Sermon on the Mount is remarkable in that it contains the essence of the Gospel teaching. The text of Chapter 7 of a famous textbook by Archbishop Averky (Tauchev, 1906-1976), "Guidelines for the study of Sacred Scripture of the New Testament. Four Gospels. The publication of Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville village, NY.
Нагорная проповедь замечательна тем, что содержит сущность евангельского учения. Приводится текст из главы 7-й, известного учебника Архиепископа Аверкия (Таушева, 1906-1976) «Руководство к изучению Священного Писания Нового Завета. Четвероевангелие», издание Свято-Троицкой Семинарии в селении Джорданвиль, штат Нью-Йорк.
• I – The Sermon on the Mount - I (Mat. 5) [I-я часть Нагорной проповеди]:
(1) The Beatitudes [Заповеди блаженства]; (2) Вы – соль земли; (3) The Light of the World. [Вы – свет мира]; (4) Не нарушить пришел Я но исполнить; (5) Нельзя гневаться; (6) Нельзя прелюбодействовать в сердце своем; (7) Нельзя разводиться; (8) Не клянись вовсе; (8a) Two Measures of Righteousness.
• II – The Sermon on the Mount - II (Mat. 6) [II-я часть Нагорной проповеди]:
(8b) The Main Task is to Please God; (8c) The Prayer "Our Father" [Молитва «Отче Наш»]; (9) Не нужно поститься на показ; (10) The Eternal Treasure [Не собирайте себе сокровищ на земле];
• III – The Sermon on the Mount - III (Mat. 7) [III-я часть Нагорной проповеди]:
(11) Do Not Judge [Не судите, да не судими будете]; (12) Steadfastness in Prayer [Просите, и дано будет вам]; (13) Золотое правило; (14) The Narrow Path [Входите тесными вратами]; (15) About the False Prophets [Берегитесь лжепророков]; (16) Притча о благоразумном строителе; (17) Конец Нагорной проповеди;
• Примечания. Ссылки.
The full Sermon on the Mount is narrated only by Evangelist Matthew. Saint Luke recounts the Sermon in the abridged version, the excerpts of which are encountered in his entire Gospel. The Sermon on the Mount is remarkable, because it embodies the essence of the Evangelic teaching.Not far from the sea of Gennesaret, between Capernaum and Tiberias, up to this day they show the "mount of beatitudes", from which, due to the great number of people, the Lord gave His Sermon on the Mount. Proud of being chosen and unwilling to accept their loss of autonomy, the Jewish people began to dream of such a Messiah, who would free them from the foreign domination, would take vengeance on all their enemies, rule them and conquer for them all the people on earth, while the Jews would receive the fairytale-like wellbeing: He will command the sea to expel all its pearls and other treasures, clothe them in purple robes and feed them with manna, even more sweeter than that sent to them in the wilderness. With such false wishes of the earthly blessings, which the Messiah would give them, the Jews surrounded Jesus in the expectation that He was about to declare Himself the King of Israel, and there would arrive that blessed, anticipated by them era. They assumed that the end of their suffering and humiliation was at hand, and from that point on they would be happy and blessed.
1. The Beatitudes.
(Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-19).
