Matthew 5:17-37 NRSVue
17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
21“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment, and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council, and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
27“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell., 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
31“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I say to you: Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
“Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.”
Some thoughts on this scripture
These sayings of Jesus, part of the great Sermon on the Mount, are among those which would eventually lead to his crucifixion. He is recalling the teaching of Moses, the great Law-giver, with the expression, “You have heard it was said of old….” But He now adds, “But I say to you…”
The implication here is that He is a more authoritative person than Moses. The influential leaders who were unsympathetic to the person of Jesus met his saving message with hostility. They were resistant to his preaching of a kingdom which demanded a higher standard of human conduct than that called for by Moses. Jesus is proclaiming a new era.
God, however, never commands what He does not empower us to do. Help is offered to us through grace, strengthening us to carry out what He asks of us. This empowerment is something to be asked for. “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you”. An old Irish saying here is appropriate: “The help of God is closer than the door”.