We’re breaking away from our one-chapter-per-day format for a couple of days as we begin The Sermon on the Mount, the most famous sermon of Jesus’s public ministry. Yesterday we focused on the very beginning of the sermon, known as the Beatitudes. Today, we’ll read about our role in the world as Jesus begins to lay out for us what a biblical worldview looks like.
Read Matthew 5: 13-48
Salt and Light
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
The Fulfillment of the Law
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
Eye for Eye
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus continues in his Sermon on the Mount by telling his disciples that they are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world”. Salt had two main purposes in those days, which was to preserve and to enhance the flavors of food. Therefore, we can understand the intent to mean that we are to preserve the earth, as in to slow down the decay and corruption that sin produces. Also, we can add flavor to the earth by impacting and positively affecting the world. Jesus then goes on to say that if salt does not perform the functions that it is made for, then it is good for nothing. Similarly, if believers do not do what we are made for, then we are wasting our time here on earth.
As light is unmistakable in darkness, so must a believer be vastly different from the darkened world around us. People who do not know Jesus should want to know him because of the way that Christians live their lives: full of abounding joy and unexplainable peace. Notice that the motivation to let our light shine before others is not so that we would get the glory, but that our good works would glorify God in Heaven. The goal of our life should be to make more of Him and less of ourselves (John 3:30).
How are we to live as salt and light and be distinct from the world? Jesus starts to tell us in the next few paragraphs. It is interesting to note that the initial sins mentioned (murder, adultery, retaliation, etc.) are all outward sins, as in it is evident when people have committed those. However, Jesus takes it one step further. Not only should we not murder, but let’s take it all the way to the initial sin and not even be angry. Not only should we not commit adultery, but let’s not even look at someone else with lust. Jesus is more interested in our hearts, not our religious good deeds.
Jesus did not die so that we could continue to sin. He died so that we could be free and live. Let’s not waste this day that the Lord has given us, but let’s root out sin in our hearts and positively impact the world.
- What sorts of things are keeping you from fulfilling your role as salt and light in the world?
- What was the most surprising thing that Jesus said in these verses and how does that reveal more about His character?
- Is there anything the Lord has stirred in your heart as you read in which you need to confess and repent?
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