“You have heard it said…. But I say to you.” Vss. 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43. ESV
Jesus turns his world upside down when he expands the commandments to their rightful form as not just permissions and prohibitions of outward behavior, but principles for our inner person as well. Our thoughts, emotions, desires and attitudes are to be controlled by God working in our lives as well as what we do – the outward results of those inner processes. That’s why later he would call the Scribes and pharisees “whitewashed tombs, with dead men’s bones inside.” It was possible to obey the letter of the law and continually violate the spirit and principle of the commandments. Jesus says no more.
Even though our actions, especially in public, may be up to par with Jesus’ commands, who we really are is what’s inside us. That’s why it’s so important to monitor not only our actions but our thought life, our emotions, and our attitudes. Thinking it is the same as doing it. Keeping the spirit of the commandments is even more important than just not participating in an activity. Our Christian life isn’t just a checklist of things to do and not do. It’s a change that starts from the core of our being and then extends out to our actions. That change happens through the Holy Spirit working in our hearts and convicting us when we sin, even in our inner selves. The change also happens as we pay attention to our inputs – our reading, our viewing, our listening, our friendships – and focus on those inputs influencing us in a Godly direction.
God, thanks for these challenging instructions from Jesus. May we put our focus on changing and developing our lives from the inside, knowing that our outside actions will always move to meet who we are on the inside.