In response to these thoughts and feelings, the Lord reveals to the Jews His evangelical teaching about the beatitudes (blessings), shattering their fallacy at its core. He teaches them the same He said to Nicodemus: that in order to create God’s Kingdom on earth, that lost by the people paradise, it is essential that we should be reborn spiritually, and through this prepare for ourselves the blessings of eternal life in the Heavenly Kingdom. The first step towards this is to realize our spiritual poverty, our sin and insignificance, to be humble. That is why: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mat. 5:3). Blessed are they, who in seeing and realizing their sins, which are impeding their entry into this Kingdom, weep, because then they have the opportunity to reconcile themselves with their consciences and be comforted. Those weeping over their sins reach such inner state of tranquility that they become incapable of being angry with anyone — they become meek. Indeed, the meek Christians have inherited the earth, which was previously ruled by the heathens. They also will inherit the earth in the coming life, which will arise after the destruction of this perishable world, "new earth" (Exodus 26:13; Rev. 21:1). "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Mat. 5:6), i.e. those who fulfill God’s will in everything, will attain that righteousness and God’s exculpation, which gives the genuine yearning to live according to God’s will. Merciful God demands mercy from people – the virtue, which is attained by those genuinely striving to live according to His will. For that reason: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Mat. 5:7), and on the contrary: "For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy" (James 2:13). The genuine works of benevolence cleanse the human heart of all iniquities, and the "pure in heart" will "see God" (Mat. 5:8) with their spiritual eyes. Those who see God, strive to resemble Him, imitate His Son, who had reconciled the man with God and brought peace, i.e. tranquility to the human soul. Those seeing God abhor hostility and consequently become peacemakers, striving to instate peace everywhere. That is why they are blessed for "they shall be called sons of God" (Mat. 5:9). Those, having achieved such a high spiritual level, should be prepared for this sinful world, the world that "lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19), will hate them for God’s truth, the bearers of which they are. They will be denounced and vilified by it, and persecuted in all the ways for their fidelity to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Divine teaching. Those who would endure much in the name of Christ here, can expect great rewards in Heaven (Mat. 5:12).
These nine New Testament commandments, which are called the Commandments of Blessedness, present themselves as though the whole Gospel in the abridged form. Their characteristic differences from the Old Testament Ten Commandments are: the Old Testament examines the man’s outward actions and applies strict bans in the definitive form, whereas the New Testament speaks more about the inner disposition of the man’s soul, expounding not demands but only conditions, with observance of which the eternal joy is reachable.
Evangelist Luke makes the teachings of Saint Matthew on beatitudes more complete. He cites the words of Jesus Christ that contain a warning to those who see happiness only in the delight with the earthly blessings: "But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation" (Luke 6:24) — says the Lord, comparing to them those poor in spirit. Here of course, are meant not simply those that possess some type of earthly welfare, but those who rely on it, proud, haughty, those who treat the others with contempt. "Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger" (Luke 6:25) — in comparison to those who "hunger and thirst after righteousness", because these people are not seeking God’s truth but are satisfied with their own false beliefs. "Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep" (Luke 6:25) — here, the reference is made to the careless people, light-heartedly treating their sinful life, which is being seared. The world, steeped in the evil, loves those who indulge it, those who live in sin, that is why: "Woe to you when all men speak well of you" (Luke 6:26), for this is the sign of the unfortunate moral state.
3. The Light of the World.
Further on, the Lord states that all His followers who fulfill His directives will be called the "salt of the earth" (Mat. 5:13). Salt preserves food from spoilage, makes it sound and pleasant to the taste: similarly, the Christians should preserve the world from the spiritual spoilage and contribute to making it sound. Salt communicates its properties to any matter it comes into a contact with; similarly, the Christians should report Christ’s Spirit to all that are not yet Christian. Salt does not change the essence or outward appearance of the substance in which it dissolves, but only adds taste to it; similarly, the Christianity does not bring about any type of outward fracture in the man or human society, but ennobles the human soul and through it transforms his whole life, giving it the unique, Christian character. "If the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned?" (Mat. 5:13). Indeed, in the east, there is a type of salt that loses its taste under the influence of humidity, the wind and sun. It is impossible to restore the taste of such salt: similarly, those who once tasted the sublime communication with the Holy Spirit and subsequently fell into an unforgivable sin, are incapable of transforming spiritually without God’s special help.
The light of the world is essentially our Lord Jesus Christ, but because the believers in Him absorb this light and reflect it into the world, they too appear to be "the light of the world". Such are the Apostles and their successors, whose designation is to shine with Christ’s light: the pastors of the holy Church. They have to live in such a way, so that in seeing their good deeds, people would praise God.
