Day 18 – To obey rules is not enough

Bible reading: Matthew 5:21–32

Jesus teaches about angry people

21 Jesus went on to say, ‘You know the rule that God gave to your ancestors: “You must not kill anyone. Any person who does kill someone will stand in front of a judge. The judge will punish him because he has done a wrong thing.” 22 But what I now say to you is this: Anybody who is angry with his brother will have to stand in front of a judge. Or someone might call his brother by a bad name. Then he will have to stand in front of the Jewish leaders. They will judge him. But someone may say to his brother, “You are a fool.” God will judge that person. God may punish him in the fires of hell.

5:22At the time when Jesus said this, there were 71 important rulers in Jerusalem. And they met together to judge a bad person. The leader of the priests was their leader. These men had great power. God is the most powerful judge. Only he can send a person to hell.
5:22When Jesus used the word brother, he was also talking about any close friend.

23 Maybe you go to God's Great House to give your gift to God. You take it to the altar. But then you remember that your brother is angry with you. 24 You must leave your gift there in front of God's altar. First you must go and find your brother. Tell him that you are sorry. Then you can both become friends with each other again. After that, you can return to the altar and give your gift to God.

25 Also, somebody may say that you have done something wrong against him. He may take you to stand in front of the judge. You should quickly try to agree with this person. Decide with him how to make things right again. Do this even while you are going with him to the judge. If you do not do that, the judge may agree that you have done a wrong thing. Then he will give you to his officer. His officer will put you in prison. 26 It is true. You will remain in prison until you have paid all the money, even the last small coin.’

5:26A judge listens to what people say against each other. He then decides who is right or wrong. Jesus is telling the people that everyone has done wrong things to God. They do not obey him in the way that they should. Jesus says that we should believe in him now. If we do not, then God will judge us. And he will punish us when we stand in front of him.

Jesus teaches people about not doing wrong things

27 Jesus went on to say, ‘You know what God's rule says: “You must not have sex with anyone who is not your husband or your wife.” 28 But what I tell you is this. A man may look at a woman who is not his wife. And he may want to have sex with her. I tell you that this man has also done a wrong thing. It is the same as if he has really had sex with her in his thoughts. 29 If your right eye leads you to do wrong things, then you should take it out. You should throw it away. Yes, you will lose one eye. But it will be much worse if you keep your whole body and God throws you into hell. 30 Also, if your right hand leads you to do wrong things, then you should cut it off. You should throw it away. You will lose one hand. But it will be much worse if you keep your body in one piece and go to hell.’

5:30Jesus does not want his disciples to cut their bodies. It is very important for them not to do wrong things. And Jesus is telling them this.

Jesus talks about when a man sends his wife away

31 ‘God's Law also says: “Any man who wants to become separate from his wife must give her a letter. This letter shows that they are not married any more.” 32 But what I tell you is this. If a man's wife has had sex with another man, he may send her away. But if he sends her away for any other reason, he has done a wrong thing. It is like he is making her have sex with another man. Also, if a woman has left her husband, another man must not marry her. That is the same as if he had sex with another man's wife.’

Matthew 5:21-32 EasyEnglish Bible (EASY)

Reflection

Religion based on keeping rules is dead religion. The religious Jews had 613 rules that they tried to obey in order to be pleasing to God! Of course, they failed every day. So Jesus chooses just three obvious commands from God in the Old Testament. Three very serious ones. Murder is forbidden. Adultery is forbidden. Divorce is forbidden.

There would have been plenty of his hearers who were proud that they had done none of these things. But Jesus considers the detail: just keeping rules is not enough. He explains the true meaning of God’s commands.

What about the bitter hatred which is often the reason for murder? What about the variety of sexual and lustful thoughts which people allow themselves, though they have never actually committed adultery? What about the merciless divorce from a wife for the smallest reason, which was common in those days?

You see, God looks not on the outer appearance but on our hearts. We may appear very respectable to others, but our hearts and minds are often like a place for garbage. And it is this internal corruption that Jesus came to deal with. That’s why we call him Saviour.