The Word Comments on the Commentary
Verses 21 through 26
"You have heard that our fathers were told,
'Do not murder,' and that anyone who commits murder will be subject to
judgment. But I tell you that anyone who nurses anger against his
brother will be subject to judgment; that whoever calls his brother,
"You good-for-nothing!' will be brought before the Sanhedrin; that
whoever says, 'Fool!' incurs the penalty of burning in the fire of
Gei-Hinnom! So if you are offering your gift at the Temple altar and you
remember there that your brother has something against you, leave your
gift where it is by the altar, and go, make peace with your brother.
Then come back and offer your gift. If someone sues you, come to terms
with him quickly, while you and he are on the way to court; or he may
hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer of the court,
and you may be thrown in jail! Yes indeed! I tell you, you will
certainly not get out until you have paid the last penny."
I have heard many people teach that Jesus "raises the bar" with these
words. Somehow, the Law (or all of the Word given to this point) was NOT
sufficient for the purpose it was given. Now (according to these people)
Jesus fills in the gaps and says that PERFECTION is the new standard.
I think your viewpoint here would depend on whether you think things
started perfect and have been declining ever since, or, whether you have
fallen for the evolutionary idea that things are getting better all the
time. It seems obvious, and I don't want to belabor the point, that
things started out perfect and have been steadily going down the drain.
And the only thing that keeps us from going completely is that God,
blessed be He, injects His Word at just the right time to keep us and
preserve us, and in His Grace keeps us going around one, more, time.
As time goes on we get more and more ignorant of Actual Right (the
ways of God) and Wrong, and we need more and more direct intervention
with the Word of God to get us back on track. Information that used to
be "KNOWN" now has to be taught because we have become dumber. Abraham,
for instance, is said to have obeyed the instructions of God (Torah)
long before they were written down at Mt. Sinai (Genesis 26:5). "What is
right in our own eyes" becomes the standard, and what is right in His is
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but both internal and
external PERFECTION HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE STANDARD. God never ever gave us
anything that wasn't perfect. The big problem here is that the
interpretation (made by men) was off base, not the Word. By the way, I
challenge anybody, anywhere, to show me anyplace in the Book that says
the Law was ever given for salvation.
Since the beginning of
creation, the Word of God has been misinterpreted. No matter how clear
the instruction, or how severe the penalty; man constantly seeks to find
a way around what is clearly given by the Father. From the command to
Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit from a certain tree ("Did God
really say?") to the teachings of Moses to the teachings of Jesus, the
Word is given and man, well, man desperately looks for loopholes. The
list of 613 commands in the Torah reads like a parent trying to give
instructions to willful and disobedient teenagers.
I get really
bugged when people suggest that God is stupid, ignorant, or incomplete,
or changes with the tides, or in other words make Him out to be just
like us. People who suggest that God gave the Word to us one way
yesterday, but Today He is changing it. What they are actually doing is
sanctimoniously proclaiming that their word is superior to the Word of
God. But they shouldn't try to bless the effort by sprinkling it with
parts of The Word like so much "holy" water. Your own interpretation
does not magically become God's word by mixing His with yours. And
that's what Yeshua is trying to correct in this section - God is
re-focusing on a proper interpretation of His Own Word.
is again trying to spell it out for the disobedient kids. He says the
act of killing begins in the heart, and if you hate your brother then
you have already started walking the path of murder. This is related to
verse 44 where Jesus says to "love your enemies." Jesus here extends the
definition of sin back to the original. He makes the case that sin
separates from God, even if the sin is limited to the heart. God has
always connected together attitude with behavior, and has always said
that the penalty for sin in either or both is separation from God.
When they made their rulings, the religious leaders usually dealt
with actions only. And they would consider that they had "right
standing" with God if they conformed externally to the letter of the
written Word as they saw it. But God seeks a people who have a perfect
heart in addition to supposed right actions. All through the Tanakh (OT)
God constantly deals with a people (such as in Judges 6:10; Jeremiah
3:13, chapter 7) who thought they had the right actions (sacrificing
animals or tithing of produce), but would ignore the "weightier
measures" (Isaiah 1, 5:7, 59:1-8; Jeremiah 5:1-13; Matthew 23:23) of
mercy and compassion. These people got into the habit of, say,
committing adultery, going and offering the required sacrifice, then
going out and committing adultery again.
