Matthew 5–7

New Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2002), 26–30


timeline

Introduction

Matthew 5–7records what President Joseph Fielding Smith called the “greatest [sermon] that was ever preached” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1941, 95). This sermon is the first of five great discourses given by the Savior as recorded in Matthew (the other discourses are found in Matthew 10; 13; 18; and 24–25). It has come to be known as the Sermon on the Mount and was given near the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Luke records a sermon known as “the Sermon on the Plain” which is similar but not identical to the Sermon on the Mount. Some have thought that the Sermon on the Mount was given before the selection of the Twelve Apostles, but Elder Bruce R. McConkie, then a member of the Seventy, pointed out that some of the material in the Sermon was directed specifically to the Twelve. Elder McConkie explained:

“It is clear that the Sermon on the Plain, as given by Luke, was delivered immediately following the selection and ordination of the Twelve. … The Nephite version [of the Sermon on the Mount] was given after the call of the Nephite Twelve, and portions of the sermon are addressed expressly to those apostolic ministers rather than to the multitude in general. (3 Ne. 13:25.) In Matthew’s account, as found in the Inspired Version [the Joseph Smith Translation], the Prophet adds a considerable amount of material that applies to those called to the Twelve rather than to people in general. ([JST,] Matt. 5:3–4; 6:25–27; 7:6–17 [see JST, Matthew 7:6–8, 9–11, 12–17].) …

”It follows that the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain are one and the same” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:213–14).

In this sermon, Jesus presented a higher level of living for His followers. Of the importance of this sermon, President Ezra Taft Benson said:

“The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are the foundation principles upon which all civilized government and our present civilization are built (see Exodus 20:1–17; Matthew 5–7). To disregard them will lead to inevitable personal character loss and ruin. To disregard them as a nation inevitably will lead that nation to destruction” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 677–78).

Prayerfully study Matthew 5–7and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

  • Our treatment of others affects the way God treats us (see Matthew 5:7; 6:14–15; 7:2, 12).

  • Christ fulfilled the law of Moses and restored the gospel fulness, bringing a higher law (see Matthew 5:21–48).

  • We should strive to become perfect like Jesus and Heavenly Father (see Matthew 5; see also 3 Nephi 12:48).

  • We should not boast of our righteous acts (see Matthew 6:1–23).

  • Heavenly Father gave us prayer as a way to express our thanks and desires to Him (see Matthew 6:5–15). He answers our prayers and wants to bless us (see Matthew 7:7–11).

  • We can discern the righteous from the wicked by their actions. Only those whose intentions and actions are righteous will “enter into the kingdom of heaven” (see Matthew 7:15–27; see also Moroni 7:5–6).

Additional Resources

Suggestions for Teaching

Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for Matthew 5–7.

Matthew 5–7 (see also Luke 6:17–49). An introduction to the Sermon on the Mount.

(3–5 minutes)

Ask students:

  • When was the last time you went to a Sunday fireside?

  • If you knew Jesus would be the speaker at the next fireside, what would you do to be there?

Explain that Matthew 5–7is a sermon given by the Lord, and while we weren’t there to hear it from the Savior, we can read and study what He taught. To emphasize the importance of these chapters, share the quotes by Joseph Fielding Smith and Ezra Taft Benson in the introduction to this scripture block.

Matthew 5:1–12 (see also Luke 6:20–26). The Beatitudes are a guide to help us become more like the Savior.

(15–20 minutes)

One by one hold up three or four different magazine or newspaper pictures of unknown people. As you hold up each picture, ask students if they think the person whose picture you are holding is righteous or wicked.

  • Can we tell righteous people by the way they look?

  • How can we know if someone is righteous or wicked?

  • Which is more important, inner or outer beauty?

While we can change only so much of our outward beauty, we have a lot of ability to change our inner character. Explain that Jesus gave us a list of “beautiful attitudes” that are called the Beatitudes. Ask how many students have heard of the Beatitudes. If we develop these qualities or character traits in our lives then we will receive certain blessings. (The word beatitude means “blessedness.”) Invite students to read Matthew 5:1–12and find each attitude that Jesus mentions and the corresponding blessing. Read the following statement on the Beatitudes by President Harold B. Lee:

“In that matchless Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has given us eight distinct ways by which we might receive … joy. … These declarations of the Master are known … as the Beatitudes and have been referred to by Bible commentators as the preparation necessary for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. … They embody in fact the constitution for a perfect life” (Decisions for Successful Living [1973], 56–57).