Wishing to show His attitude towards the Old Testament, the Lord at the outset calms the Jews’ zeal about the Law, emphasizing that He came not to violate but to fulfill it. Indeed, Christ came to earth so that the entire Old Testament Word of God would be fulfilled in Him, to reveal, fulfill and confirm the whole power of the Law and the Prophets, to show the true spirit and meaning of the Old Testament. "How did He fulfill the Law?" — asks the blessed Theothilactus. — First, with the fact that He fulfilled all that was foretold about Him by the Prophets. He fulfilled all the commandments of the Law, for He committed no iniquities and there was no flattery in His words. He fulfilled the Law as well in that He completed it, having perfectly written that which was only a shadow in the Law". He gave a full and deep understanding of all the Old Testament commandments, preaching about the insufficiency of the outward and formal submissiveness to the Law alone. "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot (the smallest letter in the Jewish alphabet) or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Mat 5:18) — says the Lord, emphasizing that even the smallest in God’s law shall not remain unfulfilled. The Pharisees divided the commandments into the major and "minor" ones — and did not think the violation of the latter, assigning there the commandments regarding love, mercy and justice, to be a sin. "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven". According to the quality of the Greek expression, shall be called the least, means — will be rejected and will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees is characterized by their outward fulfillment of the demands and prescriptions of the Law, and with that, mainly of the trivial ones: and therefore, this righteousness co-existed in their hearts with conceit, arrogance, without the spirit of humility and meek love, and was outward and hypocritical; behind this mask, there could nest various vices and passions, in which Christ repeatedly and vigorously accused them. Against such outward, false righteousness the Lord warned His successors.
8a. Two Measures of Righteousness.
All along the 5th chapter, commencing with the 21st verse, Saint Matthew narrates about how the Lord testifies, in what specifically He came to complete the Old Testament law: He teaches the deeper and more spiritual understanding and fulfillment of the Old Testament commandments. It is not enough not to kill a person physically; one should not kill him morally by getting angry with him needlessly: "Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, "Raca" (an empty person), shall be in danger of the council (Jewish supreme court). But whoever says, "You fool!" shall be in danger of hell fire" (Mat. 5:22). Here, according to the Jewish understanding, the various degrees of anger at the neighbor are indicated. The ordinary city court dealt with lesser felonies than the Great Sanhedrin — the highest court, situated in Jerusalem and made up of 72 members, presided by a high priest. To call someone "raca" meant to express one’s scorn to him, while to say to someone "You fool" meant to express to the neighbor the extreme contempt or rejection: not only a foolish was called by this name, but also an indecent, shameless individual. The punishment for such excessive anger was "the Gehenna fire" (this was the name given to the valley of Hinnom, situated to the south-west of Jerusalem, where the unrighteous kings carried out the repugnant rituals to the god Moloch, by leading the children through the fire and bringing infants as sacrifices (2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chron. 28:3). After these idolatrous practices ceased, the valley became the subject of horror and revulsion. They began to carry there all types of impurities and cadavers, left without a burial, from Jerusalem; sometimes, the executions were conducted there; the air in that valley was so infected that continuous fires were maintained in order to clear it. Consequently, the frightening and repulsive area, named as the "valley of fire", began to serve as an example of the eternal suffering of sinners.
The Christian meekness and love towards the neighbor should spread not only over not being angry with anyone, but also not evoking any anger against oneself from the neighbor, possessing the unkind feeling. This interferes with praying with the clean conscience, consequently, it is necessary to make peace with your brother before the prayer. In the Roman court proceedings, where the lender had the right to forcibly bring his debtor to court, our offended brother is called our rival, with whom we must make up while we are "on the road" of this earthly life, so that he does not give us out to Judge-God and we would not get the deserved retribution. Thus, Apostle Paul hastened the offender to make peace with the offended, saying: "Do not let the sun go down on your wrath" (Ephes. 4:26).
