“Sermon on the Mount” (detail), by Jorge Cocco
Last week, we studied the first part of the Sermon on the Mount. The remainder of the sermon focuses on two themes: prioritizing heavenly rewards (Matthew 6, 3 Nephi 13) and judging wisely (Matthew 7, 3 Nephi 14).
“They have their reward”
Jesus gives several examples of ostensibly religious activities which we might do for the wrong reasons: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. People who do these things to be “seen of men,” He says, receive no reward from God. “They have their reward,” He explains.
Perhaps this is because those good decisions weren’t really what they seemed to be. They were a facade, a mask with no substance behind them. Our only goal was recognition, so we only did enough work to earn the recognition. It’s not surprising, then, that recognition is our only reward. See this blog post on the topic: They Have Their Reward – 3 Nephi 13:2, 5, 16.
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God”
Then, the Savior teaches the underlying principle: Focus on heavenly treasures, not earthly ones. Seek God’s kingdom first, and all other things will fall into place.
The kingdom of God might seem like a place or an organizational structure, but there is a more immediate way to think about it. “Kingdom” can simply mean the status of being king. So one way to interpret the admonition to seek the kingdom of God is: “Let God govern you.” Maybe that’s why the Savior prayed, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10, 3 Nephi 13:10). Here’s a blog post on that topic: What Does It Mean to Seek the Kingdom of God?
At the end of this chapter, Jesus encourages us to focus on the present, with faith that God will help us face the challenges of the future. In the Bible, He concludes with these words: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34), but in the Book of Mormon, two of the words are swapped: “Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof” (3 Nephi 13:34, italics added). Here’s a blog post about the significance of both versions of this sentence: What Is the Meaning of the Phrase “Sufficient Is the Day Unto the Evil Thereof?”
“Judge not unrighteously”
The next chapter of the sermon opens with a warning: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1, 3 Nephi 14:1). But later in the chapter, the Savior says, “Beware of false prophets,” and adds, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16, 3 Nephi 14:15-16). Isn’t that a form of judging? Joseph Smith helped to resolve this apparent contradiction by making the following revision to the first verse: “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment” (JST, Matthew 7:2), which matches a statement the Savior made on another occasion: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
Mormon said, “It is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil” (Moroni 7:15). And Alma counseled his son Corianton, “See that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually” (Alma 41:14). For the rest of the chapter, Jesus gives us some guidelines to help us judge wisely:
- Recognize and repent of your own failings before correcting others (v. 3-5)
- Be careful to share sacred things only with people who will respect them (v. 6)
- You can trust God to answer your prayers (v. 7-11)
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (v. 12)
- Beware of the easy path. The path that leads to God is narrow, not broad (v. 13-14).
- Beware of false prophets. You will know them by their fruits (v. 15-20).
- Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words (v. 21-23).
All of these guidelines can help us make wiser decisions and decide whom to trust.
Here are a few blog posts about these guidelines:
- Judge Not – 3 Nephi 14:1-5
- Ask…Seek…Knock – 3 Nephi 14:7-8
- Enter Ye in at the Strait Gate – 3 Nephi 14:13-14
- I Never Knew You – 3 Nephi 14:21-23
“A wise man, which built his house upon a rock”
At the end of the chapter, Jesus compares those who judge wisely with a person who built his house on a solid foundation. Matthew’s account of this parable and the version found in the Book of Mormon are essentially identical (Matthew 7:24-27, 3 Nephi 14:24-27). But when Luke relates the parable, he adds an interesting detail. The person who lives according to the Savior’s teachings “is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock” (Luke 6:48, italics added). I like the implications of the wise man digging deep. It took effort and self-discipline to ensure that his house was stable. Here’s a blog post on that topic: A Wise Man, Who Built His House upon a Rock – 3 Nephi 14:24-27.
The Lord’s Prayer
As part of His discussion about heavenly rewards, Jesus provided an example of a good prayer. Here is the text of the prayer as it appears in Matthew, with some related blog posts:
|Matthew 6:9-13||Blog posts|
|Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.||We Know that Thou Art Holy – Ether 3:2-5|
|Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.||“Thy Kingdom Come”|
|Give us this day our daily bread.|
|And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.||What Does the Book of Mormon Teach About Forgiving Others?|
|And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:||Would God Lead Us Into Temptation?|
|For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.||“Thine Is the Kingdom”|
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