Thoughts on Matthew 5:19

For a few moments, I’d like us to examine the second half of this verse:

“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:19

Specifically, we notice that Christ said that in order for one to be great in the kingdom it is important to both do the commandments and to teach them.

There are two parts to the last half of Matthew 5:19, but few of us do both. Some of God’s children focus a lot on doing the commandments and trying to please God, but leave out the part about teaching the commandments to others. On the other hand, some of us try to teach others the commandments while we leave off doing them ourselves. Our Lord didn’t just say to do one but rather to do both.

When we discuss teaching the commandments, I don’t believe that the Lord had in mind the notion of arrogant teaching as if we “have it all figured out”. When we teach in a godly way, we are encouraging people to join us in following the Lord; we are pointing people to a life of serving Christ out of love.

These days, it seems like few want to teach others because we hear over and over, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” (Matthew 7:1). In my opinion, this is one of the most misapplied scriptures of our day. It is used as a weapon whenever sin is pointed out. Brothers and sisters, it is OK to point out sin, even the sin of someone else. Scriptures like Matthew 7:1 teach us not to judge people in our own heart and not to think we are better than them, but such scriptures are not to be used as a reason to never point out sin. It seems that in the eyes of some today, the greatest sin is to speak out against sin. However, such an idea is foreign to the word of God. Jesus didn’t say, “You’re saved by grace, so now you can go live like the rest of the world and do whatever you want.” He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” (John 14:15). In Acts 14:15, Paul told the people of Lystra that he and Barnabas were preaching unto them that they should turn from their vanities unto the living God. Biblical Christianity preaches repentance, and church members are to “encourage one another to provoke unto love and to good works,” (Hebrews 10:24).

The other part of Matthew 5:19 is that we mustn’t neglect to do the commandments ourselves. We have to do the commandments and teach others. When we try to teach others and fail to do the commandments ourselves, it is as if we are walking on the wide, broad road but telling others to take the strait and narrow path. We look very silly and hypocritical walking on the wide road and pointing other people to the strait path.

Now, some reading this might be saying, “To preach that people should live up to a certain standard sounds like the Pharisees’ attitude that the Lord warned us against!” No, the Pharisees’ problem was that they were teaching but not doing; plus, they had added or taken away from God’s true commandments. Their problem was that they strained at a gnat and would swallow a camel. Jesus taught that we should live to a certain standard. He taught repentance. He didn’t just come to save sinners, but as he said, he came to call sinners to repentance.

I fully recognize that no one in the Bible was described in the same language as our Lord Jesus. No man will ever be as good as he was. But, there are plenty of examples of upright characters in the Bible. We read how Enoch walked with God. The word says of Job, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly,” (Job 1:22). David was a man after God’s own heart. We read that the parents of John the Baptist “were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless,” (Luke 1:6). My dear brothers and sisters, this teaches me that it’s possible for us to live this way.

This doesn’t mean these people were good enough of their own works to earn a place in Heaven. The scriptures tell us that before God “there is none that doeth good, no, not one,” (Romans 3:12). I simply believe that the individuals in the Bible examples given above were on the strait path. I have known people in my life who I felt walked on that path most of the time. They had a desire to serve God with their words and actions. When we start doing that, then we can begin to teach others how we got there by pointing them to scripture as their guide, telling them to pray, and encouraging them to serve God and worship him with a church body where the truth is preached. I believe that first doing these things ourselves and then teaching others to do them is what captures the Lord’s lesson to us in the last half of Matthew 5:19. And doing so brings glory to God Almighty. May he always be praised from the way we live!


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