Likewise, it is insufficient to fulfill God’s 7th Commandment purely outwardly: "Thou shalt not commit adultery!" by guarding oneself from sin just physically. The Lord teaches that not only actions but also thoughts, inner desire or a craving look at a woman — is already a transgression. Saint Athanasius the Great states: "A man commits adultery in his heart when he is willing to fulfill his desire, but is impeded by place, time or fear of the law". Not every glance at a woman is a sin — but a glance with the desire to commit the sin of adultery. In such cases, it is necessary to show total decisiveness to curb the temptation, not sparing even the most precious possession, which for the man are the parts of his body: an eye or a hand. In this instance, both an eye and a hand are shown by the Lord as a symbol of all that precious to us, which we must sacrifice in order to deracinate the passion and avoid sinning.
In connection with this, the Lord forbids a husband to divorce his wife, "except sexual immorality", i.e. if she had been found in adultery. The Old Testament law of Moses (Deut. 24:1-2) permits a husband to divorce his wife, giving her a certificate of divorce as a written testimony that she was his wife and that he is releasing her from him for a certain reason. In those days, the position of a woman was very hard.
In Mark’s Gospel, the Lord states that the permission to divorce with the wife was given to the Jews by Moses "because of hardness of the heart", although at the beginning, it was: "What God has joined together, let no man separate" (Mark 10:9). A marriage can break up only in the case of adultery of one of the spouses. However, if "whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery" (Mat. 5:32).
The law of the Old Testament forbids the use of God’s name in vows in the trifle matters, especially in lies. The third commandment of God’s law forbids the use of His name casually and any light-minded approach to a vow with God’s name. The contemporary to the Lord Jesus Christ Jews, wishing to fulfill this commandment in the literal sense, instead swore by heaven and earth, by Jerusalem, their heads, and consequently, although not mentioning His name in vain, still swore by Him in vain, and in lies. These are the types of vows that the Lord Jesus Christ forbids, for absolutely everything was created by God; and to swear by His creation is to swear by the Creator, and to swear in a lie is the same as to violate the sanctity of the vow. A Christian should be so much honest and righteous that he would be believed after his personal word alone, without any swearing. However, this does not forbid giving the lawful oaths or vows in the important matters. When the high priest exclaimed: "I put You under oath by the living God", the Lord Jesus Christ Himself confirmed the oath in judgment when He replied: "It is as you said", for such was the form of the judicial oath by the Jews (Mat. 26:63-64). And Apostle Paul swears, by calling God to be the witness to his words (Rom. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:23, 2:17; Gal. 1:20 and others). Empty and light-minded vows are forbidden.
In the Old Testament, the practice of vengeance was so widespread, that it had to be somehow curbed, and that did the Old Testament law. However with His new law, Christ totally forbids vengeance in any form, preaching love for the enemies. At the same time, the statement "not to resist an evil person" (Mat. 5:39) must not be understood in the sense of non-opposing the evil — as Leo Tolstoy and the similar to him false teachers do. The Lord forbids to revolt against the man who had inflicted evil, with the response of anger, but towards every type of evil, as it is, a Christian must be totally uncompromising and must fight with the evil with all the means at his disposal, not permitting it to enter his own heart under any guise. One should not understand the words: "But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also to him" (Mat. 5:39) in the literal sense, for we know that during the high priest Annas’s interrogation, Christ Himself reacted completely differently when He was slapped on the cheek by one of servants (John 18:22-23). What is prohibited is the evil feeling of vengeance, but not the struggle with the evil. And not only those doing evil, but also our offenders, we must try to change, about what there is the direct commandment from the Lord in the Gospel of Matthew (18:15-18). Quibbling is prohibited and instead, the satisfaction of the needs of your neighbor is prescribed: "Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away". By itself, this commandment excludes those situations where help to that asking for it will not be beneficial but detrimental; genuine Christian love towards the neighbor, for example, will not allow a killer to pick up a knife, or, will not allow a person to access the poison to commit suicide.
