There's an ongoing debate at our house about what constitutes a clean bedroom. Does the bed have to be neatly made, or does tossing the comforter over a pile of blankets count? Must clothes be put in drawers, or just stacked up on the dresser? Can stuff simply be out of sight (even if that means shoved under the bed or in the closet)? As you might imagine, what mom thinks and what the kids think don't agree. And isn't it convenient that following the spirit of the law makes it a whole lot easier on the kids?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expands the meaning of the commandments—teaching that we are to follow the spirit of the law, not simply the black-and-white interpretation. But instead of making it easier, Jesus is actually casting a wider net. Following Jesus means being held to a higher standard. What matters most, he says, is that in all ways you do whatever you can to live righteously, and hopefully in the process, you will protect the well-being of others.
When the going gets difficult and I am tempted to take the easy road, Lord, walk with me. Call me to a deeper faithfulness and give me the strength to listen and follow you. Amen.
Matthew 5:21-37 (NRSV)
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.'
22 But 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.
23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,
24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
25 Come 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.
26 Truly 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.'
28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
29 If 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.
30 And 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.'
32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, 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.'