The Sermon on the Mount is a change of perspective. A reversal of everything the world tells us to believe and do.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matthew 6:25).
What does this shift in our worldview mean for us right now? It means that those who are blessed in God's view are not what the world would tell you. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount can be broken down into two parts:
1. Reflect on what the world would have us do.
2. Refute those expectations with how Jesus expects us to live.
A Better Way: The Sermon on the Mount
Jesus does not mince words when it comes to telling humanity how to interact with both everyday life and eternal life.
In the humdrum of our earthly existence, it’s easy to let the world numb our minds with the fog of routine and lock our hearts in the cage of apathy. Not only is it easy; it’s normal. It’s expected. It’s relatable. But Jesus used this sermon to say, “Don’t do that. There’s a better way.”
But what is that way?
The way is simple in principle yet complicated and nuanced in execution. We can’t just drift through the world without touching it or by keeping our heads down, so we don’t upset anyone. We must be the salt and the light (Matthew 5:13-14) by flavoring life the way salt flavors food and letting Christ shine through us as a beacon of hope.
So, what does this look like in real life? Jesus understands our humanity and our limited knowledge on heavenly things, so, as he did with the parables, he spells out exactly what we are to do:
- Realize that even thinking about murder (Matthew 5:21-26), adultery, (Matthew 5:27-30), or breaking a vow of love made before God (Matthew 5:31-32) is a sin. The world may tell you it’s natural to have those thoughts as long as you don’t act on them, but Jesus makes it clear that God disagrees.
- Practice careful, God-based discernment (Matthew 7:15-23) and avoid hurtful judgment (Matthew 7:1-6). “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).
- See revenge, not as the world sees it (Matthew 5:38-42) — not as justice or karma. Hatred seems to come easier for us, especially if the recipient “deserves it.” So, why does Jesus tell us to love and pray for those who hurt us (Matthew 5:43-48)? Because if we don’t, the cycle of pain, selfishness, and broken relationships will never end. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it this way: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
- Finally, be generous and genuine. The world may tell you to “treat yo’ self,” but God wants you to be a giver, not a taker (Matthew 6:1-4). And the world may tell you to break a promise if it causes you pain, stands in the way of your dreams, or just mildly inconveniences you, but God wants you to follow through on your yes and your no and to do so without invoking the borrowed credibility of God, a life, or a contract (Matthew 5:33-37).
Loving other people fully is next to impossible, but you can see people, you can hear their voices. We can’t even see God in this plane of existence, so how on earth are we supposed to love Him?
I think that’s a trick question; we can’t understand God well enough to love Him because prejudices, mixed motives, and pains, old and new, color our perception. Jesus, however, could and did. Consequently, He was able to live out every sentence of the Old-Testament Law on our behalf (Matthew 5:17-20). As a result, the human race can catch a keyhole-glimpse into the love of God.
Just like with loving others, loving God is simple in theory but hard to execute because the world has raised us on a “diet” of lies, including that earthly possessions are fulfilling, it’s easy to be a good person, and you don’t need a base of rock when there’s all that sand just waiting for houses to crop upon it.
Jesus exposes these lies for what they are and tells us that no house or car can compare to doing God’s work (Matthew 6:19-24), there’s a Heaven and a Hell, and the former is much harder to reach than the latter (Matthew 7:13-14). For those who build their beliefs on God will weather many more spiritual storms than those who build them on science, politics, or their ever-changing moods (Matthew 7:24-29).
The Blessings of Obeying Jesus' Teachings
The Sermon on the Mount makes it clear that God expects impossible standards — standards that seem harsh and unrealistic to the world. But whenever I think that God is asking too much of me, that He’s being unfair somehow, I remember something my friend Mandi told me: “Thank God life isn’t fair! We’d all be in Hell if life was fair.”
Yes, Jesus expects us to walk a narrow road. But unlike the world, He doesn’t make empty promises about what He offers us. He simply tells us what’s true: That those the world shuns—the grieving, the destitute, the kind — will be loved, comforted, and cared for as part of God’s family (Matthew 5:3-11). And just to make sure we know that He really means it; Jesus assures us that if we want something, all we have to do is seek Him out (Matthew 7:7-12).
Even those of us who are suffering the most have no cause to worry in the long run (Matthew 6:25-34). The world causes all manner of stress and panic — but Jesus offers peace not by removing those circumstances, but by giving you His strength to endure them.
Bible Text of the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5-7
The Sermon on the Mount
(Matthew 5) 1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Salt and Light
13 "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. 14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Christ Came to Fulfill the Law
17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
21 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
31 "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' 34 But I say to you, Do not take 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 take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil.
38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Love Your Enemies
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Giving to the Needy
(Matthew 6) 1 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 "Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
The Lord's Prayer
5 "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 "And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Do Not Be Anxious
25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
(Matthew 7) 1 "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. 6 "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.
Ask, and It Will Be Given
7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
The Golden Rule
12 "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. 13 "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. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
A Tree and Its Fruit
15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
I Never Knew You
21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23 And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
Build Your House on the Rock
24 "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."
The Authority of Jesus
28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
Sermon on the Mount: Conclusion
I had a pretty bad day today, and you may be having a bad day, too. But just think, we have a God who spent two whole chapters in Matthew giving us rest, comfort, and a better way to live our lives. I challenge you to read the Sermon on the Mount for yourself and let Jesus show you what He means when He says His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
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Sonya Downing is a novelist, freelance writer, and content editor with a bachelor’s degree in professional writing. Her freelance work has been published in Focus on the Family’s teen girl magazine Brio, The Evangelical Church Library Association, and The Secret Place quarterly magazine. She has also blogged for IlluminateYA Publishing and edited for Mountain Brook Ink. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.