Lesson 10: Matthew 5:17–48

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


Introduction

As the Savior continued His Sermon on the Mount in Galilee, He explained that He didn’t come to destroy the law of Moses but to fulfill it. The Savior also gave His disciples commandments they needed to follow in order to become perfect like Heavenly Father.

Suggestions for Teaching

Matthew 5:17–48

Jesus Christ teaches His disciples how to become perfect like Heavenly Father

Before class, write the following question on the board: Which commandment do you think is the most difficult for people to keep? When class begins, ask students to respond to the question. List their answers on the board.

Invite a student to read Matthew 5:48 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a commandment that is difficult to keep. You may want to suggest that students mark the Joseph Smith Translation in Matthew 5:48, footnote a.

  • How does the commandment to be perfect make you feel?

  • What do you think it means to be perfect?

Invite students to read Matthew 5:48, footnote b, silently, looking for the meaning of the word perfect, and ask them to report what they find. Explain that to become complete or fully developed means to become like Heavenly Father.

As students continue their study of the Savior’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, invite them to look for principles they need to follow in order to progress toward becoming perfect like our Father in Heaven.

Summarize Matthew 5:17–20 by explaining that the Savior taught that He came to fulfill the law of Moses, not to destroy, or do away with, any of the eternal truths in the law of Moses. Jesus Christ restored the fulness of the gospel that had been lost due to wickedness and apostasy, corrected false teachings, and fulfilled the prophecies made by Old Testament prophets. Eventually, as part of the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel, some aspects of the law of Moses were discontinued, such as circumcision and animal sacrifice.

Explain that Matthew 5:21–48 includes the Savior’s teachings about various laws and traditions the Jews had developed or added under the law of Moses. As Jesus Christ explained the true meaning of the laws, He taught a higher way of righteousness. Members of His kingdom must live this higher law. These higher laws provided guidance to help disciples of Jesus Christ avoid breaking God’s commandments.

To prepare students to study the Savior’s teachings about anger, invite them to think of a time when they were angry with someone.

  • What are some dangers of not controlling our anger?

Invite a student to read Matthew 5:21–22 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the law of Moses taught about violence and anger and what additional truths the Lord taught about anger as part of the higher law.

  • What did the Savior teach about violence and anger? (Explain that the term Raca in verse 22 means imbecile, fool, or empty-headed person.)

  • According to these verses, what will happen if we do not learn to control our anger?

Invite a student to read aloud the Joseph Smith Translation change in Matthew 5:22, footnote b.

  • Why is it significant that the phrase “without a cause” is omitted from this verse?

  • How does controlling our anger help us progress toward becoming perfect?

Write the following phrase on the board: Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me …

Explain that the Joseph Smith Translation adds the phrase “if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me” to the beginning of verse 23 so that it reads, “Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, or if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 5:25).

Invite a student to read Matthew 5:23–24 aloud, including the added phrase from the Joseph Smith Translation. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior taught we must do with our anger toward others if we desire to come unto Him.

  • What does the phrase “leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way” mean? (Before the people offered sacrifices to the Lord, they first needed to repair their relationships with other people.)

  • According to verse 24, what must we do if we desire to come unto Christ? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: If we desire to come unto Jesus Christ, we must first do our part to be reconciled with others.)

  • What does it mean to be reconciled with someone? (To settle disputes or restore harmony in the relationship. This includes those who have unkind feelings toward us and those toward whom we may have unkind feelings.)

  • Why do you think we need to settle our disputes with others in order to come unto Christ?

Invite a student to read Matthew 5:25–26 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior said we can do to be reconciled with others.

  • What do you think it means to agree with your adversary quickly? (If students need help, invite them to look at Matthew 5:25, footnote a.)

  • How can choosing to have kind thoughts toward someone help us settle a dispute or restore a damaged relationship with him or her?

Ask students to think of a time when they settled a dispute with another person and were able to draw closer to the Lord as a result. You may want to invite one or two students to share their experiences, if they are not too personal. Encourage students to settle their disputes with others so they can progress toward becoming perfect like our Father in Heaven.

dandelions

Show students a weed (or a picture of a weed).

  • What might happen if weeds are not removed from a garden?

  • How might weeds be like sins?

Invite a student to read Matthew 5:27–28 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a sin the Savior warned against and the higher law He expects His disciples to live.

  • What did the Savior teach about those who entertain lustful thoughts or desires? (Students may use different words, but make sure it is clear that if we choose to entertain lustful thoughts or desires, it is like committing adultery in our hearts.)

Explain that while we cannot always prevent impure thoughts from entering our minds, we can prevent them from staying there.

Invite a student to read Matthew 5:29–30 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior taught about removing impure thoughts.

  • What did the Savior say we must do to remove impure thoughts?

  • What do you think it means to pluck out one’s eye and cut off one’s hand in these verses?