This isn't all that much
different than some people do now. Grace is used in place of the
requisite sacrifice, but the behavior is the same. Presume on the
goodness of God so doing what seems right in their own eyes is blessed.
Sin, erase with Grace, and sin some more. Just keep using God's grace as
some sort of cosmic eraser, and everything will be fine. This is the
definition of "following God" for these people. Jesus is pointedly
teaching different, going past the "letter of the Law" and filling it
with what was originally in there, and should be again.
Is Jesus teaching pacifism?
The word used here for murder means literally pre-meditated killing.
There is a different word in both Hebrew and Greek for killing such as
manslaughter or to defend oneself. The version I have quoted has this
word translated correctly. He does not say, "Don't defend yourself," or
"Do not fight in battles." What He is quick to nail down is a person's
By the way, not very many people who think the Law
is abolished here seem to recognize the fact that Jesus is telling his
disciples to make things right before offering a gift at the altar. He
doesn't say, "You don't need to offer gifts at the altar because I am
eliminating the altar," but he says stop, make things right with your
brother, and then continue with the offering. It don't make very much
sense to me to tell people "the Law is gone" and then tell them it's
okay to make an offering at the altar according to the Law.
Adultery or Divorce
Verses 27 - 32
"You have heard that our fathers were told,
'Do not commit adultery.' And I tell you that a man who even looks at a
woman with the purpose of lusting after her has already committed
adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you sin, gouge
it out and throw it away! Better that you should lose one part of you
than have your whole body thrown into Gei-Hinnom. And if your right hand
makes you sin, cut it off and throw it away! Better that you should lose
one part of you than have your whole body thrown into Gei-Hinnom. It was
said, 'Whoever divorces his wife must give her a get." But I tell you
that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication,
makes her an adulteress; and that anyone who marries a divorcee commits
This is fun. Jesus picks up on the adultery issue, like the other
issues, and takes the interpretation right into the "heart" of the
matter. Again, much of the "other" thinking stopped at the physical
action, whereas it should go right on through to the soul. I've heard a
lot of commentary on the removal of eyes and hands, and some of it is
okay, but I think Jesus is saying first that the eye and the hand do not
cause you to sin. "If" is a very big "if." "If your eye," or "if your
hand," are statements that in this context mean sin is coming from
inside and not outside. But "if" it were true, then removal would be the
preferred option. I like the connective better here, because "And I tell
you" makes it more clear that he is adding his commentary to what has
already been made.
The section of the Law about divorce Jesus is
referring to (Deuteronomy 24:1-5) reads:
"Suppose a man marries a woman and
consummates the marriage but later finds her displeasing, because he has
found her offensive in some respect. He writes her a divorce document,
gives it to her and sends her away from his house. She leaves his house,
goes and becomes another man's wife; but the second husband dislikes her
and writes her a get, gives it to her and sends her away from his house;
or the second husband whom she married dies. In such a case her first
husband, who sent her away, may not take her again as his wife, because
she is now defiled. It would be detestable to Adonai, and you are not to
bring about sin in the land Adonai your God is giving you as your
From this the elders of Israel deduced that you should always give a
divorce document (called a get) to the woman you were divorcing. Oh boy,
what an insight. Instead of judging the issue according to other parts
of the Law, and instead of telling the man he should treat his wife like
God treats him, they come up with the Big One, give her a get
(certificate of divorce). To me, Jesus is here saying "what about the
issue of getting a divorce in the first place?" It is just like people
to dwell on the finer points of "how to divorce" than "should we
Verses 33 - 37
"Again, you have heard that our fathers were
told, 'Do not break your oath,' and, 'keep your vows to Adonai.' But I
tell you not to swear at all - not 'by heaven,' because it is God's
throne; not 'by the earth,' because it is his footstool; and not 'by
Yerushalayim' because it is the city of the Great King. And don't swear
by your head, because you can't make a single hair white or black. Just
let your 'Yes' be a simple 'Yes,' and your 'No' be a simple 'No;'
anything more than this has its origin in evil."
