Summary: If you think you do pretty well with relationships, you might want to take a listen at Jesus’ words in this portion of the Sermon on the Mount. We think it is about lust and divorce and promises - but it’s really about making, keeping, and fixing broken r
Inbred in the deepest part of our souls is a notion that was born in the Garden of Eden that defines love for us. Love is whatever satisfies our needs. When Eve took a look at the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, she saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate… (Gen 3:6)
To Eve, the tree had everything to supply her needs—physical (food), emotional (delight), and spiritual (wisdom). That self-focus, first introduced to Eve by the Serpent, has carried through to us, and it is a lie. The lie is that we are self sufficient; that given enough time, motivation, and resources, we can get what we need to have life. To do that we only had to disobey God—go against His nature in favor of our own. We think that self interest is okay as long as we don’t visibly hurt someone else. That too is a lie. Jesus reveals that real right character comes not from what we do but from who are inside.
Our needs are real—but how we satisfy them determines who we are—and when we unhook the satisfying of our desires from our relationship with God we are not like Him anymore. Since that fall we haven’t even had a choice. We are pre-programmed with a default setting for self sufficiency instead of God sufficiency. You can look great on the outside, but be dead on the inside—besides, thinking we can have life on our own isn’t really satisfying for the long term.
The Apostle John put it this way:
1 John 2:16-17 For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
At the end of our passage today Jesus says “you therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Our problem is the programming which tells us to always do those things that are in our self interest, even if it is counter to what God is like. And to further complicate things, we are deluded into thinking this is the right course of action.
Jesus came to tell us and demonstrate for us how far away from being “perfect” we really are, and then die to make a way for His perfection to become ours. So deciding that we are going to follow Jesus’ moral code in the Sermon on the Mount simply won’t work. Even if we want to do good, we can’t sustain it for a long period of time before self interest takes over again. And because the brain is a wonderful self-justifying organ, we believe deep down that we are good people.
To get us to the point where we say “Okay, I will give up my self interest and entrust my life and my destiny to Jesus” we must know how far away from real character we are. We love ourselves, but do not understand what real love is, and that’s the subject of the balance of Chapter 5.
Jesus is really talking about relationships—making them, keeping them, and fixing them when they break. He’s answering what is probably on the minds of his audience—“how can I possibly be more righteous than the law abiding Pharisees?”