I talk a lot. I justify it by calling myself “a verbal processor.” It’s true, but I’m sure the people around wouldn’t mind if I processed my thoughts silently from time to time.
Compared to how many words I speak every day, Jesus’s words in the New Testament seem sparse. The number of words which Jesus speaks in the New Testament is likely fewer than what I say on a normal day, and their value is far greater than anything I’ll ever say.
His words are precious. But, I must confess, I often ignore them. I tend to live my life as if Jesus’s words only matter on Sunday. But I do not want this, I want for Jesus to be Lord over my whole life.
In order to call out this behavior in me, I want to give you six examples of bible verses from Matthew 5 that Jesus said which I often neglect.
1.) Matthew 5:5
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
A quick Google search reveals why I try to avoid meekness: “Quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive.” To get what you want in this world you have to be loud, aggressively pursue goals, and keep others from pushing you around. Everybody knows that, right?
But Jesus tells us if we want to inherit the earth, if we want to be a part of God’s plan for a new earth that will thrive for eternity, then meekness is the way to go.
2.) Matthew 5:9
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
I appreciate what Pastor Colin wrote about this verse in his book, Momentum, which also highlights the cause of my temptation to ignore the verse:
Peacemakers are like God because they move toward trouble. I once heard a consultant say that in dealing with conflict it is important to “move toward the barking dog.” I don’t know about you, but that is never my inclination! If a dog is barking, my instinct is to back off. But when the world was barking at God, He did not back off. He moved toward us, even though He knew it would lead to the cross. (160)
3.) Matthew 5:14
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
My tendency to ignore this over other bible verses has to do with two words: Courage and character.
Courage is essential in living out this verse because Jesus tells us directly that we cannot be hermits–hiding away from the world. Jesus tells us that others will mock us for our belief, and he also says we cannot hide it. We have to courageously walk in the spotlight he has given us.
Character is essential too because it is of no use to us to be courageous in living a lifestyle of pride and power, feeling haughty as God’s children, if we miss the point of being the light of the world. In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” So if in Matthew Jesus says we are the light of the world, then he is saying we represent his character to the world
Honestly? I can do the courage part, but I balk at the character part. Christ calls me to a meekness that imitates his own, but I feel tempted to trust in the power I think I have.
4.) Matthew 5:29
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”
My sinful tendency to ignore Jesus’s teaching here has everything to do with a misreading of the verse. It’s too shocking to think Jesus actually meant for anyone to tear their eye out. It must be figurative speech.
It is figurative speech. But in thinking this I allow myself to forget that figurative speech indicates something unspoken that is literal. In using figurative language, Christ calls us all to examine our life.
What member of your body needs to be torn off? Is it a particular habit? A social media account? A device you own?
If it causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.
5.) Matthew 5:38-42
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
Perhaps it’s because I’m too entrenched in our modern culture, I have the hardest time taking Jesus at his word here. I know he says “Do not resist the one who is evil,” but surely he does not mean it!
Combating evil–at large, in culture–is good. Full stop. I think, though, Jesus’s words here are mainly concerned our individual hearts. If we retaliate against evil, then we open our heart to it. We let evil enter us and define us.
But remember, Jesus calls us to be meek. Calls us to be peacemakers, not warmongers. Representatives of Jesus Christ to the world. We let evil hit us, sue us, steal from us, tire us, and deplete us rather than let it into our hearts.
6.) Matthew 5:48
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The bad news about this verse is that Jesus is telling the truth. There is no way around it. No good life is good enough to get into heaven unless it is a perfect life–which none of us can achieve since we are born into sin.
The good news about this verse is that Jesus lived a perfect life for us. He then offered that perfect life as a sacrifice to pay for our sins. And just as Adam’s sin had been applied to us, so Jesus’s righteousness is now applied to us.
He did not just wipe our sins away and allow us to start over, but he placed his righteousness upon us and ended that conversation for good. If you are in Christ you have no penalty left. All you have is Christ’s righteousness.
I ignore this verse because it can feel discouraging if I read it without the knowledge of the love and grace of Jesus Christ. It reads like a death sentence. But in Christ, is it is a life sentence.
We are dead to sin, and alive in his righteousness. And so we can freely pursue a life of holiness.