Matt 5:13-48

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Home > The New Testament > Matthew > Chapters 5-7 > Verses 5:13-48
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Matt 5:13-16: Light of the world[edit]

  • Matt 5:16: Letting light shine vs. giving in secret. Although there is an apparent tension between this verse and 6:1-4 where Christ admonishes his disciples to do their almsgiving in secret, the phrase "that they may glorify your father" (cf. John 15:8) may offer a key distinction. That is, in Matt 6:1 the phrase "to be seen of [men]" suggests a difference in intent. Jesus may be advocating that we let our good works shine with the intent of glorifying God, but we should take care not to do good works for the purpose of glorifying ourselves rather than God (see also Philip 1:11).

Matt 5:17-20: Fulfillment of the Law[edit]

Matt 5:21-26: Sixth Commandment: Thou shalt not kill[edit]

  • Matt 5:21: Judgment. The word translated "judgment" in verse 21 means "to be cast off."
  • Matt 5:22. Notice that the Book of Mormon and the JST omit "without a cause." This is consistent with almost all Greek manuscripts.
  • Matt 5:21-26. Jesus seems to me to be giving examples of what he meant when he spoke of peacemakers in verse 9. Notice that we begin with the prohibition of murder in verse 21, move to the prohibition of anger in verse 22, and in verse 23 we find a prohibition of hard feelings. On verses 23 and 24, note that to a Jew, worship was the most sacred duty that one could have.
  • Matt 5:22: Raca. The word “raca” means the same thing as the Greek word translated “fool” at the end of the verse. It isn’t any stronger than the kinds of things we sometimes say to each other when we are angry, such as “You idiot!”

Matt 5:27-32: Seventh Commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery[edit]

  • Matt 5:31-32. The scripture to which Jesus refers (Deut 24:1) is unclear about the grounds for divorce. It says that a man can put away his wife if he finds something shameful in her (”some uncleanness” in the King James translation). The rabbis debated that phrase, some arguing that it meant only adultery, others arguing that could be something as trivial as bad cooking. It also isn’t easy to know how to understand the exception that Jesus allows here because it isn’t clear what Matthew means by the word translated “fornication.” The Greek word that he uses literally means “prostitution.”

Matt 5:33-37: Thou shalt not forswear thyself =[edit]

Matt 5:38-42: An eye for an eye[edit]

  • Matt 5:38. It appears that the Mosaic Law, “an eye for an eye,” was not a directive as to how much punishment to inflict, but a limitation on the retribution one could seek: if someone puts out your eye, you have no right to demand more than the recompense for that eye.
  • Matt 5:39. A more accurate translation of the first part of this verse might be “resist not the one who troubles you (or ‘the one who defies you’).”

Matt 5::43-47: Thou shalt love thy neighbor[edit]

  • Matt 5:43-47. The Old Testament teaches that we must love our neighbor. (See Lev 19:18.) But nowhere does it teach that we should hate our enemies. However, it is not difficult to imagine that many believed that the command to love our neighbors (those close to us) implies the need to hate our enemies.

Matt 5:48: Be ye therefore perfect[edit]

  • Matt 5:48. This verse marks a significant break in the Sermon on the Mount. It is the culmination of the Sermon to this point. As such perhaps we should understand it as a restatement of verse 3—as well as a followup to verses 43-47.
  • Matt 5:48. Notice the footnote that explains what “perfect” means: whole, complete, finished, developed. With this, a better translation of the verse might be: “Be ye therefore whole, even as your Father in heaven is whole.”
  • Matt 5:48. It may be that Jesus is quoting or paraphrasing Lev 19:2 here: “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.” To understand what it means to be whole, contrast this with the idea of the double-minded person (James 1:8).
  • Verse 5:48: Perfection. Christ explicitly instructs us here to become perfect even as our Father in Heaven is perfect. Perfection can be seen as comprising two concepts: purity, meaning the absence of defects, and maturity, meaning completeness or full development. Satan proposed a plan that emphasized maintaining purity but ignored the concept of maturity or of developing character. It was a plan under which we would not have agency and thus would not learn through experience to control our desires, and thus would not mature or develop the kind of love, justice, and other traits that God possesses (Ms. 4:1, 3). It was a plan that would have put handcuffs on Little Bunny Foo Foo to prevent him bopping field mice on the head, and he would have completed mortality without sin. But until the handcuffs are removed, Little Bunny Foo Foo will never learn to quit bopping field mice on the head. The Father's plan, in contrast, by respecting agency, allows us to mature and to develop these character traits, though at the cost of losing our purity. It is the difference between a baby who has never done anything wrong and a prophet who, though having made mistakes, has developed character traits that command much more of our respect than an infant. Christ's sacrifice during the atonement can handle the issue of purity, upon the condition of our repentance (Alma 42:13, 15). The Holy Ghost also assists with the purification of our desires (Mos. 5:2). But God respects our agency and does not determine for us what our desires and character will be, ultimately leaving that decision up to each individual. (Also see Elder Dallin Oaks’ 'The Challenge to Become', which approaches mortality as a time in which to mature and become). Purity comes through the gift of the atonement, and maturity through the gift of agency. But the atonement can be seen not only as a way to fix the loss of purity now that we are here and have a problem, but as a way to handle the issue of purity in a manner that enables us to exercise agency and use mortality as a probationary time in which to mature and develop the character traits that God possesses.

