Is it possible to be perfect? Hi, welcome to today’s Little Lesson. If you’ve been following the Little Lessons for a while, you know that we’ve been working our way through Matthew 5, the very first chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, and I never intended really to go this far. I wanted to take a look at the Beatitudes and one thing led to another, and pretty soon it was out of control.
Here we are all the way now to the end of Matthew 5, and there’s a verse at the very end that has some of us scratching our heads. Matthew 5:48, “Jesus said, Therefore,” and this is obviously a summarizing statement to all that’s been said previously because He said ‘Therefore’ so it connects it to everything he said. “Therefore, you are to be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
So, to answer the question that we asked at the beginning of today’s Little Lesson, is it possible to be perfect? Obviously we have to say yes or we’re contradicting Jesus. He says, “Your Father, Heavenly Father is perfect and you are to be perfect, and He’s the one that you are to be imitating.” What’s He talking about there?
Well, He’s talking about moral perfection. He’s talking about righteous living and that is the standard, and it’s good to be reminded of that. Jesus, although He has compassion on us just as any father has compassion on his children, so the Bible says God has compassion on His children and He knows, our frame, that we are but dust and we have a high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. I’m just quoting various versus from the New Testament.
James said, “We all stumble in many ways.” Paul said, “I don’t think I have reached perfection.” I’m paraphrasing Paul, but yet the standard is not halfway, not mediocrity, you know, we ought to be striving for perfection.
Some commentators see a prophetic element to Matthew 5:48 that it’s a promise that you will be perfect one day, you know, therefore you are to be perfect. So that’s, speaking of the future, you will be perfect one day just as your Father in Heaven is perfect. Now, I’m not sure I can accept that as the correct interpretation of what Jesus was trying to communicate there in light of the fact that that would be a brand new idea in the discussion.
He’s been talking about what His followers should do. He’s been setting the standards for them all through Matthew 5 at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. So I really think that what He’s saying is, you know, you ought to set your mark high and strive for perfection, and the one you want to imitate is your Father who is perfect. Of course, He’s made reference to that a few verses earlier here.
He talked, remember, about how God causes the sun to shine on the evil and the good, and He sends their rain on the righteous and the unrighteous, and that’s all said within the context of you want to imitate your Father, and love people that don’t deserve your love. Show mercy to people, because your Father is merciful and He’s showing love to people that don’t deserve His love.
But I think Matthew 5:48 about being fair, I think it applies to everything that Jesus said prior to that, all the standards that were said about telling the truth because God always tells the truth, and being faithful to your word because God is always faithful to His word, and all the other characteristics and ethics and standards and moral standards that Jesus set previously to this. They all are a reflection of what God is like. God doesn’t expect us to live at a higher standard than Him morally, ethically. Neither does He expect us to live at a lower standard because He’s perfect. His standards are perfect. His morality is perfect, and so that’s what we ought to be striving for.
In fact, Jesus said, “If we do love our enemies, we can prove ourselves to be sons of our Father who is in Heaven.” So this shows our relationship with Him, that like Father, like Son. So if we really are His children, we ought to be acting like Him and imitating Him. Of course, we could also say we should imitate Jesus, follow Christ, like? Amen.
Now, there’s a few verses that we failed to cover that are right before this Matthew 5:48 when Jesus was talking about loving our enemies. And we’ve talked about this on a previous Little Lesson, but I failed to look at the last couple things that Jesus said in relationship to that, and so let’s read a couple verses before we kind of shut this section down and move on into Matthew 6.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:46, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” You can see that He’s setting it up for that final verse, Chapter 5:48, isn’t He? Because in Matthew 5:48 He tells us the standard is, “Imitate God, be perfect like Him” but now He’s referring to another standard that tax collectors live up to. Tax collectors at least have this degree of morality. They, generally speaking, love us who love them.
I mean, the worst, most incorrigible people generally, isn’t it true, love those who love them? And so there’s nothing all that praiseworthy in saying, well, I love this person who loves me. I mean, anybody does that.
Remember, tax collectors were on the lower, lowest rung of the ladder of morality in Jesus’ day. They were, you know, ripping people off. They were greedy, covetous. They were betrayers of their own people serving for an occupying Roman powers and so forth. Jesus sometimes put them right in there with harlots, you know, the tax collectors and harlots Jesus spoke about will get into Heaven before you because they repented at the Preaching of John the Baptist.
Now here again the standard is being set. You know, tax collectors do this, so don’t set your standard to be a tax collector’s standard. Set your standard to be a God standard. Tax collectors love those who love them. God loves people who don’t love Him, and that’s the standard we’re to follow.
And then Jesus goes on. He gives a little insight into the hypocritical religiosity of the Scribes and Pharisees and those who followed them in His day, in Verse 47, He said, “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing that others? Do not even Gentiles do the same?” So, you know, some holier than though Scribes and Pharisees would only even acknowledge and greet as they walking along those who were fellow Jews, and they wouldn’t even make any acknowledgement of the non-Jews, the non-brothers, the Gentiles, the Pagans, the dogs as they referred to them as. So Jesus is saying, no, no, no, that’s now how I want my disciples to be.
So, all of this is to say in summary, we as followers of Christ ought to be different than people that aren’t followers of Christ because our standards should be so much higher. What are our standards? Our standards are we want to be like God, like Jesus.
All right, thanks so much for joining me. Hope to see you again next time. Bye-bye.