The intention here seems to be "don't commit to something you may not
(and probably will not) be able to do." In Deuteronomy 23:21-22
instructions are given where an oath did not have to be sworn, but many
times oaths are sworn in arrogance. The proper attitude is just to do
what you said, nothing more, nothing less. Swearing was mostly arrogant;
we really don't have as much power to accomplish things as we would like
Equal Justice Defined
Verses 38 - 42
"You have heard our fathers were told, 'Eye
for eye and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you not to stand up against
someone who does you wrong. On the contrary, if someone hits you on the
right cheek, let him hit you on the left cheek too! If someone wants to
sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well! And if a soldier
forces you to carry his pack for one mile, carry it for two! When
someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to
borrow something from you, lend it to him."
Jesus is speaking here of equal justice. We were never supposed to go
around poking out people's eyes or knocking out their teeth in payment
for a similar sin. What this meant was for us to make sure payment for a
sin was equal to the sin. What happened, as with so much of what God
tells us, was that people went around demanding to be paid in exact
measure for the transgression. But Jesus here points us to the merciful
side of the Law, which is to behave in the same way God Himself does. He
provides many blessings for which He is customarily slammed. He does not
require immediate equal payment, else we would all be summarily sent to
the hellfire. No, what God does is give us time to repent, and follow
Him. He is gentle and longsuffering, and expects us to be like Him.
If verse 39 (but I tell you..) were translated into Hebrew, one would
immediately see that He is quoting a well-known proverb from Proverbs
24:19 and perhaps Psalm 38:1 (& 8):
Don't be upset by evildoers, or
envious of those who do wrong.
Don't get upset because of
evildoers; don't be envious of the wicked.
The idea expressed in these proverbs is "Don't compete with
evildoers." We are not to engage in a game of 'one ups-man ship' with an
evil person. Don't take revenge, or try to get back at or get even with
a quarrelsome neighbor. See also Proverbs 24:29. Each verse that follows
verse 39 is an example of "not competing" with evildoers. Jesus does not
teach pacifism, or lying down in the face of an attack of war, rape, or
other violence attempted upon you or another person. This concerns our
relationships with neighbors in day-to-day living. Other passages are in
harmony with this such as 1Thess. 5:15, 1 Peter 3:9, Romans 12:14,
17-19, and Proverbs 20:22. Proverbs 25:21 is also quoted by Paul in
If someone who hates you is hungry, give him
food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. For you will
heap fiery coals [of shame] on his head, and Adonai will reward you.
Giving without Discernment?
Verses 41 and 42 are from a Hebrew poetic form called parallelism.
The first line is expanded in meaning by the second line. Ask and borrow
are equivalent terms but from two different Hebrew words with slightly
different meanings. "Ask" means to borrow something that must be
returned to the owner, such as a book. "Borrow" is used to describe
asking for something like flour or sugar, which must be returned in
kind. In the second kind of borrowing one does not return the actual
item but a like amount.
Loving Your Neighbor verses 43 through 48
"You have heard that our fathers were told,
'Love your neighbor - and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your
enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! Then you will become children
of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun shine on good and bad
people alike, and he sends rain to the righteous and the unrighteous
alike. What reward do you get if you love only those who love you? Why,
even tax collectors do that! And if you are friendly only to your
friends, are you doing anything out of the ordinary? Even the Goyim do
that! Therefore, be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."
"Love your neighbor as yourself" is in the Law (Leviticus 19:18), but
"hate your enemy" was not. There are also other commands to treat the
stranger the same as those born in Israel. Jesus emphasizes the idea of
treating the enemy the way we (as enemies) are treated by God. The
Father wants us to repent, He wants us to be like Him, and His kindness
is meant to bring us closer. So we should be like our Father, and truly
want good things for everyone. A little bit of a spin on this can be
seen when you wish for your enemy to receive whatever he wants for you,
although this is not purely what Jesus means.
So again Jesus
compares our behavior to that of the Father, and suggests that rewards
come to those who follow Him without regard for earthly gain. I think
these verses dovetail right in to those following in chapter six where
he expands on the idea of heavenly versus earthly gain.
accept it, the final verse of this chapter changes our standard of
evaluation. Instead of judging based on how other people treat us, we
should judge based on how the Father treats us. How much has He given to
undeserving people? How many times has He held out His hands to a
stubborn and obstinate people, which people are not limited to the Jews?
What blessings we have squandered, what treasures have we cast in the