Invite a student to read Matthew 5:30, footnote b, aloud. Ask the class to look for how the Joseph Smith Translation helps us understand what it means to pluck out one’s eye and cut off one’s hand in these verses. Invite students to report what they find.

  • Based on what the Lord taught in Matthew 5:29–30, what might happen if we do not remove sins from our lives? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: If we choose not to remove sin from our lives, it will destroy us spiritually.)

  • What can we do to remove sins from our lives?

  • What must we do to remove sins from our lives and to make sure we do not commit those sins again?

Encourage students to think about a sin they’d like to remove from their lives and then to set a goal to do so by repenting and replacing it with righteous actions.

Summarize Matthew 5:31–37 by explaining that the Lord taught about divorce, marriage, and making oaths.

Invite students to imagine that a peer at school says cruel and unkind things about them. Ask students how they would respond.

Invite a student to read Matthew 5:38 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the law of Moses taught about punishing individuals for their sins or offenses. Ask them to report what they find. Explain that the phrase “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” means that under the law of Moses, the punishment had to match the seriousness of the offense.

Divide the students into pairs. Invite one partner to read Matthew 5:39–42 and the second partner to read Matthew 5:43–47. Ask them to look for the higher law. After sufficient time, ask students to discuss the following questions with their partners (you may want to display these questions on the board or provide them on a handout):

According to the Savior, what is the higher law?

What does the higher law teach us about how we should respond to those who offend us?

After sufficient time, invite a few students to share their answers with the class.

Invite a student to reread Matthew 5:45 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what will happen if we love our enemies and do good to those who hate us.

  • What will happen if we love our enemies and do good to those who hate us?

  • Knowing that we are all spirit children of God, what do you think it means in this verse to be children of our Father in Heaven? (It means to be like Him and become heirs of His kingdom.)

  • How did the Savior exemplify loving His enemies and doing good to others during His life?

Invite students to reflect on what they have learned in Matthew 5 about what we need to do to become perfect like Heavenly Father.

  • What are some things we need to do to become perfect like our Father in Heaven? (Students may use different words, but they should identify a principle similar to the following: As we follow the Savior’s teachings and commandments, we can become perfect like our Father in Heaven.)

Remind students that it is only through Jesus Christ and by His grace that we can become perfected (see Moroni 10:32).

To help students understand the process of becoming perfect, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

President Russell M. Nelson

“We need not be dismayed if our earnest efforts toward perfection now seem so arduous [difficult] and endless. Perfection is pending. It can come in full only after the Resurrection and only through the Lord. It awaits all who love him and keep his commandments” (“Perfection Pending,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 88).

  • According to President Nelson, when will we reach perfection?

  • How might this statement help someone who feels overwhelmed and discouraged by his or her imperfections?

Encourage students to continue to obey God’s commandments so that they can eventually become like our Heavenly Father.

Commentary and Background Information

Matthew 5:22. What does the term Raca mean?

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained a broader meaning of the term Raca:

“Profane and vulgar expressions vary from nation to nation and age to age, but the intent of this passage is to condemn any language which conveys improper feelings about another” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:222).

Matthew 5:27–28. “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discussed the seriousness of the sin of lust:

“Why is lust such a deadly sin? Well, in addition to the completely Spirit-destroying impact it has upon our souls, I think it is a sin because it defiles the highest and holiest relationship God gives us in mortality—the love that a man and a woman have for each other and the desire that couple has to bring children into a family intended to be forever. … Love makes us instinctively reach out to God and other people. Lust, on the other hand, is anything but godly and celebrates self-indulgence. Love comes with open hands and open heart; lust comes with only an open appetite” (“Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 44–45).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about the effects of pornography on those who use it:

“Pornography impairs one’s ability to enjoy a normal emotional, romantic, and spiritual relationship with a person of the opposite sex. It erodes the moral barriers that stand against inappropriate, abnormal, or illegal behavior. As conscience is desensitized, patrons of pornography are led to act out what they have witnessed, regardless of its effects on their life and the lives of others” (“Pornography,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2005, 89).

Matthew 5:31–37. “Whosoever shall put away his wife”

In the days of Jesus, one school of Jewish thought had come to interpret the Mosaic standard (see Deuteronomy 24:1–2) in a way that allowed divorce for frivolous reasons. For example, if a man desired a younger or more attractive wife or if a man’s wife ruined his dinner, appeared in public with her head uncovered, or was disagreeable, it was permissible for him to seek a divorce. As recorded in Matthew 5:31–37, as in other places in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sought to call his followers to a higher standard of righteousness and to have them understand that marriage was an institution that should be honored and maintained according to the pattern established by God with the eternal marriage of Adam and Eve. (See Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 4 vols. [1979–81], 3:291–97; see also Matthew 19:3–9.)

Matthew 5:43. “Ye have heard that it hath been said”

The commandment to “love thy neighbour” is found in Leviticus 19:18, but no scripture in the Old Testament commands us to hate our enemy. It appears the Savior was referring to a saying common in His day.