Sermon on the Mount: Day 16

First Go

Read Matthew 5:21–26
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

Yesterday we focused on the first paragraph of this passage. Today, let’s look at the second paragraph. Jesus says something that must have been startling to his original audience and if we really examine it, it should startle us too. For the Jews of Jesus’ day, participating in religious rites, and particularly bringing sacrifices to the altar, publicly demonstrated one’s devotion to God. In fact, in some places, these rites had become more important than justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matthew 23). Jesus was telling the Jews that God does not want empty, ritualistic worship. True devotion is a heart condition that compels outward action. When we publicly do all the right things, but hold grudges and fail to seek reconciliation for the hurt we’ve caused, our devotion is empty and mere ritual. 

  • What or whom came to mind as you read the second paragraph of today’s passage? Why do you think that is? 
  • As you think about the life you show publicly and the one you live privately, what inconsistencies do you notice? Where do you long for more transparency? Where do you long for transformation?
  • What invitation do you sense God extending to you in the area of reconciliation and devotion?

God, I long to worship You whole-heartedly and pure-heartedly. I long to worship You with all my being and with my life in its entirety. Show me where I’m living inconsistently. Bring to mind anyone with whom I need to reconcile. And transform the places in me that need it. Remind me of Your deep, everlasting love for me even in all my imperfections and missteps. Amen.

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