Matthew 5 is probably the worst chapter in the Bible for the do-nothing gospel. You know, the gospel that says a good Christian’s only responsibility is to believe in Jesus and not worry about good works, rule-keeping, or law-obeying.
Matthew 5 totally destroys that idea.
The do-nothing gospel is a common theme from the pulpit. Have you heard it preached,
Don’t be like the rule-keeping Pharisees, who did good works but were rebuked by Christ. Instead, rely on the grace of Jesus, and not on your works.
Any effort towards good works or Law-keeping is seen as an affront to this grace-only message, undermining the do-nothing gospel.
Messianic and Hebrew Roots folks face opposition in the Church for this reason. Keeping the Torah is works, and many Protestants have a knee-jerk reaction to any sort of works or rule-keeping, which has been thoroughly stigmatized as an ugly error of past religion.
But in reality, Messiah is pro-works. Matthew 5 is a great demonstration of this:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Good works produces people who glorify God.
(p.s. The next verse is even worse! It’s where Messiah says the Torah is here to stay.)
It’s not like this is unknown in Christianity. There’s a famous Christian pop song, still getting radio air time to this day, whose catchy tunes repeat the mantra of Matthew 5:
What are good works? What is the light that shines before all men? The psalmist writes:
Your word is a lamp for my foot
and light on my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
that I will observe your righteous rulings.
I am very much distressed;
LORD, give me life, in keeping with your word.
Please accept my mouth’s voluntary offerings, LORD;
and teach me your rulings.
I am continually taking my life in my hands,
yet I haven’t forgotten your Law.
Observing God’s rulings. Keeping God’s Commandments. The Word as a light. This is the nuts and bolts of Torah observance.
The light that shines before all men is doing God’s commandments in the Torah.
That bit is from Psalm 119, where, in a dizzying 176 verses, the psalmist extols the virtues of keeping the Torah.
Truth be told, that psalm may well be the worst chapter in the Bible for the do-nothing gospel. I chose Matthew 5 only because it’s straight from Messiah’s mouth.
Speaking of these 2 “worst” chapters in the Bible, I came across an old Messianic tune from Troy Mitchell, a kind of chant really, that ties Matthew 5 and Psalm 119 together. Perhaps it qualifies as the worst song of all time for do-nothing gospel adherents, haha:
Can it get any better? I love you, Troy Mitchell.
On a more serious note, one great thing happening in Christianity is that more Christians are seeing that grace-by-faith ≠ works-free life. God actually does care about how you life your life. More folks in the Church are recognizing this.
Let that trend continue.