that you should be so truthful that you never need oaths. If the truth shouldn’t be aired, say nothing. Reflect God by keeping your commitments and being honest with your words and actions.

Secondly, God requires us to be as merciful and generous to others as he is to us. (5:38-42) The Torah tradition of Lex talionis (“eye for eye”) which was intended to limit retaliation and revenge and insure that justice was administered by the governing authorities, was being misapplied to personal relationships with the misunderstanding that God approves of revenge. Instead Jesus calls us to look for opportunities to be merciful. Because of who we are in Jesus and the blessings we have, when offended, we need not exercise our rights if it is to the eternal benefit of the offender. Practically, this means that we should give others the benefit of the doubt and be willing to endure an insult without retaliation to maintain a relationship. We may need to be willing to give up what we may legally keep. The bottom line is that we are called to go beyond what is required to be helpful and at peace with others and to be generous as God in meeting the real needs of others.

The final example gives the motivation for these standards (5:43-48). We must love others, not based on how they treat us, but according to God’s gracious actions toward us. The misunderstanding here is that God wants us to hate sinners. When you hate someone you are condemning them. Only God has that right and he chooses to love them. In fact God will love people even as they choose to turn away from Him. We are most like God when we love our enemies. This means that we generously give someone what they need, not what they deserve. We do this as we “pray for those who persecute you” by forgiving them as Jesus forgave his enemies. Only then will we be “perfect” (complete) as our Father in heaven. To be complete we must strive to submit to God so that he can produce this kind of love in us. This is what changes the world.

We can do this only because God always keeps his promises and commitments to us. Everything he says and does is truthful and so it should be with us. God acts toward us in mercy. He was willing to give up his rights so we could have relationship with him. We also should be merciful, in the same way, to everyone around us. God relates to us based on his love and grace. He always gives us what we need, not what we deserve, even when we act as his enemies. We should do the same with the difficult people in our lives. God calls us to an impossible standard: his righteousness. But he gives us the power through his Spirit to make us like him. Will you let him do it?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

So true, without love it is impossible to please God, it can only be accomplished when we are tapped daily into the presence of God's power, his spirit. Even if we live in an environment that is daily perverted in speech, word's coming out from the mouths are immoral, conceited continually. It can be tiring for believer's and, but I find that God uses such circumstances to drive believer's closer to him being aware that we are surrounded by deaf wolves. We have to be utterly humble for them to experience the presence of Jesus through us in our life. Praise the Lord!!