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12/2/17 3 Before Lent Year A Matthew 5:21-37.

 21.1 ‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.” 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement. 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 fulfil to the Lord the oaths 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.

In George Orwell's book "1984" there is a fictional language called "Newspeak." This included "Crimethink" which, as a noun, describes the incorrect thoughts. It also serves as a verb, it describes the action of thinking wrong thoughts.

I don't know if Orwell took his ideas from Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus warned against crimethink even if it didn't lead to a crime. Not because he is dictatorial & oppressive, but because he wants the best for everyone.

The background to this is that the Pharisees and teachers of the law were, generally, legalistic and self-righteous. They lived their lives according to a set of laws which they used to justify themselves and condemn others. Although they lived a religious life many of them weren't very nice underneath it all. After all, they broke the sixth commandment & murdered Jesus.

Earlier, in verse 17, Jesus said he had not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfil them. He fulfilled all of the moral and sacrificial demands of the Old Testament in his life, death and resurrection. Here he points to a true understanding of the Old Testament, which is not about going through the outwards actions of proudly not breaking the law, but one which is grounded in humility, love for God and love for people.

The foundation for the believer's standing with God and the conduct that flows from this is found at the start of the Chapter in what we know as the beatitudes, meaning blessed.

 3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn,     for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek,     for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

    for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful,     for they will be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart,     for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers,     for they will be called children of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Christians are, by Jesus definition, poor in spirit, mourning their spiritual poverty, meek, hungry & thirsting for righteousness, merciful, & peacemakers. It goes against these things not just to abstain from murder, adultery & lies, but also not to even start to think these things.

As Jesus illustrates with adultery & lust, imagination can lead to all types of sin. So, what feeds the imagination is of importance to the believer. The idea of cutting off or gouging out the cause of the sin is not meant to be taken literally. However, this led to the third century theologian Origen unnecessarily castrating himself so he could tutor women. A lesson about the importance of getting your theology right!

This teaching does, however, illustrate the radical way in which we are to deal with anything that leads us from God’s ways. So, if we see something that may tempt us, rather than poke out our eyes we should look elsewhere, or switch off the TV!

How are we to deal with temptation, even if it is to be angry rather than murder, to lust rather than commit adultery.

Firstly, to recognise that all of these are wrong through Jesus' teaching and the Bible. When Jesus was tempted in the desert he confronted each temptation with the words "it is written".

We should also consciously reject the temptation and, perhaps, take radical action, though this should not lead to blindness, amputation, or castration!

Instead of bad things, believers are called to do good things, as we discovered last week verse 16. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Yes, but how can we do this? The law shows us that we cannot be good enough for God in our own strength. We need to give ourselves to God and humbly ask for His help to renew and empower us to live for Him and others.

 Paul wrote about this to the Roman Christians 12.1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

We are to offer ourselves completely to God because of His mercy to us. Our minds are to be renewed by His Holy Spirit working within us.