Make copies of the following eight statements on the Beatitudes by President Lee, and invite eight different students to read them to the class.

  1. 1.

    Blessed are the poor in spirit:“To be poor in spirit is to feel yourselves as the spiritually needy, ever dependent upon the Lord for your clothes, your food and the air you breathe, your health, your life; realizing that no day should pass without fervent prayer of thanksgiving, for guidance and forgiveness and strength sufficient for each day’s need.”

  2. 2.

    Blessed are they that mourn:“To mourn, as the Master’s lesson here would teach, one must show that ‘godly sorrow that worketh repentance’ and wins for the penitent a forgiveness of sins and forbids a return to the deeds of which he mourns.”

  3. 3.

    Blessed are the meek:“A meek man is defined as one who is not easily provoked or irritated and forbearing under injury or annoyance. Meekness is not synonymous with weakness. The meek man is the strong, the mighty, the man of complete self-mastery. He is the one who has the courage of his moral convictions, despite the pressure of the gang or the club.”

  4. 4.

    Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:“Did you ever hunger for food or thirst for water when just a crust of stale bread or a sip of tepid water to ease the pangs that distressed you would seem to be the most prized of all possessions? If you have so hungered then you may begin to understand how the Master meant we should hunger and thirst after righteousness. It’s that hungering and thirsting that leads those away from home to seek fellowship with saints in sacrament services and that induces worship on the Lord’s Day wherever we are. It is that which prompts fervent prayer and leads our feet to holy temples and bids us be reverent therein.”

  5. 5.

    Blessed are the merciful:“Our salvation rests upon the mercy we show to others. Unkind and cruel words, or wanton acts of cruelty toward man or beast, even though in seeming retaliation, disqualify the perpetrator in his claims for mercy when he has need of mercy in the day of judgment before earthly or heavenly tribunals. Is there one who has never been wounded by the slander of another whom he thought to be his friend? Do you remember the struggle you had to refrain from retribution? Blessed are all you who are merciful for you shall obtain mercy!”

  6. 6.

    Blessed are the pure in heart:“If you would see God, you must be pure. There is in Jewish writings the story of a man who saw an object in the distance, an object that he thought was a beast. As it drew nearer he could perceive it was a man and as it came still closer he saw it was his friend. You can see only that which you have eyes to see. Some of the associates of Jesus saw him only as a son of Joseph the carpenter. Others thought him to be a winebibber or a drunkard because of his words. Still others thought he was possessed of devils. Only the righteous saw him as the Son of God. Only if you are the pure in heart will you see God, and also in a lesser degree will you be able to see the ‘God’ or good in man and love him because of the goodness you see in him. Mark well that person who criticizes and maligns the man of God or the Lord’s anointed leaders in his Church. Such a one speaks from an impure heart.”

  7. 7.

    Blessed are the peacemakers:“Peacemakers shall be called the children of God. The trouble-maker, the striker against law and order, the leader of the mob, the law-breaker are prompted by motives of evil and unless they desist will be known as the children of Satan rather than God. Withhold yourselves from him who would cause disquieting doubts by making light of sacred things for he seeks not for peace but to spread confusion. That one who is quarrelsome or contentious, and whose arguments are for other purposes than to resolve the truth, is violating a fundamental principle laid down by the Master as an essential in the building of a full rich life. ‘Peace and goodwill to men on earth’ was the angel song that heralded the birth of the Prince of Peace.”

  8. 8.

    Blessed are they which are persecuted:“May youth everywhere remember that warning when you are hissed and scoffed because you refuse to compromise your standards of abstinence, honesty and morality in order to win the applause of the crowd. If you stand firmly for the right despite the jeers of the crowd or even physical violence, you shall be crowned with the blessedness of eternal joy. Who knows but that again in our day some of the saints or even apostles, as in former days, may be required to give their lives in defense of the truth? If that time should come, God grant they would not fail!” (Decisions for Successful Living, 57–62).

Have students write on a piece of paper which of the Beatitudes they live the best and which they would like to apply more fully in their lives.

Matthew 5; 7:15–27 (see also Luke 6:20–36, 44–49). If we do our best to keep the commandments, the Lord can make us perfect.

(25–30 minutes)

Ask the students: Which commandment do you think is the hardest to keep? List their answers on the board. Ask: Which is the hardest commandment of all? If being perfect isn’t listed, tell students Matthew 5:48describes a harder commandment than any listed on the board. Read Genesis 6:9; Job 1:1; 1 Nephi 3:7; Doctrine and Covenants 107:43; and Moses 8:27, and consider whether being perfect is possible. Then read Moroni 10:32–33and look for how it is possible for us to become perfect and how the men in the previous references became perfect.

