Introduction: We have a saying in the United States about “Bumper
Sticker” responses, referring to slogans a person might put on the
bumper of a car. You ask someone a question, and they give you a
“bumper sticker” answer. “The least of these” is like a bumper
sticker. What does it mean? God loves every person, so how can we
label someone a “least?” Jesus tells us that the “least” of us “is
the greatest” ( Luke 9:48). At the same time, Jesus twice refers to
the importance of helping “the least of these” ( Matthew 25:40 & 45).
We need to drill down and understand God’s will, so let’s dive into
our study of the Bible!

  1. Understanding Jesus’ Sermon

    1. Read Matthew 5:3. What does it mean to be “poor” when it
      comes to our spirit? Is that a “least?”

    2. Read Romans 8:13-14. Shouldn’t we have a “strong” Spirit?
      (The comparison is between our own “spirit” and the “Holy
      Spirit.” If we are proud and satisfied with our own
      inclinations, then we are in trouble. But, if we submit
      our “poor” spirit to the Holy Spirit, then we are
      inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven.)

    3. Read Matthew 5:4. Is it a goal to mourn? (Read Romans
      15:13. No, the goal is joy.)

      1. If our goal is joy, what does Jesus mean? (Jesus
        teaches that if we mourn, He will provide comfort. I
        don’t think mourning is a goal.)

    4. Read Matthew 5:5. What is your definition of “meek?” Is a
      meek person a “least?”

      1. Read John 18:22-23. Does this fit your definition of

      2. Read Acts 16:36-37. Does this fit your definition of
        meek? (Accepting an unjust result is not what Jesus
        meant, if Jesus and Paul are acting consistently with
        Jesus’ teaching. I think kindness is the best
        understanding of this, and not a selfish, superior

    5. Read Matthew 5:6. When you think of being hungry and
      thirsty, how anxious are you to fix those problems?

      1. Do you have the same level of hunger for knowing
        God’s will?

      2. What will happen if we have a strong desire to know
        God? (Our desires will be “filled.”)

    6. We are not going to go over all of Jesus’ sermon, but we
      started it because some argue that Jesus is talking about
      “poverty in ourselves and in our world?” Is Jesus
      promoting or recommending “poverty?” (No. Plenty of poor
      people are strong-willed and convinced that they are
      morally superior to those that are rich. This is one
      reason why some argue that government should take money
      from the rich and give it to the poor. At the same time,
      there are plenty of rich people who think that they are
      better than others because they are rich. Jesus commends
      those who rely on Him, those who trust Him, and those
      whose self-worth comes from Him.)

    7. Read Matthew 5:38-42. Re-read John 18:22-23. I’m going to
      assume that Matthew 5:39 and John 18:23 are not in
      conflict. How would you resolve the apparent conflict?

      1. To further complicate matters, read Luke 22:36-38 and
        Acts 23:1-4. Why would Jesus suggest the purchase of
        a sword to those who are supposed to turn the other

    8. Re-read Matthew 5:38. When Jesus says, “you have heard
      that it was said,” that sounds like some sort of fable. Is
      this just an unsubstantiated saying? (Read Exodus 21:24,
      Deuteronomy 19:21 and Leviticus 24:20. This is the Old
      Testament law given by God.)

    9. Now let’s read the context in Deuteronomy. Read
      Deuteronomy 19:18-21. What is the motive for this kind of
      punishment? (This is God’s way to eliminate evil. People
      will fear to do evil.)

    10. Once again, how would you understand what JesusWould our
      God of the Old Testament contradict our God of the New
      Testament? (I think Jesus is teaching that we need not
      insist on our rights. We may insist – just as Jesus and
      Paul insisted on their rights. We need to show wisdom and
      humility to decide when to assert our rights.)

      1. Is there a distinction between the government
        confronting evil and personal revenge? (The judicial
        goal in Deuteronomy was government confronting evil.
        However, when Jesus and Paul stood up for their
        rights they did it against government agents.)

