Matthew 5

The Word Made Fresh

1When Jesus saw that so many people were following him, he sat down on a hillside. 2He gathered his disciples around him, and began to teach.

3He said, “If your spirits are sagging, know that the kingdom of Heaven belongs to you, and you are blessed. 4Those who are grieving are blessed because they will be comforted. 5Those who are humble are blessed because the world will belong to them. 6Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed because they will be filled with good things. 7Those who are merciful to others are blessed because they will be shown mercy. 8Those who are pure in heart are blessed because they are able to see God in everything. 9Those who work for peace are blessed because they will be recognized as God’s own children. 10Those who are persecuted for being good are blessed because they are given citizenship in the kingdom of Heaven.

11“And you are blessed when people put you down and spread lies about you because you have listened to me. 12Rejoice! Be happy! Your reward in heaven will be outstanding! Remember that they persecuted the prophets before you were even born!”

13“You are the salt that seasons the whole world. Remember, though, that when salt loses its flavor it cannot be restored, and it is no longer of any use. All you can do is throw it out, and people will trample on it.

14“You are the light that brightens the world. A town on a hilltop cannot be hidden. 15And people don’t light a lamp and then cover it up. They put it on a pedestal so it will give light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine; people will see the good you do and give glory to your heavenly Father.

17“Don’t think for a moment that I have come to do away with the law or to replace the prophets. I have come to fulfill the law and the prophets, not abandon them. 18The truth is that as long as there is a heaven and an earth not a single letter of the law will be erased until everything is completed. 19So, whoever breaks even the least commandment, and tells others they can do the same, will be nobodies in the kingdom of Heaven. But those who follow the law of God and teach it to others will be the most renowned people in heaven. 20Listen, if you are no more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees you’ll never enter the kingdom of heaven.

21“You’ve heard that it was said in the old days, ‘You shall not kill,’ and ‘whoever kills another will be brought to justice.’ 22But I tell you that even if you bear anger toward another you will be brought to justice; and if you utter insults against another you might be brought before the council; and if you call someone a fool you will be in danger of hellfire.

23“So, if you are making a gift at the altar, and then remember that your neighbor has something against you, 24lay your gift down and go be reconciled to your neighbor. Then you can return and offer your gift. 25It is best to come to terms quickly with anyone who accuses you. Don’t wait until it gets to court, or you’ll find yourself on the way to jail, 26and you won’t get out until you’ve paid every penny due the one who brought charges against you.

27“You’ve heard it said, ‘you must not commit adultery.’ 28But I tell you this; if you even look at a woman with lust, you’ve already committed adultery with her in your heart. 29So, if your right eye leads you into sin, you should pluck it out and throw it away. Which is better – to lose an eye, or to go to hell? 30And if your right hand leads you into sin, chop it off and toss it out. It’s better to lose a hand than to lose your whole self in hell.

31“It also has been said that if you want to divorce your wife, all you have to do is give her a certificate of divorce. 32But I tell you that any man who divorces his wife for any reason other than adultery, causes her to engage in adultery. And any man who marries a divorced woman therefore commits adultery with her.

33“You have also heard it said, ‘Don’t swear you’ll do something with no intention of following through. Carry out every promise you have made to the LORD.’ 34Listen: I’m telling you not to swear at all. Don’t swear by heaven – that’s the throne of God. 35And don’t swear by the earth. The earth is God’s footstool. And don’t swear by Jerusalem; that’s the city of the great King. 36And don’t swear by your head; you can’t make a single hair black or white. 37Just let your word be a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Anything beyond that is inspired by the devil.

38“You’ve heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But this is what I say: don’t bother to resist one who is evil. If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn the other cheek. 40If anyone wants to drag you before a magistrate to take your coat, give him your overcoat as well. 41If anyone forces you to go a mile for them, go two miles. 42If anyone begs from you, give them something, and if anyone needs to borrow something from you, lend it.

43“I’m sure you’ve heard this advice, too: ‘Love your neighbor, but not your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies. Pray for those who treat you badly. 45That’s how you show that you are a child of your Father in heaven. God doesn’t treat people differently; the sun rises on good people and bad people. 46If you only love people who love you, what reward is that? Even tax collectors do that! 47If you welcome only your family members, how does that make you better than anyone else? Gentiles live like that! 48Be good, just as your heavenly Father is good.”


1-12: The Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7) has often been called the Christian Manifesto, and the Beatitudes the platform on which Jesus’ ministry is based: the entire focus is on the outcasts in this world — the poor, the bereft, the powerless, the seekers, the peacemakers, and the persecuted.

13-16: Jesus empowers the crowd by telling them that they are the world’s salt (which was used primarily as a preservative) and light. It is their responsibility not only to preserve that which is good and spiritually nourishing, but to hold it up in their own lives so that others can see it clearly displayed.

17-20: The law and the prophets are the resources for living a righteous life. Jesus makes it clear that he is not replacing them or setting them aside. The problem is that the leaders who are supposed to be living exemplary lives — the scribes and Pharisees — are failing in their leadership. He is calling the common people to take over the task of showing what righteousness looks like.

21-26: Jesus begins a series of contrasts between statements that reflect the letter of the law (“You have heard that it was said”) and true righteousness. The law is not to be used for the purpose of condemning others, but rather as a guide for living in right relationship with them. “The council” is a reference to the Sanhedrin, a religious court that oversaw legal matters. Conflicts between two people should be resolved peacefully, without being drawn out in litigation.

27-30: In the same way, instead of rushing to punish those guilty of adultery, examine the way you yourself look at others. Adultery, after all, begins with a lustful eye.

31-32: The importance of relationships requires being slow to dissolve the marriage covenant. Outside of adultery, what is there that can dissolve the sacred union of marriage? Today, perhaps, we might add physical and emotional abuse.

33-37: The practice of making sacred vows dates back to the time of Moses. Jesus is saying that, if you live the way you’re supposed to live, such vows are unnecessary.

38-42: Jesus tells the crowds to treat everyone as a friend regardless of how they treat you. Non-violence is a hallmark of his ministry and his message.

43-48: Loving the enemy is difficult, but reflects God’s own way of dealing with us; our basic needs are provided regardless of how good or bad we are. Loving friends and hating enemies is the way of the world; it is not the way of God’s people or of the followers of Jesus.


It’s not about me; it’s about us. The way we treat one another is the measure of our faithfulness.