Today we completed reading Matthew 5-7, the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. Today’s chapter is full of challenging precepts for our lives. Verses 1-5 are a warning about being hypocritical; how readily human beings see the faults in others and yet be blind to greater faults in themselves.

Verse 6 has caused much discussion; how do we apply it? Jesus said, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you”. Notice that Jesus did not attempt to teach the religious leaders; instead he called them hypocrites (see 15:7; 16:3), and this indicates the kind of people he meant.

There are several examples of their attacks on him, and for those who aim to follow in their Master’s footsteps (see 1 Peter 2:21-25) there will be some similar experiences. In chapter 10, where the twelve are named (verses 2-4), one of the things he says is, “It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (verse 25).

These, and other examples, illustrate the challenges faced by those who follow Jesus and practice his precepts as they walk the “narrow path”. Verses 13 and 14 of chapter 7 sum it up, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few”.

But it must be said, for the last generation or two in the ‘western’ world, the path has not seemed so narrow and challenging. This is because our society has been tolerant of nearly every style of living, however broadminded or permissive. But, this atmosphere is spiritually poisonous and those who are treading the narrow way must be more on their guard than ever!

Finally, note verse 21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom … but the one who does the will of my Father … on that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy (preach) in your name’ … I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’”. They left the narrow way to create their own, maybe thinking it was better! The true path is less evident in the increasing darkness of this world – an essential reason for reading God’s words ever more diligently.