      2. Is there a difference between calling the police and
        having them enforce the law, and you shooting an
        intruder in your house who is trying to harm you? (I
        don’t think that is the appropriate distinction.
        Matthew 5:39 says “do not resist an evil person.”
        But, the “evil” sounds minor – a slap, your shirt and
        coat, or walking an additional mile. This is one way
        to reconcile the apparent contradiction. When we are
        talking about important principles, then we can
        resist. When we are talking about minor
        inconveniences, we are better off not trying to
        enforce our rights.)

  2. Paul’s Sermon

    1. Read Romans 12:9. What does Paul say our attitude towards
      evil should be? (We should hate it.)

    2. Read Romans 12:13. How does Paul limit helping the needy?
      (He refers to the “Lord’s people.”)

      1. Compare Matthew 25:35. Is a “stranger” part of the
        “Lord’s people?”

    3. Read Romans 12:14-16. What light does this shed on Jesus’
      teaching about not resisting an evil person?

    4. Read Romans 12:17. We spoke about personal revenge. What
      does this teach us? (We are not to be doing evil to
      anyone. If we repay evil for evil, the world may only see
      the evil we are doing!)

      1. Let’s skip ahead and read Romans 12:19. What will
        give us comfort when we are harmed by evil people?
        (God promises that He will repay.)

    5. Read Romans 12:18. What are the two most important points
      in this text? (First, God wants us to l in peace. That is
      the goal. If it takes suffering a bit to do it, that is
      what God desires. Second, this acknowledges that peace
      may not be possible.)

    6. Read Romans 12:20-21. This whole area requires wisdom
      inspired by the Holy Spirit. I know I don’t always display
      this wisdom, but you decide. My job is to sue “bad guys”
      to make them respect the religious and political
      conscience of my clients. I use the courts to resist evil
      done to others. But, in this litigation, I am friendly
      and attempt to be kind to my opposing counsel. Is this
      consistent or inconsistent with the words of Jesus and

  3. Life Application

    1. Let’s read part of two stories. Luke 16:19-23 and Matthew
      25:33-36 and Matthew 25:41-43. What is the obvious
      conclusion to be reached from these two stories? (The rich
      are bad and the poor are good. If you help those in need
      you go to heaven.)

      1. Is the Bible otherwise consistent with this
        conclusion? Your status in life or your works
        determine your salvation?

      2. Read Romans 8:1-4. How does this say we are saved?

      3. Read Job 1:1-3. What does this say about Job’s
        standing with God, even though he was extremely rich?

    2. Let’s examine the rest of our original stories. Read Luke
      16:24 and Luke 16:27-29. This teaches us that the lost
      are in constant torment from fire, and they see and speak
      to people in heaven. Plus, the dead can visit us. Are
      these all Bible-based truths? (Those are disputed, just
      like the status of being rich means you are lost.)

    3. Read Luke 16:30-31. Who is the person who will rise from
      the dead? (Jesus! These “facts” are fabricated to fit the
      conclusion that the extraordinary rise of Jesus from the
      grave will not convince those who refuse to follow the
      existing instructions from God.)

      1. Are the facts intended to teach us Biblical
        principles? (No, especially when they contradict
        other Bible texts. The facts simply set up the
        conclusion that some will resist the most persuasive
        proof about Jesus.)

    4. Read Matthew 25:37-40. How do you understand Jesus’
      statements if we are not saved by our works? (The
      reasonable conclusion is that a faith relationship with
      Jesus causes us to help those in need. It changes our

      1. There are many who want to keep religion out of
        government, but inconsistently think the government
        has a moral obligation to take money from some
        citizens and give it to others so they will be more
        equal. What do these verses teach us about that?
        (Jesus commends us for what we personally do, not
        what we force others to do.)

    5. Friend, we are saved by grace alone, not by our works.
      But, a converted heart is a heart that loves and cares for
      others. Will you ask the Holy Spirit to continue to soften
      your heart and sharpen your mind?

  4. Next week: Ministry in the New Testament Church.