By Ryan Shaw
There is a cry in the human heart to be great! We long for our lives to matter and be significant. This drive has been placed within us by God Himself.
The problem is how do we define greatness? Are we seeking greatness from God’s perspective or the world’s?
The Sermon on the Mount reveals the process through which disciples become great in God’s eyes. Matthew 5:19 is a monumental verse in relation to this process not given the emphasis it deserves.
“Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of God; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the Kingdom of God.”
Pursuing greatness is not bad nor something we can repent of. Instead, we repent for the way we seek to express and walk this greatness out.
Human nature and the world’s way are to pursue greatness according to self-centered aspirations. But Jesus says “I have a plan I want you to walk in for becoming great.” His definition of greatness is not more popularity, money, power, status, etc.
Spiritual greatness, according to this important passage, is faithfully living according to the Old Testament law as it was intended from the beginning and teaching others to do so.
The law and the prophets are eternal. And Jesus is the end of the law. He nowhere taught it is okay to forsake living according to Old Testament law.
What He did do was condemn the wrong applications of the law that the Jewish leaders bought into. They were not walking out what was intended through the law but skewed it for their own purposes. He does not require the letter of the law but the spirit of it.
Jesus exemplifies in His ministry the right applications of the law and calls His followers to do so as well. This is His point in highlighting the six practical areas (in the next portion of the Sermon on the Mount) we are to embrace in order to live in true righteousness.
Message bearers want to focus on these areas and teach those we serve among the importance of obedience to Jesus’ ways in these six areas. This is spiritual greatness according to Jesus.
These six primary areas are:
1) The Importance of Resisting Anger (5:21-26)
2) Overcoming Lust (5:27-30)
3) Honoring Marriage (5:31-32)
4) Keeping Our Word (5:33-37)
5) Refusing Retaliation & Defensiveness (5:38-42)
6) Loving Our Enemies (5:43-48)
Through the New Covenant and the work of Jesus and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to walk according to God’s desire for true righteousness in these areas and many more.
They are not mere ideals or a nice ethic. They are how we are intended to live.
We don’t simply teach the commands externally (as the Pharisees and religious teachers did) but call others to live according to the implicit implications of them, through and through. This is the call of true righteousness today.
Committing personally to them and teaching others to do so produces spiritual greatness before God’s throne.
Conversely, neglecting, minimizing, or teaching others it is okay to break them because we are covered in grace, according to Jesus, means we are considered “least” before God.
This is a serious warning and calling for every born again believer as we seek to influence all people groups with the love of Jesus.
Every believer has many opportunities to influence people and encourage them to live according to true righteousness as Jesus defines in the Sermon on the Mount. This is doing what Jesus tells us will produce greatness in the Kingdom.