The Old Testament does not have the commandment "Hate thy neighbor!" yet evidently the Jews extracted it from the commandment about love towards the neighbor, for they treated as neighbors those, who was close to them in faith, origin or by mutual favors. Whereas the rest, i.e. people of other faiths, strangers or those who have exhibited some type of animosity, were treated as enemies, and love for them was supposed to be inappropriate. But Christ decreed so: just like our Heavenly Father, a stranger to the feelings of anger and hatred towards anyone, loves everyone, even those bad and unrighteous, as His Own sons — so we, desiring to be the worthy sons of the Heavenly Father, should love everyone, even our enemies. The Lord wishes that in the moral sense, His followers should be higher than the heathens and Jews. Essentially, their love towards the others, is based on self-centeredness. On the contrary, love for the sake of God, for the sake of God’s commandments is worthy of a reward. But love through the natural inclination or for the sake of obtaining recompense, is unworthy and cannot deserve anything. Thus, in ascending higher and higher the ladder of the Christian completeness, a Christian will eventually reach the highest and most difficult level — impossible to reach for the not revived person — love for the enemies, with which the Lord concludes the first part of His Sermon on the Mount. And wishing to show how the fulfillment of this commandment brings the weak and imperfect man closer to God, He ascertains that the ideal for a Christian is — God: "Be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven" (Mat. 5:48). This is completely coincides with God’s plan, expressed with the creation of the man: "And God said, Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness" (Gen. 1:26). The divine holiness is unattainable for us, which is why here we have the inequality between God and us. However, here is meant the inner likeness, the gradual advancement of the human soul towards its Primal Image with the help of the grace.
8b. The Main Task is to Please God.
2. The second part of the Sermon on the Mount, narrated in the 6th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, expounds the Lord’s teachings on mercy, prayers and fast, and also the exhortation for the man to strive towards the main goal in life — God’s Kingdom. Having warned His disciples what they have to, and what they shouldn’t, in order to reach the blessedness, the Lord went over to the question, how exactly they are to fulfill that, what He had commanded. No works of mercy, either worshipping of God — in particular fasts and prayers — should not be performed to show off, for the sake of fame among the people, because in this case, our only reward would be this public acclaim. Vainglory, like a moth, devours all good deeds, that is why it is better to perform them secretly, so as not to be deprived of our reward from the Heavenly Father. Naturally, one should give alms, but this has to be done without the aim of turning attention to oneself, seeking the praise from the people. It is not forbidden to pray in church - only to pray to show off intentionally. According to the Saint Chrysostom’s thought, one can pray in the room alone, led by vainglory, but then "the closed doors will not bring any benefit".
Verbosity in prayer is interpreted as the heathen’s opinion of prayer, as of a spell, which, when repeated many times, can produce a result. We pray not because God does not know our needs, but only for to cleanse our heart and become worthy of His mercy, having entered with our spirit into the inner communication with Him. This communication with God is the objective of prayer, the attainment of which is not reliant on the quantity of the pronounced words. Censuring verbosity, the Lord at the same time commands to pray with no ceasing, teaching that one has to always pray and not to faint (Luke 18:1), Himself spending the nights in prayer. A prayer must have sense: we must turn to God with such requests that are worthy of Him, the fulfillment of which will be saving for us. Teaching us to pray this way, the Lord gives, as a model, the prayer "Our Father" — for which it received the name of the Lord’s Prayer.
8c. The Prayer "Our Father".
