Matthew 5:21-7:12, teaching on human relationships, introduction
Matthew 5:21-7:12 comprises the following sections:
- Matthew 5:21-26, murderous motives;
- Matthew 5:27-32, adulterous relationships;
- Matthew 5:33-37, thieving words;
- Matthew 5:38-6:18, false witness;
- Matthew 6:19-7:11, covetous attitudes;
- Matthew 7:12, summing them up.
Having introduced the need to keep God’s commandments, Jesus then illustrates what it means to do so. He expounds the latter five of the Ten Commandments, contrasting a godly attitude toward them with common human attitudes. He illustrates how an understanding of God’s nature and our relationship with him can help us to interpret them properly. He also portrays our motives as all important to God.
For Jesus, the first three commandments were about our attitudes to God, and could be summed up in “Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:29-30 WEB). The Sabbath commandment did not apply to those who served him, as they were considered priests (Matt 12:5). The remaining six concerned relationships between people and could be condensed into the phrase “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31 WEB).
Of the last six commandments, the final five seem to have formed a logical unit which were to be taken together. For example, when a rich young man asked Jesus how he could obtain eternal life, Jesus cited the sixth to ninth commandments as a group, whilst deliberately omitting the tenth, then citing the fifth out of its normal order (Matt 19:16-19). When the young man, rather than questioning the omission, sought to justify himself concerning the five that had been mentioned, Jesus challenged him on the very commandment that he had just been so willing to ignore.
Psalm 15, in speaking about what it means to walk blamelessly before
the Lord, may well have influenced the content of the Sermon within
this section, for it speaks of the importance of heart attitudes, not
slandering others, correct vision, keeping oaths, lending. Whilst, its
conclusion, that the one who does such things will not be shaken,
reminds one of the contrast between the house on the rock and that on