Continuing in chapter five of Matthew we see Jesus setting a difficult standard for us as believers. We know that on the outside the Scribes and Pharisees looked perfect, but Jesus explains that we must exceed their righteousness. He responds and boldly corrects their teachings speaking of an internal righteousness as opposed to only the external. In this, He is not referring to the Old Testament or the law but is directly speaking of what was being incorrectly taught by the religious leaders. The problem was not what they said but what they failed to mention by watering down the word of God to the letter of the law as opposed to the spirit of the law. God has always been more concerned with the condition of our hearts and the internal righteousness that exceeds that of our outward action. As Christians we sometimes can get caught up in legalism or religion rather than living a life flowing from our love and desire to be like Jesus. This is what always happens when we make works the standard of our righteousness. God wants our hearts first. He wants us to love Him and love our neighbor. His blood not only reconciled us to the Father, but to each other as well. Everything we do must be motivated by love for God rather than obligation.
1. What is the standard God has set for us as believers?
- What is the difference between works based theology and true religion?
2. Why does God care about the heart over action?
- In what ways do you tend to be legalistic?
- What are the motivations of your heart?
3. How do we truly show that we love God and each other?
In these scriptures Jesus speaks directly to one of the most volatile emotions we can experience, which is anger. Jesus is saying that whoever has anger in their heart is liable for murder. It is important to understand that this is an unrighteous sinful anger, and that suppressed anger ultimately becomes bitterness. We all have experienced this at one time or another and are guilty of breaking Gods commandments 1 John 3:15. However not all anger is sinful Ephesians 4:25-26. No emotion is intrinsically wrong, but becomes so when tainted with sin. Righteous anger reacts to something that violates Gods law, and is not a personal preference. If we cannot be angry and hate what is wrong how can we love righteousness. The motivations behind righteous anger are about God and are expressed in Godly ways. Whether righteous or unrighteous the big idea here is that when any type of anger surfaces, we must deal with it quickly. We have to be slow to anger but quick to reconcile James 1:19. Most if not all the anger we will experience in our lives is unrighteous and so we are all guilty of murder. Romans 8:1-4 God’s law shows us what needs to be changed in our lives and ultimately shows us that we cannot accomplish this change on our own. It is there to reveal the fact that we all need Jesus to change our hearts. The good news is that when we give our life to Jesus He gives us His righteousness in exchange.
1. What is the difference between righteous and unrighteous anger?
- When have you experienced righteous anger?
2. When was the last time you were extremely angry?
- How did you deal with the situation?
- How should you have dealt with the situation?
3. Who in your life do you need to reconcile with?
- What bitterness do you have to deal with in your life?