“The Sermon on the Mount”
The Sermon on the Mount
By Jeff Curtis
Matthew’s Gospel gives the most inclusive account of the teachings of Jesus. At least 60 percent of the book of Matthew focuses on what Jesus taught. It provides us with six of our Lord’s discourses, placed within the five teaching sections. One of those sections is Matthew chapters 5-7; The Sermon on the Mount.
The Sermon on the Mount is unique to Matthew. Luke includes a Sermon on the Plain that contains similar points, but scholars are not sure that they are the same discourse (Luke 6:17-49). Matthew is the only Gospel in which the scenes of the judgment are depicted (chapters 13; 25).
When Matthew records Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had just announced to His disciples, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20). His words were a summation of all that would follow in the Sermon on the Mount.
In the first portion of His sermon, Matthew 5:21-48, Jesus had framed His teachings with five contrasts between what He said and what Jewish traditions had said. In Chapter 6:1-18, the second portion of His instructions in this sermon, He dealt with religious forms and the heart – with true religion as opposed to outward ritual.
After a general warning in (6:1), Jesus presented three major illustrations: giving (6:2-4), praying (6:5-15), and fasting (6:16-18). One commentator has mentioned that it was common for Jewish teachers to use groups of three examples in the instruction.
In Matthew 6:19-34, Jesus warned against hoarding wealth instead of trusting in God. His central theme warned emphasized that preoccupation with earthly treasures betrays a divided loyalty, as well as a lack of faith in God’s provision.
Americans today spend much of their disposable income in treasures that can become tomorrow’s trash. That item we thought we just had to have become a bargain for some treasure hunter in next year’s yard sale. A wise person once wrote, “Americans spend money they don’t have, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.”
A lot of people are so overcome by the pursuit of material wealth they don’t enjoy what they already have. The obsession with material possessions is captured by a bumper sticker that reads, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But we all know that “you can’t take it with you when you go.” Paul wrote, “For we brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it” (1Timothy 6:7). Some of the Egyptian pharaohs were buried with their wealth in the great pyramids so that they could enjoy these possessions in the afterlife. Instead, their wealth has become the property of looters, archaeologists, and museums in generations that have come after them.
Our focus must not be on accumulating worldly possessions, but on building up the kingdom of God and helping others. By using our blessings from God for these purposes, we can lay up treasures in heaven. If our treasure is on earth, we will not make preparation for heaven: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Then we will lose the eternal happiness found in heaven. How sad it will be on the day of judgment to find our accounts marked “insufficient funds” or “account closed.”