The sermon on the mount Refs
 Jesus gave clear, practical advice on how we should live. His most famous speech is the “sermon on the mount” recorded in Matthew 5–7. Imagine that you are there with Jesus on that mountain 2,000 years ago. There are hundreds there with you, all
listening intently. Jesus has captured your imagination. The religious leaders seem apart and unreal, but here is Jesus telling you about what God wants, in simple words that really make sense.

Blessed are . . .                         Matthew 5:3–12

First, Jesus gives a list of those who will be blessed. Notice that those who are blessed are often the people who are not well-off or successful by the world’s standards. To live this way demands strong purpose and a clear aim in life. But those who live a godly life will be blessed with peace of mind and the joy of being part of God’s family and taking a part in God’s kingdom.
This section is often called “the beatitudes” which comes from the Latin word for “happy” or “blessed”.

1. What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”?
2. What does it mean to be “meek”? How is this different from weak? What Bible characters were known for their meekness?
3. For each blessing, why does the reward fit?
4. Which of these qualities do you find it most difficult to show? What can you do to help develop it?

Pass it on .... Matthew 5:13–16
Next, Jesus calls his followers to action. He tells us that believers are to be good seasoning, like salt, and that they are to stand out in their lives by example. He has given us the call to be disciples, and we must pass it on.

1. In what way are we to be like salt?
2. How do we reconcile 5:16 with 6:2–4?

Living God’s way .... Matthew 5:17–20
Jesus emphasises the position of the law of Moses in a believer’s life. He warns against relaxing God’s laws, and says that those who do them and teach them will be great in God’s kingdom.
Literally, Jesus said“not a yod or a horn” will disappear from the Law. The yod was the smallest Hebrew letter and the horn is a tiny mark distinguishing some Hebrew letters.

1. What does “everything accomplished” mean in 5:18?
2. How can we reconcile 5:18–19 with the clear statements in the New Testament that we are no longer required to keep the Sabbath or to circumcise males?

Actions and thoughts .... Matthew 5:21–32
Jesus certainly didn’t relax the sixth and seventh commandments of Moses. Moses said “Do not murder”. Jesus not only agrees, but warns that anger and insult lead to killing, and so you must be very careful—you will be judged for them as you would be for killing.

Moses also said “Do not commit adultery”. Again Jesus agrees and extends the command, warning his disciples not to even think about it. Sinful thoughts are as bad as sinful actions.
God sees into your hearts and will judge.

1. If someone wants to sue you, what should your response be? See 5:25,40.
2. What did Jesus mean when he said “gouge out your eye and throw it away” and “cut off your hand and throw it away” (5:29–30)? How can we put this into practice?

Keeping your word .... Matthew 5:33–37
In a few words Jesus speaks about declaring things to be especially true by giving an oath. For a disciple, this is all unnecessary and he says not to do it. Disciples should mean what they say and do what they say—say yes or no and mean it.
It’s harder than it sounds. Often you say you’ll do something or tell someone, then circumstances make it less attractive. True
believers do what they say—they don’t just change because it’s easier.

1. What do people swear on today?
2. What should you do if requested to take an oath in court?
See also Chapter 26. War and conscientious objection.
3. You have promised a friend you will meet her at a particular time and place. But you have had a difficult day, you have a headache and are running late. What should you do? Are there any circumstances under which it is acceptable to break such a promise?

Love your neighbour .... Matthew 5:38–48
Next Jesus speaks of retaliation and the law of love. Moses had permitted retaliation (although he didn’t compel it) but Jesus forbids it. He goes further, teaching you to “turn the other cheek”, to yield to any who sues you at law, and to give extra service even to those forcing service from you.

1. Some people argue that Jesus did not mean his words to be taken literally in these verses. What do you think?
2. Suppose someone asks to borrow your new and expensive car. You are not sure they will be careful. Does 5:42 apply? Would you lend it to them?

Keeping up appearances .... Matthew 6:1–18
Jesus considers the danger of doing things only to keep up appearances. He speaks first of being kind and generous, then of praying, and finally of fasting or self-denial. Jesus exhorts you to do these things, not just to look as though you are. He goes further: do these things in secret so others do not even notice.

1. Suppose you are having a meal in a restaurant with friends. Should you pray publicly or privately? Is 6:5–6 relevant here?
2. In 6:16–18, Jesus seems to assume his disciples will fast. Have you ever fasted? If so, how helpful was it? Find other references to fasting in the New Testament and consider if this is something all disciples should do.

Money .... Matthew 6:19–34
Jesus is quite clear: “you cannot serve both God and Money”.
He says “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth. . . but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . . ”. And he
warns you not to worry about things—your food and drink, your clothes, and even your length of life.

1. How can you tell where your treasure is?
2. How is it possible to serve Money?

Judging others .... Matthew 7:1–6
It is easy to be critical of other people, to judge how poorly they are living a life in Christ, without noticing our own behaviour
at all.

1. Compare verses 1–5 with verses 6 and 16; see also John 7:24. If judging is not always wrong, what is Jesus condemning here?
2. When should verse 6 be applied?

Receiving and giving ... Matthew 7:7–12
Jesus again stresses the importance of prayer in verse 7:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
Just as God does these things for you, so you should give to all who ask, whether it is your family or the poor or whoever. If you’d like to be treated with kindness when God judges, make sure you are kind now.

1. What have you asked God for in the past?
2. Has he always given you what you have asked for? If not, why not?

A good foundation ... Matthew 7:13–27
There is a right way and there is a wrong way. Most people find the easy way, the lazy way, the way of the world. Most people
don’t want to lead a godly life. God has decreed that those who don’t want to lead a godly life will perish. He is not looking for
unwilling converts.

Some people, Jesus warns, will talk like disciples but be false prophets or teachers. Jesus says “You will know them by their fruits”. People who are trying to follow Jesus Christ and his commands produce sound fruit. They are peaceful and satisfied people, confident that God is with them, because their lives are based on the word of God.

In his closing words Jesus tells a story about two men who built houses. One built on rock, the other on sand. When the flood came the house built on the rock stood firm, the other was swept away. The difference was simple: they both heard God’s word, but only one listened and obeyed. It’s up to us to listen, and obey.

1. To what categories of people do 7:24–27 refer? In what way do the two houses differ? How is it possible to be building, yet building foolishly?
2. How can you tell who is a false prophet (7:15–20)? Compare Deuteronomy 13:1–5 and 1 John 4:1–6. Can you think of any modern false prophets?

Living the way Jesus instructs us is both challenging and rewarding. It involves

• Controlling your thoughts, not just your actions;   • Trusting in God rather than money;
• Treating others the way you would like to be treated;   • Being careful of hypocrisy and judgements;
• Passing on the way of life;   • Praying regularly;
• Always keeping your word;   • Giving generously;
• Doing good works in secret rather than to be seen;   • Having a strong foundation in Jesus.

• Studies in the gospels by Harry Whittaker (published by Biblia). Chapters 43–69. A very detailed and interesting analysis of Matthew 5–7.

9. Prayer
14. Holiness and obedience
16. Temptation
17. Sin
21. Anger
22. Pride and humility
29. Forgiving one another
48. Worry
51. The fruit of the Spirit
54. Preaching
55. The law of love
56. Honesty
57. Keeping the Sabbath
58. Wealth and money
60. Marriage