1. One day, when Jesus saw how large the crowds were becoming, He climbed up to a high part of a mountainside and just sat down, looking out over them. When the disciples saw him sitting there, they climbed up to where He was.
2. When they had all come up higher together, He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying:
3. “Blessed are the poor in spirit – those who have been broken emotionally and whose self-esteem has been severely damaged – for they have the opportunity to rethink their lives, and are in a position to receive total restoration by seeking the kingdom of/from the heavens!
4. “Blessed are those who are in mourning – those whose dreams have been shattered, who have known nothing but heartbreak and disappointment – for they have the promise that they shall be completely comforted!
5. “Blessed are the meek – those who regularly exercise strength under perfect control – for their restraint, humility and self-control will ultimately cause them to literally inherit the earth!
6. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – the seekers who want more, who refuse to settle for the religious status quo, and who earnestly desire to embrace all truth – for they shall be spiritually satisfied!
7. “Blessed are the merciful – the ones who are quick to forgive and move on, who are slow to judge, and are unwilling to condemn – for they themselves shall obtain mercy in their own lives!
8. “Blessed are the pure in heart – those who do not live by hidden agendas and ulterior motives…the unpretentious…the real people experiencing the real God in the real world – for they shall be able to see God fully and clearly, and without any optical obstruction!
9. “Blessed are the makers and maintainers of peace – the ones who build the bridges, tear down the walls, and are repairers of the breach – for their noble and humanitarian efforts shall cause them to be called the very sons of God!
10. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake – those who are misunderstood, misquoted and misjudged for their beliefs, and are hated for their stand for the truth – for their clear vision will reveal the kingdom of/from the heavens on the earth!
11. “Blessed are you, even when people revile you and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil things against you, and make up hurtful and ridiculous rumors about you on My account.
12. “You must see the persecution for what it is and not take it personally. You should actually be glad and even joyful when you experience it, for your reward in heaven is great…strong and intense…and you are in good company, for in this same way people persecuted the prophets who came before you.
13. “You are, in a sense, the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost the strength of its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is then useless…not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and walked on by oblivious people.
14. “You are also the light of the world…a well-lit metropolis built on a hill that cannot be hidden or ignored in any way.
15. “Think about it: no one lights a lamp and then covers it up and obscures its radiance. On the contrary, a lamp is made to be lit and then fixed somewhere up high on a lamp stand, so that it can burn brightly and illuminate the entire house.
16. “So let your own personal light unashamedly shine before the public that they may see your obvious excellence and the demonstration of your good deeds and acts of kindness, and, as a result, glorify your Father Who is in the heavenly realm.
17. “Look, don’t think that I have come to do away with or undo the Law or the Prophets; in fact, I have come not to do away with or undo them, but to complete and fulfill them and to make them finally make sense to you.
18. “I tell you in all honesty, until the sky and earth pass away and perish, not one smallest letter nor one little punctuation mark will pass from the Law until all the things that it foreshadows are accomplished.
19. “Whoever then does away with or relaxes one of the least important of these commandments and teaches people to do the same shall be called least important in the kingdom of/from the heavens; his religion will trivialize him. But he who practices them and teaches others to do so shall be called great in the kingdom of/from the heavens; he will cause the Law to come alive and accomplish its true purpose in the lives of people.
20. “For I tell you, unless your righteousness is more than that of the superficial scribes and pretentious Pharisees, you will never enter the reign or the kingdom of/from the heavens.
21. “You have heard that it was said in times past, ‘You shall not kill, and whoever kills shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court.’
22. “But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his or her brother or sister, and harbors malice and heart-enmity against another, shall be unable to escape the same punishment imposed by the same court; and whoever speaks contemptuously and insultingly to a brother or sister shall be liable to experience the punishment imposed by the Sanhedrin. And those who are in the habit of randomly saying, ‘You stupid idiot!’ to others may be inviting unnecessary violence to themselves, and could even end up on a heap of garbage and burning rubble in the dump at Gehenna, just outside the city of Jerusalem.
23. “So if and when you are offering your gift at the altar and you remember that your brother has any grievance against you,
24. “leave your gift at the altar and go make peace with your brother (you don’t need too many enemies), and then come back and present your gift.
25. “Come to terms quickly with your accuser, or with one who is adversarial with you, while you are on the way traveling with him, so that your accuser doesn’t decide to hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.
26. “You know how the system works…you will not be released from prison until you have paid the last penny of the fine that you owe.
27. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
28. “But I say to you that anyone who even looks at someone and fantasizes about committing adultery with them has already done so in his or her heart.
29. “So if looking at someone causes you to lust after them – especially if they are off-limits to you (as in another man’s wife or another woman’s husband) – then pluck out your right eye and throw it away before your lust gets you into trouble. It is better to lose one of your bodily members than to be stoned for adultery, or killed by a jealous husband or wife, and have your whole body thrown onto the burning garbage dumb at Gehenna, in the Valley of Hinnom!
30. “And if your right hand serves as a trap to ensnare you, or causes you to steal or to hurt someone, cut it off and cast it from you. Again, it is better that you lose one of your members than that your entire body should be thrown into the garbage-fires of Gehenna, and your entire life be thrown away because of some silly foolishness.
31. “It has also been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must simply give her a certificate of divorce…no questions asked.’
32. “But I tell you, whoever just casually dismisses and divorces his wife for no good or valid reason, such as unfaithfulness or infidelity, will inadvertently cause her to go out and commit adultery herself. And whoever marries a woman who has been divorced in this way will inadvertently commit adultery with her, seeing that she will more than likely still consider herself married to her previous husband.
33. “Again, you have heard that it was said in ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but you shall perform your oaths to the Lord as a religious duty.’
34. “But I tell you, do not foolishly bind yourselves by an oath at all…either by heaven, for it is the throne of God;
35. or by the earth, for it is His footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.
36. “And do not even swear by your head, for it is not absolute; you are not able to make a single hair white or black.
37. “Just let your ‘Yes’ simply be ‘Yes’; likewise, let your ‘No’ be simply ‘No’ – no more, no less. Anything more than that implies that you are not honest enough for people to believe that your word alone is your bond. It makes it appear as if you are a liar like the adversary.
38. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’
39. “But I want you to see things in a whole new way. I say to you, do not resist the evil man who injures you – choose your battles. If anyone strikes you on the right jaw or cheek, turn to him the other one too, initially. Your moral authority in this case will prove that you are stronger than your opponent, and that you don’t have to stoop to his level!
40. “And if anyone wants to sue you and take the very shirt off your back, let him have your coat also. It will prove that you see a bigger picture, one in which your Father in heaven will reward you with new shirts and a new coat!
41. “Along the same lines, if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. It will prove that God is your strength and that you are nobody’s victim!
42. “Give to him who keeps on begging from you and do not turn away from him who would borrow from you. It will prove that you are the prosperous one, the one who knows that God is his source.
43. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44. “But I want you to rethink that. I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45. to show that you are the children of your Father Who is in heaven and that love always and ultimately wins. And anyway, the truth is, whether you like it or not, that He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers, alike.
46. “So if you only love those who love you, where is the reward in that? Don’t you know that even the tax collectors do that?
47. “And if you only acknowledge and speak to your own people, what more than others are you doing? Don’t you know that even those of the nations do that?
48. “These ideas are new to you and alien to your religious mindset, but you can do all of this because I have declared you to be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect. You therefore must already be perfect, even if you don’t realize it yet and even if you don’t act like it yet, because I have come to reveal, once and for all, that you are created in the Father’s perfect image.