Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Ps 119:1-8 I Corinthians 3:1-9 Matthew 5:21-37
Deuteronomy 30 is a wonderful explanation of the purpose of Divine Instruction (Torah). It lays out the path of life and blessing (or the alternative, death and curse). God’s Kingdom is when God reigns in the heart of His people. As we trust and love Him in fidelity, His divine light and life work in us more and more. So, it is not so much about us “getting into heaven” as it is “getting heaven into us”!
The human center is the heart. The inner workings of each person—how they think and what they desire—are key to their relationship with God. Jesus is saying some very difficult things for many of us. There are some uncomfortable folks in here feeling condemnation. It is really important not to minimize what Jesus is saying, but it must be heard in the context of His message of salvation—bringing us into union with God. What are the underlying principles?
The problem with reading the text at the surface level is it is too narrow. The passive-aggressive deny their anger so they think it doesn’t apply to them. The Greek word, epithymia, means to set your heart on something or long for it. Lust takes many forms and it is easy to ignore how it applies to us.
Jesus is saying that we need a “heart” catheterization. We need to look into our heart and soul and analyze what thoughts and desires are lurking within us. In physical illnesses we see symptoms and the same is true of spiritual disease. My dad died of pancreatic cancer, so he was dying long before we knew he was sick. By the time the symptoms were obvious, it was too late.
I have said before that body and soul mirror one another. What Jesus is saying is that our behaviors manifest the spiritual sickness within us, but the problem is that they take hold of us long before they are manifest.
Anger, lust, fidelity and vows are mentioned in the Gospel today and all are manifestations of hearts which are impure and misdirected. Jesus is saying that the way we view another person impacts them, impacts us and impacts our relationship with God. Viewing humans as commodities—valuing what they can do for us and being angry when they are not fulfilling our wants and desires—is a sickness of perception. If we see other people that way then we will likely see God the same way. This would be why so many of us equate prayer with asking for things. True prayer focuses on gratitude and worship.
I am not trying to avoid the impact of Jesus’ hard teaching, but I would like to expand the underlying principle to every sin. The way we “see” others is central to our soul state.
God sees humans as images of Himself. In other words we were created to be/become what Jesus is. United with the Father in perfect obedience and love, we were meant to share in Divine life. Jesus’ instruction is meant to warn us, much like Deuteronomy, that we have a choice. We can secretly choose anger and lust, but we cannot choose those and still live an abundant life. We can chose to speak the truth and live with integrity, but if we choose deceit and our word can not be trusted, then we cannot be in relationship with God, others, or even ourselves.
Today’s Gospel is an invitation to examine our hearts and see what form sins take within us, in our secret thoughts and desires. Today’s Gospel is a warning that God will not be made a fool and in the end, the truth will be manifest.
Choose repentance. Seek healing and transformation. Trust your sins to His care.