Anger, Lust, & Divorce | Matthew 5:21-32


You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21-22)

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)

It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)


With His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus essentially provides us with a citizen’s guide to the kingdom of heaven. Since God’s kingdom is upside-down from the kingdoms of the world, it is fitting that Jesus opened with the Beatitudes, which are characteristics of Christ’s followers that are antithetical of how the world expects people to behave. Jesus then defined the purpose of the kingdom’s citizens: preserving and illuminating the world as salt and light. By living out the Beatitudes, Jesus knew that His disciples would be radically different from the people around them, allowing them to be messengers of the good news of the kingdom.

In our previous text, Jesus discussed His relationship to the Old Testament Law. Likely as a disclaimer to today’s passage, Christ claimed that He did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. He knew that many people would see His statements on murder and adultery as blasphemy, since He was expanding upon the commandments of the Old Testament. But Jesus is not expanding or adding to the Old Testament laws, He is simply revealing God’s heart behind them. The Pharisees nearly perfected outward obedience to the commandments, but Jesus now shows that outward obedience isn’t enough. To truly follow God, we must follow Him from our hearts.

This week, we will study three of Jesus’ topics: anger, lust, and divorce. He begins each by citing an Old Testament commandment, but then He takes the commandment further, to the heart of the matter. Murder was forbidden, but Jesus says not even to be angry against our brother. Adultery was against the law, but Jesus says that lustful looks and thoughts are adultery of the heart. It seems to be an impossible standard! How can Jesus expect such obedience? First, we can never achieve these standards; thus, these verses should break any self-righteousness in our hearts. Second, by the strength of the Holy Spirit, we are meant to live out these words more and more as we grow in maturity with Christ.

Read verses 21-26 and discuss the following.

  1. Why does Jesus equate anger and insulting someone with murder?
  2. How does Jesus’ call to reconcile with a brother before offering a sacrifice apply to us today?

Read verses 27-30 and discuss the following.

  1. Why does Jesus equate lust with adultery?
  2. Does Jesus mean for us to literally gouge out our eyes or cut off our hands if they cause us to sin? Why or why not?

Read verses 31-32 and discuss the following.

  1. Why does Jesus limit the reasons for divorce only to adultery?


  • Obey. Jesus’ commandments here have a twofold purpose. First, they are meant to break the self-righteousness of non-Christians, in the hope that they would turn to Christ in repentance for salvation. Second, they are also meant to guide Christians toward living like Christ. Therefore, followers of Christ should have an internal longing to obey God’s law. Consider, then, how you will obey Jesus’ call to flee the sin of lust and repent of the sin of anger.
  • Pray. We will never be able to follow after Christ in heart level obedience until God has supernaturally transformed our heart. Pray, therefore, for grace to live in obedience both inwardly and outwardly.

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