This prayer in no way excludes other prayers — the Lord Himself used other prayers (John 17). Calling God our Father, we acknowledge ourselves His children, and in relation to one another — brothers and we pray not only for ourselves, but also from everybody, from the entire humanity. Uttering the words "Who art in the Heavens", we separate ourselves from everything earthly and ascend with the mind and heart into the celestial world. "Hallowed be Thy name" means: Let Your Name be holy for all people, let all people glorify Your Name in word and deed. "Thy Kingdom come" — i.e. that the Kingdom of the Messiah Christ, about which the Jews were dreaming, is incorrect, concerning the visualization of this Kingdom; but here we also pray so that the Lord would rule in the souls of all people, and after this temporary earthly life, make us worthy of the eternal and blessed life, in communion with Him. "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven" — let everything occur according to the ever-good and ever-wise will of God, and let us humans fulfill His will on earth just as willingly, as do the Angels in Heaven. "Give us this day our daily bread" — means, give us today all that is essential for our body; what will happen with us tomorrow, we do not know and we need only the things of "this day" — i.e. the daily, necessary to support our existence. "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" — Saint Luke in his Gospel (11:4) clarifies these words so: "And forgive us our sins". The sins are our debts, because in not sinning, we do not fulfill what is required of us, and become indebted towards God and people. Under debts, one should understand all that good we could have done, but we did not — because of our laziness or egotism. Thus, the understanding of the word debts is wider than the notion of sins, as of the direct violations of the moral law. The appeal for the forgiveness of debts with the special force suggests us the necessity to forgive all the offences committed against us by our neighbor, for not forgiving the others, we have no right to ask God to forgive our debts for Him, and we do not dare to utter the words of the Lord’s Prayer.
"And do not lead us into temptation" — here we are asking God to protect us from the downfall, if the trial of our moral forces is inevitable and necessary. "But deliver us from the evil one" — from every type of the evil and its cause — the devil. The prayer ends with the conviction: that what has been requested, will be fulfilled, because everything in this world belongs to God: the eternal Kingdom, the infinite power and glory. In translation from Jewish, the word "Amen" means "Thus, indeed, truly, let it be". It was said by those praying in the synagogues — in confirmation of the prayer, said by the elder.
The Lord’s teaching on fasting, which also had to be fulfilled for God and not for the public acclaim, clearly testifies of how wrong those who say the Lord did not prescribe fasting to His followers are. In fasting, one should not change his outward appearance, so as not to attract attention to himself, but appear before people the same as usual: it was common in the East that after a bath the body was rubbed with oil, especially the head; however the Pharisees, during fasts, did not wash and did not comb or oil their hair. This attracted the general attention to their unusual appearances, and that is what the Lord censured.
10. The Eternal Treasure.
From the 19th verse of the 6th chapter, Saint Matthew describes in his Gospel how the Lord teaches us to seek, first of all, God’s Kingdom and not to be distracted from this pursuit by other concerns — not to worry about accumulating the earthly, makeshift treasures, which are easily exposed to spoilage and disintegration. The person having such a treasure continually thinks of it, desires and feels it; that is why a Christian, who needs to have his heart belonging to Heaven, should not be aspired by the earthly accumulation, but strive for acquiring the Heavenly treasures, which are virtues. Therefore, it is necessary to guard the heart like the apple of our eye. We must protect our heart from the earthly vices, so that it remains chaste and would not stop being our bearer of the spiritual, Heavenly light, just as the eyes are our bearer of the physical light. The one, who intends to serve God and Mammon (Mammon is a Syrian deity; the protector of the earthly wealth, the personification of the earthly treasures) simultaneously, is like a servant trying to please two masters that have contrasting, almost opposite, characters and making the different, as well opposing, demands; and in this situation "he will hate the one or love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other" (Mat. 6:24).
The Lord leads us towards the heavenly and eternal, while the wealth — towards the earthly and physical. That is why in order to avoid such duality, which interferes with the matter of eternal salvation, it is essential to avoid excessive, needless, anxious and oppressive concerns about food, drinks and clothing — those anxieties that devour all our time and attention, and distract us from the concerns about the salvation of our souls. After all, if God cares so of the unwise creatures, giving food for birds and adorning the flowers in the fields, moreover, He will not leave the man, having created him in His similarity and called to be the inheritor of His Kingdom, without all the necessary. Our whole life is in God’s hands and does not depend on our efforts: as an example, can we ourselves increase our height by even one inch? At the same time, this in no way means that we have to put our concerns aside and plunge ourselves in idleness — just as some heretics interpreted this part of the Sermon on the Mount. Labor was commanded to the human by God already in Paradise, before his downfall (Gen. 2:15), which was confirmed anew when Adam was driven out of Paradise (3:19). It is not the labor that is criticized, but the excessive and onerous concern about the future, about the next day, which is not in our power and till which one still has to live. What is indicated is the degree of values: "But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness", for which the Lord Himself will reward us with His personal concern, so that we will have everything necessary for our earthly life. Therefore, thoughts about these things should not torture or oppress us like they do the unbelieving heathens. This part of the Sermon on the Mount (Mat. 6:25-34) presents to us the marvelous picture of God’s Providence, taking care of His creations. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things" — this means that the next day is not in our power for us to worry about, for we do not even know what it will bring: perhaps such cares that we did not and do not even think about.
