In Matthew 5:17–48, Jesus is doing something really similar, only instead of budgeting for life after high school, he is budgeting for life after death. Jesus is speaking to a primarily Jewish audience who expected that they would be able to get into the kingdom of heaven by keeping the Old Testament law. So Jesus walks through just six of the laws to show that the law is harder to keep than we think and the penalty for breaking the law is more severe than we think.
The Law is Hard to Keep
In each of Jesus' six examples He quotes an Old Testament law and then shows that keeping that law requires us not only to do what the law says, but to keep the heart behind the law. As an example, Jesus starts with the sixth of the Ten Commandments, "do not murder." He explains that the law requires not only that we don't murder in the traditional sense of the term, but also that we don't have murderous or hateful thoughts towards someone. Murderous thoughts include anything that belittles or dehumanizes someone. It includes things like calling people idiots.
Of course, Jesus is calling us to be the kind of people who only think loving thoughts and never act hatefully or spitefully toward anyone. But, in this context, it seems clear that Jesus is also quite aware that none of us will ever live up to that standard. This is why he says that our righteousness has to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. These were the best law keepers of the day and Jesus was saying, think of the best person you know, if you want to get into heaven, you have to be even better than them.
How good do we have to be to get into heaven? Jesus concludes in verse 48, we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. If we want to get into heaven we have to keep the law perfectly. That is a standard that none of can keep. It is a budget that we are doomed fail.
The Penalty of the Law is Severe
As a young monk, Martin Luther famously spent vast amount of time, sometimes up to six hours at a time, in confession. At one point, his abbot, Johann Staupitz, grew weary of Luther's extreme efforts of confession and said to Luther, "Next time you come to me with something to confess, let it be patricide, adultery, or blasphemy, but not the little peccadilloes"(minor sins).
But Jesus message in this passage is that even our peccadilloes, our "little sins," will keep us out of the kingdom of heaven. Anyone who says "You Moron!" will be subject to hellfire. That is intense. When we are cut off in traffic, a little name calling is enough to keep us out of the kingdom. It is enough to earn our death penalty and to consign us to hellfire.
The point of Jesus' budget is getting clear. If we hope to get to heaven by keeping the law, we must recognize the impossible nature of this endeavor and we must recognize the enormous consequence of our failure.
The One Who Does Fulfill the Law
Is there any hope? If we can't keep the law, do we have any chance of getting into the kingdom of heaven. We do have hope, but it isn't in our ability to keep the law, it must be in the only one who has ever been able to say, I have come to fulfill the law. Only one man in history can actually say, "I have been perfect, just as my heavenly father is perfect." That man is Jesus Christ.
Bill Cosby worked through Theo's budget to convince him to go to college and find a better source of income. I believe that Jesus worked through his budget on the law in order to convince us to find a better source of righteousness. He is convincing us that we can't keep the law well enough to get into heaven, but we can hitch our wagons to someone who can.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He came for people who have broken the law so bad they realize they have no hope. Part of His rescue mission included Jesus perfect life. He came to earth and perfectly kept God's righteous standards, proving Himself to be perfectly righteous. The second part of His mission was to die in our place, so that he could pay our death penalty and transfer his righteousness to our accounts. Jesus message in this passage is to convince us that we need to trust him, and rely on Him and His rescue mission.
Main Idea of the Text: Because we cannot sufficiently keep the law to earn the kingdom of heaven, we must rely on another person who can fulfill the law of God on our behalf.
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