God met with Moses Mount Sinai to give him the 10 Commandments for us to follow. When was the last time you read the 10 Commandments for yourself? Can you recite all 10? It is interesting to note that the first three commandments pertain to loving God. The last seven commandments pertain to loving others. Jesus summed up all of the commandments very succinctly when He was asked,
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and withall your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40
Simply put, God wants us to live our lives loving Him and loving each other. No matter how hard we try, we all fall short of living this out. It is impossible for anyone to follow the Ten Commandments perfectly for an entire lifetime. No one except Jesus has ever done it. He lived His life showing us how.
When Jesus walked on the earth, one of His most beautiful teachings was the Sermon on the Mount. During this important interlude, Jesus explained more comprehensively how God wants us to follow Him, not only in our actions, but also in our thoughts and deeds. He wants us to do it with His same heart, not in a way that pleases man, but in a way that pleases God. Let’s look at some excerpts from the Sermon on the Mount that are rich in meaning. The teachings are right out of the mouth of Jesus. As you read through the passages, reflect on how God is personally speaking to you about your own life.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment…Anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell…You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart…Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one…You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons 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. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect…Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you…Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money…Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own….Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ~ Matthew 21-22, 27-28, 33-34, 37, 43-48; 6:1-4, 19-21, 24, 27, 31-34; 7:1-5
The Sermon on the Mount explicitly shows that our thoughts condemn us, not just our actions. As an example, He explains that the Law said “thou shall not kill,” but Jesus goes on to say that even thinking angry thoughts is sinning. He also states that when we give, we should do it privately so that no one sees us doing it. In other words, even if our actions are good, our motives may not be God-honoring. The essence of the entire Sermon is that we should live our lives focused on the Kingdom of God. God is calling us into relationship with Him.
Those closest to us, like our spouse, are often the most challenging to love the way God calls unto love. We love them the most, yet they can aggravate us the easiest. As you read through the Sermon on the Mount, which of Jesus’s statements are most challenging to you? Why?