Before class, take a large piece of paper or poster board and write in large letters, “Being Perfect like Heavenly Father.” Turn it over and draw seventeen puzzle pieces on the back. Write a scripture reference from the accompanying chart on each piece, and then cut out the pieces.

Characteristics of Perfection

Matthew 5:3

Be poor in spirit (humble)

Matthew 5:5

Be meek

Matthew 5:6

Hunger and thirst after righteousness

Matthew 5:7

Be merciful

Matthew 5:8

Be pure in heart

Matthew 5:9

Be a peacemaker

Matthew 5:13–16

Be of value to people; be a good example

Matthew 5:19–20

Keep the commandments and be righteous

Matthew 5:21

Don’t kill

Matthew 5:22

Don’t get angry or call people names

Matthew 5:23–25

Work out your differences with people

Matthew 5:27

Don’t be immoral in any way

Matthew 5:28

Think clean thoughts

Matthew 5:31–32

Work toward a successful marriage and avoid divorce

Matthew 5:33–37

Tell the truth and be true to your word

Matthew 5:38–42

Be forgiving, charitable, and giving

Matthew 5:43–44

Love and pray for your enemies

In class, write Being Perfect like Heavenly Father on the board. Distribute the puzzle pieces among your students, and explain that if the puzzle is put together correctly this is what it will spell. Tell students that the word perfect in Matthew 5:48comes from the Greek word teleios, which can also be translated as “whole” or “complete.” Using this definition, the admonitions of the Savior in Matthew chapter 5 can be seen as pieces of a puzzle that must all be in place before someone can be whole, complete, or perfect.

Ask students to look up the references on the backs of their puzzle pieces. Have them write the characteristic of perfection described in their reference, first on the puzzle piece and then on the board under Being Perfect like Heavenly Father. (These don’t need to be identical to the ones on the chart.) Then have them work with the other students to put the puzzle together. When the puzzle is completed, remove one of the pieces and ask:

  • Is the puzzle still perfect, whole, or complete if one piece is missing?

  • How long are we to strive for perfection?

  • How long do you think it will take to achieve it?

Read Doctrine and Covenants 67:13 and the following quote to help students understand that becoming perfect happens over a long period of time and only with the Lord’s help. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:

“Nobody becomes perfect in this life. … Becoming perfect in Christ is a process.

“We begin to keep the commandments today, and we keep more of them tomorrow. … We can become perfect in some minor things. …

“If we chart a course of becoming perfect, and, step by step and phase by phase, are perfecting our souls by overcoming the world, then it is absolutely guaranteed—there is no question whatever about it—we shall gain eternal life. … If we chart a course and follow it to the best of our ability in this life, then when we go out of this life we’ll continue in exactly that same course. …

“The Prophet [Joseph Smith] told us that there are many things that people have to do, even after the grave, to work out their salvation” (“Jesus Christ and Him Crucified,” 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [1977], 399–401).

To illustrate this point, set up the desks or chairs in the room to form an obstacle course. Blindfold a student and have him or her go through the course with only your instructions for guidance. When you are finished, ask:

  • What help did you need to make it through the course?

  • What would have occurred if you depended only on your own efforts?

Read Matthew 7:15–27 and look for how many times the Lord uses the word “doeth” in these verses. How important are our works and deeds to our salvation? Read 2 Nephi 25:23 and ask students to compare it with the experience of the obstacle course.

  • What two people have a part to play in our becoming perfect?

  • Who in this verse is like the blindfolded person?

  • Who is like the guiding voice?

Matthew 5:7; 6:14–15; 7:2, 12 (see also Luke 6:37–42). Our treatment of others affects not only the way others treat us but also the way the Lord treats us.

(10–15 minutes)

Invite three students to participate in a role play. Invite one of the students to stand outside the room for a minute where he can’t hear what you tell the others. When the student has left the room, explain to the other two students that when the first student comes back in, one of them should treat him in a friendly way (for example shake his hand, smile, look at him, and ask him how he is doing), and that the other student should ignore him (not look at him, turn his back on him, and so forth). After the student outside the room has been invited in and experienced the actions of the other two students, ask:

  • How do you feel after “meeting” these two students?

  • Which of the two would you rather be with?

