“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19).
Some believe that this verse says that a person called the “least” will still be in the kingdom of heaven. But if we read the next verse we will have a better understanding of the context “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
Here, Christ in no way implied that one who broke the commandments and taught others to do so would go to heaven. Rather, he clearly shows the attitude that the kingdom will take toward lawbreakers—the evaluation that will be placed upon their characters. This point is made clear in v. 20, where the “scribes and Pharisees,” who broke the commandments and taught others how they might do so, will be excluded from the kingdom.
The religious leaders loved the appearance of keeping God’s law but they did not keep it from the heart. They put burdens on the people that they themselves did not keep (Matthew 23:4). “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do” (Mark 7:8).
Jesus made it clear that, far from releasing men from the precepts of the moral law, He was even more strict than the official leaders of the law, the scribes and rabbis, for He granted no exceptions at any time.
All commandments were equally and permanently binding. Christ set forth six specific examples in the Sermon of the Mount that make a clear the distinction between outward acts and the motives that prompt them. For example: He regarded anger without a cause or hate to be the same as murder and lust in the heart as adultery.
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In His service,
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