Jesus gives 5 examples of ‘your righteousness’ , each introduced by the two phrases:
1. You have heard that it was said to those of old….and
2. But I say to you…
These are technical phrases that refer to the interpretation of Torah. The Rabbis in the first century engaged in endless discussions, and arguments, about how the Torah was to be best interpreted, obeyed, kept, and observed. As we have seen in last week’s Blog, they developed a multitude of extra laws in order to maintain a punctilious observance of the basic Torah.
Jesus took a different view, and it was the view that God intended when He gave the Torah to Moses.
The 5 examples are NOT intended to be an exhaustive and complete analysis of all the relevant commandments in the Torah with the implication that all those not mentioned are irrelevant.
Jesus selected the 5 examples as examples, and the principles taught are to be applied to all the others.
In each example He quotes the Torah Commandment, and then interprets it with reference:
1. to the attitude of the heart in addition to the basic written stipulation, and
2. to the ultimate aim of ‘perfection’ in Matthew 5.48:
Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Note: perfect means to be complete, mature & whole as James 1.4 explains: Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
To be ‘perfect’ refers to the maturity of experience…it does NOT refer to
being in a state of flawlessness which, as Aristotle defined, is so good that nothing of the kind could be better.
The Old Testament uses two Hebrew words that are translated ‘perfect’:
1. 8549 tamiym means whole: Someone who is whole, complete or full. One who is mature and upright as one who is whole.
2. 8003 shalem means to be in a state of wholeness, complete, literally or figuratively; to be safe in mind, body or estate.
Both words refer to ‘perfection’ as ‘wholeness’.
Therefore, in these 5 examples Jesus’s teaching is a goal or target to be aimed at and worked towards. Failure to achieve ‘perfection’ now is not a disaster, as the Apostle John writes:
1John 2.1-2: My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.…
So, to the first example of 'righteousness' that Jesus gives in Matthew 5.21-22:
You have heard that it was said to those of old,
You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment'
Jesus quotes from the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.13, ‘You shall not murder’, and from Exodus 21.12: He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.
But I say to you....
1. whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.
The correct translation of the Aramaic is, ’whoever provokes his brother to anger…’
2. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council.
The root of the Aramaic word ‘raca’ means ‘to spit on’
3. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.
‘You fool’ means ‘you are an empty, worthless person’
Jesus adds 3 examples which explain the attitude of the heart to the basic written stipulations in Exodus…and which explain how a correct attitude of heart will lead to the ultimate aim of ‘perfection’, wholeness, and maturity.
All 3 examples refer to how to, or not to, have a functional, correct, life enhancing relationship with others.
Is this what the Torah is really about….how to relate to God and to other human beings, in a functional, life enhancing way ….?? Until next week…