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Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Higher Standard

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus introduces a concept that’s sometimes overlooked. The Old Testament Law and the traditions of the people had set the standard for morality and rules of conduct.

And Jesus actually raised the bar.

The New Testament teaches a higher standard. Let’s explore:

You have heard—Don’t kill. (Matthew 5:21; Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17)
But I say—Being angry and calling someone a fool is as serious as murder. (Matthew 5:22)

You have heard—Don’t commit adultery. (Matthew 5:27; Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18)
But I say—Looking and lusting in your heart is adultery. (Matthew 5:28)

You have heard—A man can divorce his wife. (Matthew 5:31; Deuteronomy 24:14)
But I say—Divorce, except in the case of fornication, is adultery. (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11)

You have heard—Don’t swear by yourself. (Matthew 5:33; Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21)
But I say—Don’t swear by anything. (Matthew 5:34-37)

You have heard—An eye for an eye, etc. (Matthew 5:38; Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21)
But I say—Don’t resist evil. Give to him that asks of you. (Matthew 5:39-42)

You have heard—Love your neighbor and hate your enemies. (Matthew 5:43; Leviticus 19:18)
I sayLove your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44-48)

Do you see the change? Jesus actually demands a higher standard than the Mosaic Law. It’s the standard of love.

And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:28-31).

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

This is the higher standard, the standard of love—Jesus’ standard.


  1. His heart standards are so convicting to all, but especially those of us who like to make our checklists and make sure we have the right dos and don'ts checked off. Those are important, but we can all all our checklists just right and our hearts still be far from what they ought to be. I'm so thankful He keeps convicting us about our hearts as well as our actions.

    1. So true. Those lists aren't usually helpful, since they become legalism if taken too far. I think it's interesting how God does look at our hearts. At the same time, it's a challenge, since it's the most inward part of us--and we know best we're not always what we should be. I am thankful the Lord understands our frailties and still is patient and loving and forgiving. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. God bless you!


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