  • How did you want to treat the student who acted friendly?

  • What kind of feelings did you have toward the student who acted unfriendly?

Invite the class to read Matthew 7:12 and look for how this verse might apply to the role play. Tell them that the admonition to do unto others as you would have them do unto you is know as the Golden Rule. Share the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson:

“The formula for successful relationships with others boils down to that divine code known as the Golden Rule. … To serve others willingly and unselfishly should be one of our greatest virtues. It is not even a matter of choice. It is an obligation, a sacred command” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 447).

  • In your experience have you found this principle to be true?

  • How should we treat those who have mistreated us?

  • What reactions do people have when you treat them kindly after they may have been unkind toward you?

Read Matthew 5:7; 6:14–15; 7:2and look for how the principle taught in these verses applies to our relationship with the Lord.

  • What do these verses teach about the Lord?

  • According to the verses, what is the Lord’s treatment of us dependent on?

  • How does it make you feel to know the Lord will be fair and just?

  • How can understanding this principle affect the way we treat others?

Matthew 5:14–16 (Scripture Mastery; see also Luke 8:16; 11:33). We must follow the light of Christ and let that example be seen by others so as to show others the way to come to Christ.

(10–15 minutes)

Turn the lights out in the room and turn on a flashlight. Ask students to imagine that they are in a long cave and that the only way to find their way out is by the light of your flashlight. Invite a student to read Matthew 5:14–16 while you hold the flashlight on the book.

  • How is the light of the flashlight in the cave like the light in these verses?

  • How can our example influence others like a flashlight guides those in the dark?

Use the following questions to help students understand that Jesus Christ is the source of the light we must follow:

Tell students that when we receive that light, we have the responsibility to let it shine for others. But we must not forget whose light it is that we reflect to the world. The Savior explained, “Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up” (3 Nephi 18:24). Ask: How does our example affect others? Read Alma 39:11and look for how Corianton’s example affected others. Invite students to share instances of people who have been affected positively or negatively by the example of others. Ask: According to Matthew 5:16, when others see our good works, to whom should they be drawn?

Matthew 5:21–48 (see also Luke 6:29–36). Christ fulfilled the law of Moses and restored the gospel fulness, bringing the higher law.

(10–15 minutes)

Bring some children’s building blocks to class. Write on the board Christ fulfilled the law of Moses and brought a higher law . Invite a student to use the blocks to build something that represents the statement on the board and then explain how it relates to the statement. (For example the student might build a foundation to represent the law of Moses and then the rest of a building to represent the higher law of Christ.) Read Matthew 5:21–48with students and look for examples of how Christ added new laws to what He had established through Moses. Write what you find on the board if desired (use the accompanying chart for reference).

The Old Law of Moses

The New Law of Christ

Don’t kill (see Exodus 20:13).

Don’t get angry (see Matthew 5:22).

Don’t commit adultery (see Exodus 20:14).

Don’t have lustful thoughts (see Matthew 5:28).

Don’t separate without a legal document (see Deuteronomy 24:1–2).

Don’t divorce except for adultery (see Matthew 5:32).

Don’t break oaths made to or by the name of the Lord (see Numbers 30:2).

You should not need oaths; your word should be enough (see Matthew 5:34–37).

Justice—take an eye for an eye (see Leviticus 24:20).

Mercy—turn the other cheek (see Matthew 5:39–42).

Love your neighbor (see Leviticus 19:18).

Love your enemy (see Matthew 5:44–47).

Ask students: How many of these laws of Moses do we still believe and practice? Read Matthew 5:48and ask: How does the new law instituted by Christ relate to becoming perfect?

Matthew 6:1–23. We should not boast of our righteous acts.

(15–20 minutes)

Blow up a balloon for the class without tying it off. Tell students you want to show them the air inside the balloon. Let the air out. Ask: Of what use is a balloon without any air in it?

Tell students that some things are best kept to ourselves and not shared with others. Invite students to read Matthew 6:1–4 about offerings, verses 5–7 about prayer, and verses 16–18 about fasting. Discuss the following questions:

  • How would making a show of righteous acts be like letting the air out of a balloon?

  • How does boasting affect our giving to the poor, praying, or fasting?

Share the following story from Elder Thomas S. Monson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“Recently, I approached the reception desk of a large hospital to learn the room number of a patient I had come to visit. This hospital, like almost every other in the land, was undergoing a massive expansion. Behind the desk where the receptionist sat was a magnificent plaque which bore an inscription of thanks to donors who had made possible the expansion. The name of each donor who had contributed $100,000 appeared in a flowing script, etched on an individual brass placard suspended from the main plaque by a glittering chain.

