THE GOSPELS 40
THE HUMBLE HEART IS THE ONLY SOURCE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Throughout this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is describing the characteristics of the Christian personality. The contrast between these characteristics and the animalistic, ego-centered personality, that is too often the norm for us and our fellowmen, makes much of Jesus’ teaching seem almost impossible to achieve in our world. I am impressed with the way William Barclay sums up the teaching of Jesus on this point, and I want to pass on two quotes from him that I feel perfectly describe this.
1. “The Christian thinks not of his rights, but of his duties; not of his privileges, but of his responsibilities”.
2. In another place, he says the Christian will never stand on his rights, nor think he can do as he likes, but on his duty to be of help.
When Jesus says, “Be ye perfect…as your Heavenly Father is perfect”, He does not mean pure and without fault. The word He uses is a word which means completely mature, or reaching the purpose for which you were created. The comparison to God’s perfection is described as the way He treats all mankind equally, the good and the bad, the worthy and the unworthy. Loving your neighbor as yourself does not qualify the neighbor but qualifies you. God sends rain on the just and unjust alike. He wants the best for all His creatures, whether they are obedient and good, or disobedient and evil.
Being perfect, then, is treating people not as they deserve, but as God’s handiwork, and, as He does, desiring the best for them. “God so loved the world”, not just the sheep, but the goats also, and we, who are all sinners, can be thankful for that.
The best way to destroy hate is to pray for the object of our hatred. That reflects the attitude of God, and that fulfills, “Be ye perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect”.
It all has to do with the heart and motivation of the one who claims to be a Christian… a child of God…with a sacred relationship to the King.
In the next section, which begins with chapter 6, Jesus emphasizes how we are not to do certain things. Each of His warnings stresses that even good works can be empty and meaningless, if done for the wrong reasons. This repeats the main theme of all of His teaching, i.e., that God is not interested in the specific acts that we do, but in the heart and spiritual condition of the one who does them. One should do righteous acts, give to the needy and pray, but never for public display, pious show, or self-satisfaction.
The modern version of this, in the church situation, is well worth our thinking about. If one is baptized, but is not conscious of dedicating his whole life to the Lord, the baptism is in vain and useless. If we partake of the Lord’s Supper, with the right elements, and every Lord’s Day, but only carry out a religious ritual, without recognizing the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made for us, we actually are sinning, by doing this sacred act unworthily. I am afraid that many of the public prayers, spoken or read from the pulpit on Sunday, are often dissertations for the audience to hear, instead of humble, heartfelt petitions to God.
“Man looketh upon the outward appearance, but God looketh upon the heart”.
It is only with the heart fully dedicated to the Father, and an earnest desire to do His will, that we can have a proper relationship with Him or his creatures.