11. Do Not Judge.
3. The third part of the Sermon on the Mount, contained in the 7th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, teaches us not to judge our neighbor, protect the holy things from desecration, about steadfastness in prayer, about the wide and narrow paths of life, about false prophets, about true and false wisdom.
"Judge not that you be not judged" — Evangelist Luke conveys these words like this: "Judge not, and you shall not be judged" (6:37). It is not the opinion of a person that is forbidden, but judging him in the sense of gossiping, which mainly, come out from conceited and impure impulses — from vainglory, pride; what is forbidden is slander, bad-mouthing, malicious condemnation of others’ drawbacks, which emanate from the feeling of hatred and malevolence towards the neighbor. If in general, any opinion of the neighbor and his actions was forbidden, then the Lord would not have said: "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine" (Mat. 7:6); and the Christian would not be able to fulfill their responsibility — to expose and enlighten the sinners, which is decreed by the Lord Himself in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 18, verses 15-17.What is forbidden, is malicious feeling, spitefulness, but not the appreciation itself of the actions of a neighbor. Because not noticing the evil, we would also easily start treating the good with indifference, and subsequently lose our feelings of differentiation between the good and evil.
This is what Saint Chrysostom says about it: "If somebody is committing adultery, surely I have the right to say to him that adultery is the evil, and surely I have the right to correct the profligate. Correct him — not as an enemy, subjecting him to punishment — but as a doctor, offering him a medicine. You need to enlighten, but not reproach and denounce; not accuse but lament; not to attack with pride but correct with love" (Discourse 23). Christ forbids reproaching people for their deficiencies, not noticing the own faults, which possibly are greater than theirs. Of course, this does not apply to the civil court, what some false teachers are trying to show, or to the general appreciation of the man’s actions. The Lord was talking about the conceited Pharisees, who treated other people with merciless judgment, regarding only themselves as being righteous. Immediately after, the Lord warns His disciples about preaching His teachings — this true pearl — to those people who like dogs or swine, are incapable of appreciating it because of their extreme petrifaction in the evil and who, deeply entrenched in depravity, vices and evil deeds, treat every type of the good with bitterness and hatred.
12. Steadfastness in Prayer.
Further on, it is said: "Ask, and it will be given to you" as the Lord teaches steadfastness, patience and fervency in prayer. A genuine Christian, recalling the Lord’s directive: "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" will not start to pursue gaining anything harmful to the soul’s salvation, therefore he should be convinced that as the answer to the one who prays fervently, as the Lord promised, it will be given and it will be opened to him. Evangelist Matthew states: "Your Father, who is in Heaven give you good things to those who ask Him!"; while Saint Luke elucidates, which specific blessings one should and need to ask for, through the words: "Your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him". A father will not give something harmful to his son. That is why the Lord will give the man only that which is truly a blessing to him.
In concluding His directions, concerning our relationship with the others, the Lord pronounces the rule that they call golden: "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them". This rule contains "The law and the Prophets" (Mat. 7:12), for love for the others is the reflection of love for God, just as love for the brothers is the reflection of love towards parents.
14. The Narrow Path.
Christ warns that to follow His commandments is not that easy, because "difficult is the way that leads to life" and the "gate narrow" (Mat. 7:14), but they lead into the eternal and blessed life, while the path that is wide and spacious and attractive to those who dislike struggling with their sinful passions, leads to death.
