Church of Christ
at
Locks Cross Roads
10) Matthew 5 - 23 through 30 (gift at altar, adultery, lusting)
Matthew 5:23 - 30

Matthew 5:23 if therefore thou art offering thy gift at the altar.  Thy gift is not specific here, since no Jew was to
appear before God with empty hands (Deuteronomy 16:16-17).

Aught against thee:  There is no room here for self-justifications, rationalizations or excuses.  Many suppose that
Jesus' exhortation is addressed to the "offender" as if he were truly guilty, but the question of rightness or
wrongness in this grievance does not enter the question.

Pride is selfishness, exhibited in the self justifications: "He started it!  I'm in the right and no apologies are necessary
on my part!"  But this disposition to claim one's right to himself is the essence of all sin.  So the Lord says, "You
might as well not sacrifice so long as that disposition rules you.  You both might have been wrong and you on your
part need to forgive him!"  If you have not forgiven him, how can you expect God to forgive you?
Worship is not acceptable to God from any worshipper when he harbor basic disobedience to any of God's
commands in his heart (Mark 12:33, Romans 15:5-6, 1st John 2:9, 1st John 3:17, 1st John 4:20).

Reconciliation becomes more important than all acts of worship, since continuing grudges, envy, malice and secret
hatreds break that all important relationship with God.

Matthew 5:24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way.  The priest would certainly understand your
necessity and sympathetically see to it that your animal is taken care of until your return (Hebrews 5:1-4).

Do all in your power, and all that you ought to do, to have the matter settled.  Jesus explains the proper procedure
later (Matthew 18:15-18).

Then come and offer thy gift.  Mere fraternal peace does not produce automatic acceptance with God:  His orders
must be obeyed, His sacrifices offered.  Performance of our duty toward other fellows does not release us from
responsibility to please Him according to His wishes.
Matthew 5:25 Agree with your adversary quickly while you are in the way with him.  This is always sound advice:  it is
always best to settle out of court.

Jesus is giving a piece of sound, practical advice by coming down to a lower level or argument:  "If your proud,
obstinate hearts block your seeking reconciliation with an offended brother, because you are unmoved by the
higher motives of loving concern for your adversary enough to settle with him by peaceful means."  Do not let your
pride blind you to the possibility that he could take you to court over your stubbornness and there is a chance that
you might lose your case in court.

Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou have paid the last farthing.  Debtors prisons were not uncommon
(Matthew 18:23-25).  Also the Law awarded damages to be paid to the wronged party in any question (Exodus
21:18 through 22:15).  If payment of such debts or damages were not forthcoming, the court could hold a man in
prison until full payment be made.  
Matthew 5:27 Ye have heard that it was said.  The law against adultery was certainly known before the Mosaic Law
(Genesis 39:9), and was merely codified by it as a moral principle against any act that destroys the sanctity of the
marriage and family.  The Law against adultery (Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18) only mentioned "voluntary
sexual intercourse by a married man with another than his wife, or by a married woman with another than her
husband," while the commandment against coveting (Exodus 20:17) actually mentions a longing desire for "thy
neighbor's wife."  If Jesus were merely correcting false or inadequate interpretations of the Law, He could have
simply cited the tenth commandment.  Yet the Law could punish only the act (Leviticus 18:20, Leviticus 20:10-20).

Whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her:  this is not a look of evaluation, admiration or affection, but of lusty
desire.  Both Job (Job 24:15, Job 31:1-4, Job 31:9-11) and Solomon (Proverbs 2:9, Proverbs 2:16-19, Proverbs 5,
Proverbs 6:23 through 7:27, Proverbs 23:26-28) saw only the connection between the lust of the heart and eyes
and the act of adultery.  But only Jesus could declare and enforce a judgment unknown in the Mosaic Law.

Jesus attack licentiousness and lust in the heart, because they represent the corrupt character of the man even
though they have not yet come forth as actual deeds.  
If we actually love every woman with that intelligent desire to do what is always in her best interest, how can we
corrupt our heart with desires to sin against her?

Since a wicked heart produces sin, the purification must take place there (study Matthew 15:1-20 and Mark 7:1-23
to appreciate this concept).  Many good things can so often be the enemy of the best:  for example, any habit which
could be a seduction, any possession that could become an obsession, any association or any pleasure that could
be the cause of sin is the mortal enemy of our soul.

The Biblical view of purity contradicts the readily-accepted axiom of modern advertising:  "Sex sells," (Ephesians
5:3-12).  Though successful in selling, it has also succeeded in relaxing a proper sense of modesty and purity.  
Dressing to arouse sexual appetite is forbidden (Matthew 18:7-9, Romans 14:13 through 15:3).

How to help!  The purifying power of hope.  I John 3:3; No sane man will risk his eternal security by momentarily
dallying with a temptation when he knows that his salvation depends upon unwavering faithfulness.  Positive action
helps to break the spell of some allurement, sometimes flight is best (Genesis 39, 2nd Timothy 2:22).  Plunging into
the service of others does not allow time for that idleness in which the self-indulgent imagination may seek
satisfaction.  
Back to Matthew 5 Study Index Page