But I say unto you!
Before going further with our study, it is important for us to have a clear understanding of Jesus and the Old Law. The Pharisees and Scribes had made hundreds of interpretations of the Ten Commandments, and other parts of the Law, and demanded that each little part be obeyed to the nth degree. This was the Scribal Law which was not what God intended, nor what He wanted. Therefore, Jesus opposed it, and the Pharisees, who meticulously kept this Law, condemned Him as a law breaker. When Jesus said not one jot or tittle would pass from the Law, He was not talking about this Law. He is about to describe the kind of Law that God really wants man to follow. Of the Law He is about to introduce, He says that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. They meticulously kept all of the minute and useless things they had added to the Law, but missed the real import of the Law which was supposed to make them Spiritually better. That is where Jesus wants His followers to exceed.
When Jesus says, “You have heard…but I say”, He did not mean that what they had heard was wrong, but that He was going to expand and define the Law in the way God wanted man to follow it. He was not abolishing the Law of God. He was defining it the way God intended it to be understood and followed.
This is very important because many people, who stress the legal requirements of the Bible, satisfy themselves that they have never violated any of the Ten Commandments, but they exhibit in their behavior and their life, attitudes and mind-sets that are far from the things that Jesus here describes and that God wants. There are also preachers and teachers who stress some legal interpretation that they have found and use it to judge others. This causes division and violates the final prayers of Jesus that all His followers be one and love one another. Such interpretations, often based on what the disciples did in New Testament days, and making that a rule for us today, not only disrupt unity, but often prevent the church from doing what God intended for it to do, such as preaching the gospel to the whole world or taking care of widows and orphans. This is like the Pharisees, whom Jesus constantly opposed. He urged His followers to exceed their righteousness, not by obeying rules meticulously, but by exhibiting a mind and heart like the Savior Himself.
Not disobeying any of the legally stated commands does not give one the right to be haughty, unloving, self-righteous and judgemental. So let us listen to Jesus and see what kind of obedience God really wants of His creature, man, that exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.
First, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to people long ago, ‘Do not murder’ “. Following this, Jesus says, “BUT I say unto you that anyone who is angry with his brother, will be subject to judgement”. Now Jesus is not condoning murder, nor changing the Law. He is striking deeper, at the attitude of the heart and mind of the individual. If that is right, then any act of violence, or any kind of judgemental and accusatory action, is obviated. Jesus takes the Law out of the hand and puts it in the heart!
How do we exceed the Pharisee in this? It means that we must see everyone as a child of the King, and, therefore, instead of being angry with his acts and his faults, we should be trying to help him and showing love and concern. Such behavior on our part will go far to change evil to good and convert the sinner from the error of his ways. An attitude of anger and retribution, judgement and condemnation only intensifies the problem and drives the sinner deeper into his evil ways. The behavior of a benevolent child of God will exceed all the righteousness that any Pharisee might claim.
The lesson here is clear. God is not interested in the way we do things. He is interested in whether we do the things we should and that in doing them, we have the heart of a Christian…a follower of Jesus Christ the Lord. Our next essay will emphasize this even more.