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May 25, 2007 / Daniel

A Better Righteousness

In the previous section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples that they were to fulfill Israel’s vocation of being “salt and light” to the world.  What’s more is that kingdom people ae expected to do a better job of that than the Pharisees and the teachers of the law did with that.   The Pharisees had failed at leading Israel to be salt and light (i.e. the people of God’s covenant with Abraham).  

Why was that?  I think it was because they became so caught up the letter of the Torah that they forgot the spirit of the Torah (Matt. 23).  Circumcised hearts are more important to God than circumcised genitals.  We can see this in each of these examples of the “better righteousness” given in the Sermon on the Mount.  God wants us to focus on the spirit of the law and not just the letter of the law.  Take the first example.   

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. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

If we want to enter God’s future kingdom, we must deal with the hatred in our hearts.  It’s not enough that you haven’t murdered anyone.  If you use words of hatred like “raca” or “fool,” your thoughts and attitudes are already murderous.  And that shows that you’re not serving the King of God’s future kingdom. 

Again the point isn’t to just avoid those two words, “raca” and “fool,” now.  You could not use those particular words and still hate people.  The point is to let the King deal with the hatred in your heart. 


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