Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on Matthew 5:33-6:21

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Greater Righteousness and Speech - Matthew 5:33-37

Words are powerful. It is through speaking that God created the world and our speech matters too. Often in the name of religion people make righteous-sounding commitments. Jesus taught that making promises or vows outwardly but then failing to consistently do them is less than the righteousness that God requires. See WLC 99; HC 102.

Greater Righteousness and Retaliation - Matthew 5:38-42

The fifth example of greater righteousness addresses the human tendency toward revenge. Jesus is calling his disciples to a higher way of being in relationship to others. Rather than paying people back with evil, Christians should retaliate with abundant kindness.

Greater Righteousness and Love - Matthew 5:43-48

The sixth and final example of greater righteousness is the highest and most comprehensive one: the call to love. This addresses the same topic of the first example (Matt. 5:21-26) but here stated positively. The call to love corresponds with what Jesus says is the greatest commandment (to love God) and stemming from that, to love others (Matt. 22:34-40). This greater righteousness is rooted in God's own nature. God loves even his own enemies and so his children must do the same.

You must be perfect – Matthew 5:48

All of God's commandments and teachings are rooted in his nature. The call to godliness means the call to think, feel, and act the same way God does. This section of the Sermon (Matt. 5:17-48) is summed up with the command to be "perfect" like God is. This word can be easily misunderstood. It does not mean Christians must be flawless or sinless (an impossible task as fallen creatures) but consistent, wholehearted, devoted, singular in direction. The opposite of being "perfect" is being double-minded (Jam. 1:2-8). God is consistent and singular and so too should his children be. See WLC 7.

Whole-Hearted Righteousness and Piety - Matthew 6:1-21

Jesus applies the theme of greater righteousness (Matt. 5:20) to three areas of life: ethics (Matt. 5:21-48), piety (Matt. 6:1-21), and relationship to the world (Matt. 6:19–7:12). Within the topic of piety Jesus teaches his disciples about whole-hearted righteousness with three practical examples: almsgiving, praying, and fasting. In each case Jesus motivates his audience through the promise of great reward with the heavenly Father (Matt. 6:1).

Reward - Matthew 6:1

reward. Jesus often speaks about God rewarding people for their faithfulness. This is an especially frequent theme in Matthew, where the language of reward/recompense (Matt. 5:12, 46; 6:1,2,5,16; 10:41-42; 16:27; 20:8) and treasure (Matt. 6:19-21; 12:35; 13:44, 52; 19:21) occur regularly. Disciples do not earn favor with God by merely doing righteous things, but God does honor and bless his people for their faithful and obedient response to Jesus. See also the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30)

Left hand, right hand – Matthew 6:3

Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Here, Jesus is teaching about giving to help those in need (almsgiving) and doing it secretly. He does not mean that all service must be anonymous (see Matt. 5:16). Rather, he is challenging the motive for righteousness. If good is done to get praise from others rather than out of love, then God is not pleased.

Hypocrites – Matthew 6:5

Hypocrites. In Matthew Jesus frequently criticizes the hypocrites (Matt. 6:2,5,16; 7:5; 15:7; 22:18; 23:13,15,23,25,27,29; 24:51). Hypocrites in Matthew are people who do good and righteous deeds but who lack wholeness and a heart dedicated to God. One example of that is people performing acts of piety to receive praise from people rather than honor from God (Matt. 6:1).

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