“The names of the benefactors were well known. Captains of commerce, giants of industry, professors of learning—all were there. I felt gratitude for their charitable benevolence. Then my eyes rested on a brass placard which was different—it contained no name. One word, and one word only, was inscribed: ‘Anonymous.’ I smiled and wondered who the unnamed contributor could have been. Surely he or she experienced a quiet joy unknown to any other. …

“May we look upward as we press forward in the service of our God and our fellowmen. … Our hearts will then be lighter, our lives brighter, and our souls richer.

“Loving service anonymously given may be unknown to man—but the gift and the giver are known to God” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 73, 76; or Ensign, May 1983, 55, 57).

Tell students that the Lord Himself exemplified this principle by frequently telling those He healed to “tell no man” (Matthew 8:4). Read Matthew 19:16–17and look for the attitude of the Savior that we should try to emulate. Ask:

  • Would you rather be around people who constantly brag about how good they are or people who keep those things to themselves? Why?

  • How are we to live when in the presence of parents and Church leaders?

  • How are we to live when we are not in their presence?

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 20:77. How can we show Jesus that we “do always remember him”?

Point out that one of the best ways to show the Lord we remember Him is “to keep his commandments which he has given” us all the time, not just when others are watching.

Note: The principle of not doing our alms before men may be confusing when compared with the principle of letting our light shine (see Matthew 5:14–16). Help students understand that we don’t sin when others see our good works unless we do them hypocritically or pridefully, merely to be seen of men.

Matthew 6:5–13; 7:7–11 (see also Luke 11:2–4, 9–13). Heavenly Father gave us prayer as a way to express our thanks and desires to Him. He answers our prayers and wants to bless us.

(15–20 minutes)

Bring a telephone to class. Ask students how much time in a day they spend on the phone talking with their friends. Ask them what they would think if they received the following phone call from a friend. Pick up the phone and say: “Hello,” (say the name of one of your students). “I’m calling to see if you want to get together tonight to study for our history test.” (Don’t pause long enough for a response.) “And I really can’t decide what to do this weekend. Should I go to that movie we’ve been wanting to see or to the ball game? What do you think?” (Before there is time for a response, say good-bye and hang up the phone.)

Ask students:

  • What problems would you have if you never waited for an answer when you talked to your friends on the phone?

  • If your friends never had the chance to respond to your questions, how long would they continue to listen to you?

  • How might this phone call resemble some prayers?

Explain that the Lord Himself instructed us in the Sermon on the Mount on how to pray. Read and discuss Matthew 6:5–13, using the accompanying chart as a guide. Or reproduce it as a handout, leaving the right-hand column blank. Have students read the references and fill in what each verse teaches about prayer.

Invite students to read Matthew 7:7–11and look for what else the Lord taught in the Sermon on the Mount about prayer. Share the following statement by Elder Boyd K. Packer:

“No message is repeated more times in scripture than the simple thought: ‘Ask, and ye shall receive’ (D&C 4:7)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 30; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, 21).

Read Alma 29:1–4and ask: What caution does Alma give that we should consider when we pray? Read Matthew 26:39looking for how Jesus applied this principle in His own life.

Show students a picture of Moroni praying as he buries the golden plates (Moroni Hides the Plates in the Hill Cumorah [Moroni 10], item no. 62462). Sing or read the words of the hymn “Prayer Is the Soul’s Sincere Desire” (no. 145), and invite students to write on a piece of paper what they can do to improve their prayers.

Matthew 6:24(Scripture Mastery; see also Luke 16:13). We cannot serve God and the things of the world.

(10–15 minutes)

Put the word God on one wall and the word Worldliness on the opposite wall. Invite a student to stand in front of the class and face one of the two walls. Then have the student turn around and face the other wall. Ask: Is it possible to face both walls at the same time? Invite students to read Matthew 6:24, and ask how serving God and Mammon is like trying to face both walls at the same time.

Share the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

“Mammon is an Aramaic word for riches. Thus Jesus is saying, ‘Ye cannot serve God and riches, or worldliness, which always results from the love of money.’” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:240).

Read 1 Timothy 6:10and ask students:

  • According to this scripture, what is the root of all evil?

  • How can we tell what we love the most?

  • What do you think about when you don’t have to think?

Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 20:77and list the covenants that they make that could help them love God more than worldliness.