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for life application[edit]

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  • Matt 5:16: Letting light shine vs. giving in secret. Jesus tells us here to let our light so shine before men so that they see our good works. In the next chapter in verses 3-4, he tells us to do our alms in secret. How do we reconcile these two commands?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Matt 5:13-16. Verse 16 explains the other verses in this group. Compare 3 Ne 18:24. What does verse 16 teach us about good works? What is their purpose?
  • Matt 5:17-20. What does it mean to say that Jesus did not come to annul the Law? What does it mean to say that he came to fulfill it, to bring it to perfection? How does Jesus’ understanding of perfect obedience to the Law differ from the Pharisees’ understanding? Verses 21-48 seem to be illustrations of the point that Jesus is making in verse 20: he gives concrete illustrations of how our righteousness ought to go beyond the righteousness of the Pharisees. How are we tempted to be Pharisaical? How can we go beyond, exceed, or overflow our own Pharisaism?
  • Matt 5:22. What does Jesus mean, then, when he says, paraphrasing, “Whoever calls his brother a fool is in danger of the community’s judgment, but whoever says “You fool” is in danger of hell fire”? (See lexical notes.) Does it make a difference that the first case is about anger towards a brother and no one is specified in the second?
  • Matt 5:23-24. What is Jesus saying about reconciliation in verses 23-24? (See exegesis.)
  • Matt 5:25-26. What particular adversaries may Jesus have had in mind in verses 25-26? How do these examples apply to us?
  • Matt 5:28. What does this teach us about going beyond the righteousness of the Pharisees?
  • Matt 5:29-30. Jesus is obviously speaking hyperbolically. What is the point of his hyperbole?
  • Matt 5:31-32. How should we understand these verses? Are they a higher standard than we presently are required to live, or has the standard changed? (See lexical notes.)
  • Matt 5:33-37. How does the teaching of these verses apply to us? (See exegesis.)
  • Matt 5:38-42. What do these verses teach us about how we are to respond to physical violence? How does this teaching compare to what we find in D&C 98:16-48? How does it compare to the way that the Book of Mormon prophets dealt with violence? What do these verses teach us about how we should deal with others in legal contention?
  • Matt 5:38-42. The demand of verse 41 is one dictated by Roman law: a Roman soldier could compel others to carry his baggage a mile, so the general topic seems to be something like “the demands of the government.” How would people in Jesus’ day have understood this part of his message? What does these verses teach us about how we should respond to the demands of government? Compare verse 42 to Mosiah 4:16-23. What obligation is Jesus giving us in verse 42?
  • Matt 5:43-47. What particular enemies does verse 44 suggest that Jesus may have had in mind? What reason does verse 45 give for loving our enemies? What does verse 45 suggest that it means to be one of God’s children?
  • Matt 5:45. When we are told that our Father sends rain on the just and on the unjust, is rain a metaphor for good things or for bad things? The cross references cited in footnote c (Job 2:10, 2 Ne 2:11, etc.) seem to suggest that rain is a metaphor for bad things. And often, people think of rain as a bad thing--if a walk in the sunshine is interrupted by rain, rain may be seen as a bad (cold, uncomfortable, inconvenient) thing. However, in more agriculturally-focused communities, rain is generally seen as a good thing. It waters the crops and helps them to grow just as sunshine does.
  • Matt 5:44-46. What should we make of the fact that verse 45 is sandwiched between verses 44 (love your enemies) and 46 (it's easy to love those who love you)? What is the meaning of these three verses as a unit?
a) Heavenly Father treats everyone the same by sending both good and bad to them, therefore you should treat people the same by loving them whether they love you or hate you?
Or, b): Heavenly Father shows love to all of us (in the good things that he gives us), like him, we should show love to everyone?


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  • Matt 5:13. Larry W. Gibbons, "Wherefore, Settle This in Your Hearts," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 102–4. Elder Gibbons asks: "How do we lose our savor? One way is when we stop being different from the world. Many in the Church are drifting in the direction of the world and looking and becoming more and more like the world. We must stop drifting."
  • Matt 5:16. Boyd K. Packer, "A Defense and a Refuge," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 85–88. Elder Packer said: "Not only are we to maintain the highest of standards, but each of us is to be a standard, a defense, a refuge."
  • Matt 5:17. Joseph Smith said that "Christ Himself fulfilled all righteousness in becoming obedient to the law which he had given to Moses on the mount, and thereby magnified it and made it honorable, instead of destroying it" (History of the Church, 5:261).
  • Matt 5:37. Craig A. Cardon, "Moving Closer to Him," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 94–96. Elder Cardon said: "The Lord spoke of thoughts that are garnished—embellished and guarded—by virtue unceasingly. [see D&C 121:45] Such thoughts abhor sin. They allow our communications to be 'Yea, yea; Nay, nay,' unencumbered by guile. They see the good and the potential in others, undeterred by the inevitable imperfections..."
  • Matt 5:46-48. David A. Bednar, "And Nothing Shall Offend Them," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 89–92. Elder Bednar said: "Interestingly, the admonition to 'be ye therefore perfect' is immediately preceded by counsel about how we should act in response to wrongdoing and offense... If a person says or does something that we consider offensive, our first obligation is to refuse to take offense and then communicate privately, honestly, and directly with that individual. Such an approach invites inspiration from the Holy Ghost and permits misperceptions to be clarified and true intent to be understood."
  • Matt 5:46-48. Henry B. Eyring, "Our Perfect Example Ensign, Nov 2009, pp. 70-73. President Eyring does not refer to Matthew 5:48, but he seems to have it in mind. His point is that Christ is our example of being perfect.
  • Verse 5:48: Perfection. Elder Dallin Oaks. 'The Challenge to Become.' General Conference, October 2000. This talk addresses mortality as a time in which to mature and develop character traits that cannot simply be given to us and that will make us worthy of respect and honor.


Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.

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