“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment.  But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment… You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery.  But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:21-22a, 27-28

Henry David Thoreau was not only a noted author and poet, but, among other things, he was a philosopher and an abolitionist.  In July 1846, he had an encounter with Sam Staples, the local tax collector, who demanded that Thoreau pay six years of delinquent taxes.  He refused to pay tax to a state that supported the Mexican-American War and slavery.  He would rather be thrown in jail than support what, in his mind, were gross atrocities.

Being a friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau was immediately visited by Emerson during the one night he was in jail.  Upon his arrival, Emerson reportedly asked, “Why, Henry, what are you doing in there?”  Emerson’s reply was, “Nay, Ralph, the question is, ‘What are you doing out there?'”

This account is a little cute, but helps underscore the meaning and intent of the words of Jesus.  Many times, we are concerned with being sure that we say the right things and appear to do the right things.  But the truth of the matter is, we are lying.

The Pharisees were a sect that were all about letting themselves be seen in the public eye as the ideal of perfect religion.  While they went through so many motions to follow traditions and perform feasts and rituals, the reason for all the ceremony was completely lost in hearts that had been turned to stone by their own self-righteousness.  If born-again believers are not careful, we can become the same monster.

Jesus taught that we need to live our lives openly in such a way that brings glory to God when He earlier taught about not hiding our light under a bushel.  But now, Jesus goes quite a bit deeper.  He doesn’t just want our outward obedience, he wants our heart obedience.  He desires our commitment to Him to be motivated by a love for Him, not a desire to prove ourselves to Him.

Let us examine ourselves to make sure that our motivations are out of love for Him rather than love for ourselves. 



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