Introduction: Last week’s study ended with Jesus’ saying that He came
to fulfill the law, not abolish it ( Matthew 5:17-20). Not only would
the law would remain according to Jesus, but our righteousness must
exceed that of the religious leaders of the day. We concluded (I
hope) that the law is like a map to help us in life, thus we did not
want it to go away. And, we decided that since we are covered by the
righteousness of Christ, we are miles ahead of the religious leaders
of the day. Our study this week is Jesus’ next topic – a surprising
commentary about what it means to keep the law. How does detail about
the law make sense if we are saved by grace? Let’s plunge into our
study of the Bible and see what we can discover!

  1. Temper Equals Murder?

    1. Read Matthew 5:21-22. When was it said, “long ago,” that
      murder was wrong? (We can go back as far as Genesis 4 and
      the account of Cain and Abel.)

      1. Jesus adds that getting angry also subjects us to
        judgment. Is killing someone and getting angry with
        someone the same? (Obviously not, and Jesus does not
        say that. Instead, He says both are a sin.)

        1. Why would Jesus compare the two and suggest
          that they are related? (Recall how the moral
          law is a “map” to help us avoid harming our
          self by violating natural law? Getting very
          angry with someone is a preliminary step to
          murder. All of us have gotten angry, few of us
          have murdered, but this is wise counsel to keep
          us safe from murder.)

      2. When Jesus says calling someone “Raca” can get you
        hauled before the Sanhedrin, He means using this
        language was illegal under contemporary law. Raca
        seems to be a word that shows contempt for the other
        person. What does this have to do with anger and
        murder? (Have you ever noticed that in war we develop
        terms of contempt for those fighting on the other
        side? It makes it easier to kill someone if you think
        they are contemptible, without value.)

      3. We all know fools, the Bible frequently describes
        them, why can’t we also identify fools? (Think again
        of our map. First step to murder is thinking someone
        is of no worth. Second step to murder is getting
        angry with the contemptible person. Next step,
        murder! This is a map that tells us where not to go.)

    2. Read Matthew 5:23-24. Years ago I read this, and for the
      first time it occurred to me that the problem was someone
      holding a grudge against me, not me holding a grudge
      against someone else! That seemed backwards. Why are we
      responsible for people holding a grudge against us?

      1. When this new understanding came to me, I thought of
        a former church member who deeply disliked me because
        I had taken a stand for God’s word – or at least that
        is how I viewed it. Should we take steps to cure this
        kind of problem – one where we think we are innocent?

      2. This text kept bothering me until I wrote the former
        member a letter. She had an angry response, but it
        helped me understand her anger. I wrote a
        conciliatory note back. She shared our
        correspondence with some of her children. I don’t
        think she will ever become my friend, but my letter
        not only softened her attitude, her children had a
        different view of my actions. One contacted me and
        came back to church!

      3. Why does Jesus tell us to reach out to those who hold
        grudges against us? (The map to murder is contempt
        and anger. Murder is the complete opposite of love.
        By reaching out in love, we try to reverse the course
        of those following the map to murder.)

  2. Litigation is Wrong?

    1. Read Matthew 5:25-26. As most readers know, I’m a lawyer
      and a law professor. Does the legal situation Jesus
      describes seem familiar to you? (Not to me. It sounds like
      a civil matter (a dispute between two people), but it ends
      with a criminal penalty (being thrown into prison). The
      best parallel to today is a criminal fraud. You take a
      person’s money and you are exposed to jail time.)

      1. Is Jesus on the same topic as He was when He
        discussed people who have grudges against you? (I
        think so. Here, your adversary thinks you have
        defrauded him.)

      2. Is Jesus telling us that we should never go to court?
        (In the Old Testament we see that Moses was a judge
        ( Exodus 18:13) and the people were ruled by judges
        ( Judges 2:16)for a time. This type of judicial system
        is God-ordained! Therefore, God is not against a
        third-party dispute resolution system.)

      3. What is Jesus teaching us here? (When someone thinks
        you have cheated him in some way, try to resolve it
        as soon as possible.)

  3. Looking is Wrong?

    1. Read Matthew 5:27-28. Is this only a sin for men, or do
      you think Jesus’ advice applies to both sexes?

      1. What do you think Jesus means? Is this like contempt,
        anger and murder? Clearly those three things are not
        the same, but do they lead in the wrong direction?
        (Yes, that is one of the lessons here. Read James
        1:14-15. Sinful actions begin with sinful thoughts.)

      2. If you are attracted to someone who is not your
        spouse, have you crossed the line into adultery?

        1. How can you tell when the line is crossed?

    2. Many years ago, a handsome American President who was
      known to be a committed Christian confessed that he had
      committed adultery in his heart. I’m not sure he
      understood Jesus’ teaching. How many women would be
      willing to have sex with a handsome American president?
      (Probably quite a few. If you could actually commit
      adultery if you wanted to, and you do not, I don’t think
      you have crossed Jesus’ line. On the other hand, if you
      would commit adultery if you had the opportunity, then you
      have crossed Jesus’ line.)

    3. Read Matthew 5:29-30. Can recently blinded people commit
      adultery in their heart? (Why not?)

      1. If they can, what is Jesus teaching us?

      2. I just suggested this about Jesus’ lust/adultery
        teaching: if you would commit adultery if you could,
        then you have sinned. Jesus seems to say here, take
        away the opportunity (blind yourself, cut off your
        hand) and you will be okay. Have I suggested the
        wrong understanding? (We know that blind and maimed
        people can sin, so Jesus must mean something else. I
        think He means we should be willing to take radical
        steps to avoid sin.)

      3. What kind of radical steps, short of maiming
        yourself, can you suggest? (Consider what sort of
        “non-sin” things lead you into sin? Even though they
        are not sin, avoid them!)

    4. Read Matthew 5:31-32. Why do you think Jesus raises the
      topic of divorce right after he speaks of insults, anger,
      murder, lust and adultery? (They are all related. This is
      a different aspect of adultery – divorcing your wife on a

  4. Love

    1. Much of what we have discussed so far deals with having
      the right attitude toward others. Read Matthew 5:43-45.
      How many people are your personal enemy? How many people
      persecute you? (Unless you are in some special
      circumstance (like living in a religiously hostile
      country), or need to work on your emotional intelligence,
      the chances are that you can only name one or two people
      at most.)

      1. What sense does it make to love and pray for those
        who are your enemy? (Think of the great opportunity
        for personal growth! This is a rare opportunity that
        we do not have with most of the people we know.)

      2. Do you think this teaching has anything to do with
        anger, name-calling and lust? Does it have anything
        to do with natural law? (Yes! Who is most likely to
        do you harm – your enemy. If you work to resolve the
        problems with your enemy, you lower the chances that
        your enemy will harm you.)

    2. Friend, sin starts in the mind. Jesus teaches us that if
      we pay close attention to our thoughts and attitude, we
      can promote the law of love and avoid crossing the line
      into sin and the harm that results. Will you commit today
      to be careful about your thoughts?

  5. Next week: Christ and the Sabbath.