Religious Hypocrisy & The Goodness of God's Law
I have heard Christians say that, when Jesus gave his famous “sermon on the mount” (Matthew 5-7), that he was adding to the requirements of the law to make them even more strict. But I have to disagree with this assessment. At the beginning of the sermon, Jesus starts by upholding the inherent goodness of the law (Matthew 5:17-19). He is not doing away with the old law to make a new one. He is not adding to a law that was defective in its original form. He is interpreting the law and showing how to read the Bible correctly.
Even though the law had been preserved in Jesus’ day, those who taught it had stayed far away from the “heart” and true meaning of it. So Jesus goes to the source and shows people God’s original intention, as opposed to the popular interpretations of the day. (Might there be interpretational traditions in our day that Jesus would also repudiate?)
For example, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28) Does anyone seriously read Jesus’ words and think that he is saying, “It was okay for Abraham to spend an hour a day on PornHub, but you need to have a higher standard?” Anyone reading the law with integrity would have realized that if God established the marriage covenant to be between one man and one woman, then fantasizing about living outside of that blueprint would have been to assume that it was a stupid law and that God gave it arbitrarily, possibly even capriciously.
The problem with the Pharisees was that they tried to weasel their way around God’s law by ignoring the heart issues and making it only about external observation. Could there be ways in which we still do this today?