The ultimate standard

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Jesus upped the ante on moral righteousness. Instead of asking ‘what’ questions about sin, he asks ‘who’ questions. If God, our Father, is the touchstone of righteousness, how do we measure up as his children?

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Bible passage Matthew 5:33–48

 33"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' 34But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; 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 even one hair white or black. 37Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
An Eye for an Eye
 38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
 43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

Explore the Bible

Fragility of promises
Have you ever made a promise and then fiddled it a bit? Is every promise really binding? Or has a person you don’t really trust ever asked you for a loan? How do you respond? And when someone has hurt you more than once, do you ask yourself when enough is enough?

In this stage of the sermon Jesus calls us to new standards of morality.

Aiming for perfection
As in yesterday’s segment, Jesus set the common religious answers of the day – ‘You’ve heard…’ – over against his own answers. Follow his cluster of contrasts and notice the pattern. See how his rhythmic set of scenarios press us to apply new and higher standards.

Pay special attention to the final paragraph where Jesus reached his high water mark: we should live as the ‘children of your Father in heaven’ (v 45). And what’s the Father like? ‘Perfect.’ So, Jesus taught, always make the Father’s devotion to you the standard for your own decisions.


How does the Father view you? Especially after you’ve failed him? Jesus, who knows the Father’s love, assures us of his perfect devotion. And now as you care for others, share the same care he offers you.

Ron Frost

Deeper Bible study

‘Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates: “Is it true?” “Is it necessary?” “Is it kind?”’ (Source unknown)

In my culture, we often would say ‘No’ when we are offered a meal or a gift. This does not mean we do not want any food. We would say ‘Yes’ only after the host makes the offer for the second or third time. I quickly realised how this cultural practice would not work when I was studying in the US! If I were to say ‘No’ to friends who kindly offered me food, I should not expect the offer to be repeated. I should mean what I said.

The Pharisees had an interesting way to gauge how serious one was in keeping an oath, depending on the name or place one swore by. If someone did not have any intention of keeping what was promised, this person could swear ‘by the earth’. Unless one swore by God’s name, the oath would probably be meant to be broken. Jesus spoke against this hypocritical manner of deceiving others by challenging the prevailing practices. Although the Old Testament allowed for oaths, Jesus prohibited it here because the frequent use of oath in daily discourse had cheapened one’s word and commitment. He did not want people to be trustworthy only when they swore by God’s name.

Jesus reminds us that we must be truthful in our speech and action in our relations with others. We must mean what we say. In verses 38–48 he further expounded on the issues of not seeking revenge and loving our enemies. Christian righteousness should not be limited to our actions and by what we do not do to others. It should extend to our heart, mind and motives – and even penetrate those hidden and secret places within us. Let us be mindful of our speech. Let us be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect (v 48).

Kar Yong Lim

Beyond the law

These three commandments all have legal connections. Jesus takes them one step further.

Matthew 5:39 A blow to the right cheek would be given by the back of the hand, and was delivered as a personal insult. Ancient societies had laws providing recourse to people who were insulted in this way.

Matthew 5:40 The shirt, or chiton, was a garment worn under the coat, or himation. Poor people used the himation as a blanket at night, and for that reason there were laws against depriving a person of their cloak. 

Matthew 5:41 The word translated ‘forces’ is a Persian word, taken from military practice when a soldier could legally conscript a civilian to carry his baggage.

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Genesis 9–11   

Matthew 4        


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Speak O Lord
Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2001 Thankyou Music
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Lord reign in me
Brenton Brown
Copyright© 1998 Vineyard Records (UK/Eire)
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  • Rachael Hampton | Thursday, 04 January 2018

    The first note in Beyond the Law is an important reminder that Jesus is not requiring us to invite further violence in cases of domestic abuse, persecution or bullying. Rather that we not be moved by insults. To live and love as our Father does will surely make us stand out - for all the right reasons. Maybe WWJD (what would Jesus do?) is not so trite after all. May His Spirit empower us all to live as He would today, for we sure can’t do it on our own!

  • Rachael Hampton | Thursday, 04 January 2018

    Thank you for pointing u sto Martin Lloyd Jones. His writing on Denying Self and Fillowing Christ is on Very challenging. I can see I have lot s of work to do!

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Friday, 05 January 2018

    Simply put we are not to take matters into our own hands and defend ourselves. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord”. Striving to vindicate self actually shows a lack of faith in God keeping this promise and not seeing things in view of eternity. One of the best examples of this was David in 1 Sam 24 and 26. David had many opportunities to avenge himself against King Saul but refused to do it. He trusted God to avenge and promote him (Ps 75:6-7). As a result, all of God’s promises to David came to pass, and in his old age, God showed David mercy (2 Sam15-18) even as David had shown mercy to Saul. Even as Christ did not come to condemn the world (Jn 3:17) and was not holding people’s sins against them (2 Cor 5:19), even so, we have been given the same ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:19-20). For those who do not receive the love we extend to them but rather take advantage of us because of our “turning the other cheek” God will repay them. I like the MSG version of v 45 'respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God created selves.' Friends, it is the only way and my prayer for 2018 is for Holy Spirit to have more dominion over my life.

  • Anita Gautier | Friday, 05 January 2018

    Thanks Rachael for the Gracegems link. I've just read it now, very powerful sadly we don't see many George muller's around today. If we are truly seeking to live selfless lives the Lord will help and guide us.

  • Angela Munday | Friday, 05 January 2018

    Jesus has shown us, by the way He lived His earthly life, how God wants us to live too. This life is found deep inside and is natural when alongside God's Holy Spirit. It happens because it is to be desired and not forced on anyone. There can be no easy options when living within God's Kingdom as faith requires complete obedience and trust in God. Day by day, hand in hand, may we gratefully learn from God and the fellow travellers He provides to help us along the way.

  • Sue Hanson | Friday, 05 January 2018

    Away for a week at C M S Conference. I copy the readings in my diary but will not get comments either from Word Live staff or Family. Have a good week and may God bless you all in all you say and do.

  • Barbara Sabin | Friday, 05 January 2018

    Romans 12:18 (GNT) Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. The instruction to turn the other cheek meant that the other person would be unable to strike it as the law said the Jew could only use the back of the right hand, it is not physically possible to hit anyone on the left cheek with the back of the right hand, so the argument would be diffused. The Golden rule Matthew 7:12 which says, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

  • Hannah Watson | Friday, 05 January 2018

    Reading let your yes be yes and your no be no, made me think but what about the people that no longer trust me, how can I convince them today my word is the truth without swearing to it, I thought maybe if I say "honestly you must believe me" and then I realised that's just Satan helping me twist Jesus's words to suit my failings. So for now I live with the consequences of my failings and over time as God changes me daily through his Spirit, people will see him within me and know I speak the truth, they will see God has made my Yes, yes and my no, no. Thankyou Lord that this comment is you whispering to me during my quiet time and that you carry on teaching me to listen. As ever Mike's blog, so worth a read

  • Bruce Stronach | Saturday, 06 January 2018

    I have again inadvertently flagged someone's comment as inappropriate, something that happens when I am navigating in the touch screen. My apologies for the mistake, and please ignore this WL Team...

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