Last year my mom and I started a virtual Bible study together. Since we’re both busy and don’t always have overlapping time to actually meet, we decided we’d both read the same passage and then email each other our notes. Although it isn’t the same as an in-person Bible study, it was interesting to see what each of us took from the various passages and the perspectives we shared with each other!
The Sermon on the Mount
One of the passages we looked at was Matthew 5:1-26, the Sermon on the Mount. As I read through this, I realized that Jesus was emphasizing three important themes:
- Our dependence on God.
- Thinking of, loving, and sacrificing for others.
- Genuine authenticity.
Action Items from Jesus
I’m a list maker, so I thought it would be helpful to write down the action items I saw. It’s a very hard list to successfully follow, but it’s important to slow down and dwell on each item, considering how it relates to your life.
Verse 3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Recognize your dependence on God.
As my mom pointed out, “Often those who don’t have as much recognize their dependence upon God for everything. People who have a lot may feel like they can handle things themselves without God. They may become more distracted because their focus is on what they have (and need to use and maintain) and often how to acquire more.”
Jesus said this in Matthew 19:24, too: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
The more we have, the easier it is to place our trust in our stuff or achievements rather than on God.
Verse 4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Don’t bottle up your grief. Experience it. Mourning is painful, but it’s the result of genuine love.
And mourning doesn’t only apply to someone you love passing away. We mourn the loss of relationships, too. If you turn to God for comfort, He’ll draw you closer and deepen your relationship with Him.
Verse 5: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
It’s important to look at the definition of meek here. It may rhyme with weak, but it has a very different meaning. The Blue Letter Bible explains:
Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting. In the OT, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend against injustice. Thus, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time (Isa 41:17, Luk 18:1-8). Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will (Gal 5:23).
So Jesus isn’t saying we should let people walk all over us. He’s saying that we rely on His strength and trust in His plan, rather than focusing on ourselves.
Verse 6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Seek justice. There will always be injustice in the world, but we should still do what we can to make things right.
Verse 7: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
Show others mercy. Extend grace towards each other.
Verse 8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Guard your heart and keep it pure. I also think there’s an element of genuineness here. When you’re pure of heart, you have authenticity and integrity, too.
Verse 9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Strive for peace with one another. There’s value in restored relationships with each other. If that means you need to humbly extend an olive branch to repair a relationship, do it.
Verse 10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Do what’s right, no matter the earthly cost.
Verses 11-12: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
This is a good reminder that our joy, purpose, and hope come from God–not the world or our circumstances.
In verses 17–20, Jesus explains he didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
So we’re still supposed to obey God’s laws and teach them.
It’s important to note that Jesus immediately follows the instruction to obey the laws with a warning about placing your dependence on them. We need to put our trust in God, not in the law. While the various laws can give us good guidance about how to live our lives, in the end they won’t save you.
In verses 21-22, Jesus explains that words carry just as much weight as our actions.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
I feel like our culture has drastically devalued the importance of words. In childhood, we heard phrases like, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” And now we don’t just have verbal words attacking us, but internet trolls come after us, anonymously attacking with no consequences.
But words are one of the most valuable things. Words break down or build up. They can completely change our attitude, which directly affects our behavior.
With my kids, I often ask them, “Are your words helpful or hurtful?” It may sound simplistic, but it’s something all of us should be thinking about before we start talking: how am I using my words to affect those around me?
We Can’t Do It Alone
In this sermon, Jesus makes it clear that our words and actions matter. He knows we’re not perfect and we’ll mess up, but our mistakes aren’t the end of the story. God uses this direction to show us we need his help.
Does anything specific from this passage stand out to you? If you were to pick one verse to really focus on, which would you choose?