15. About the False Prophets.
At the end of His Sermon on the Mount, the Lord warns the faithful against the false prophets, comparing them with wolves in sheep’s clothing. The "dogs’ and "swine" about which the Lord just spoke are not as dangerous to the faithful as the false prophets, because their iniquitous lifestyle is obvious and would only repulse from them. The false prophets pass off the lies as truth and their own rules of life as those of God. One has to be very perceptive and wise, in order to realize what spiritual danger they represent. Such comparison of the false prophets with wolves, pretending to be sheep, was very convincing for the Jews, which listened to Christ, because over the period of many centuries, these people tolerated many disasters, coming from the false prophets.
On the background of the false prophets, the virtues of the true Prophets were especially evident. The genuine Prophets differed in their non-covetousness, obedience to God, fearless exposure of people’s sins, deep humility, love, self-discipline and chaste life. Their aim was to attract people towards God’s Kingdom, and they were the constructive and uniting element in the lives of their people. Although these genuine Prophets were often rejected by the general mass of their contemporaries, and persecuted by the people who were the head of the authority, their actions cleansed the society, enlivened the best sons of the Jewish people for the virtuous life — in other words, led them towards the divine glory. Such were the fruits, brought by the activity of the true Prophets, which amazed the following generations of the faithful Jews. They recalled with gratitude such Prophets as Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and the others.
The false prophets, who were not few, pursued completely different aims and had the other manner of acting. Avoiding the exposure of sins, they skillfully flattered people, and that secured their success among the common mass of people and the mercy of those with the earthly power. Promising prosperity, they lulled the conscience of the people, what in turn led to the societal moral decay. While the true Prophets were doing everything for the good and unity of God’s Kingdom, the false prophets sought the personal glory and benefits. They were not rejecting perjuring the true prophets and persecuted them. In the final run, their activity contributed to the nation's ruin. Such were the spiritual and social results of the false prophets’ activity. But the quick-ripening glory of these false prophets soon rotted quicker than their mortal bodies, and the following generation of Jews recalled with shame, how their ancestors submitted themselves to this deceit (Saint Jeremiah the Prophet, in his "Lamentations," bitterly complains about the false prophets that ruined the Jewish people, see Lamentations 4:13).
During the periods of the spiritual decline, when God sent His true Prophets so that they may direct the Jews towards the true path, simultaneously, a great number of the false prophets used to appear in their midst. Thus, for example, there was especially a great number of them preaching from the 8th to the 6th century BC, when the Israelite and Judean kingdoms were destroyed, and later — on the eve of the destruction of Jerusalem, in the seventies of our era. In accordance with Christ’s and the Apostles’ predictions, before the end of the world, there will come many false prophets, some of whom will even work astonishing wonders and signs in nature (of course, the false ones) (Mat. 24:11-24; 2 Pet. 2:11; 2 Thes. 2:9). In the New Testament time, just like in the days of the Old Testament, the false prophets caused much harm to the Church. In the Old Testament time — by lulling the people’s conscience, they accelerated the process of moral decay, and in contemporary days — by leading people away from the truth and implanting heresies, they tore the branches off the tree of God’s Kingdom. The contemporary abundance of every type of sects and "denominations," is undoubtedly, the fruit of the modern false prophets. All sects sooner or later disappear and others sprout in their place. Only the true Church of Christ will remain till the end of the world. About the future of the false teachings, Christ said that: "Every plant which My Heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted" (Mat. 15:13).
It has to be explained, that it would be an exaggeration and strained interpretation to assign every contemporary pastor or non-Orthodox preacher to the false prophets. After all, among the religious ministers of different faiths, undoubtedly are many genuinely faithful, deeply selfless and decent people. They belong to one or another branch of the Christianity, not according to the objective choice but through inheritance. On the other hand, the false prophets are precisely the founders of the non-Orthodox religious flows. The modern television "wonder-workers," exalted demons’ exorcists and vain preachers that represent themselves God’s elects, and all those that have converted religion into the personal money-making enterprise, can be called the false prophets.
In His Sermon on the Mount, the Lord warns His followers against the false prophets, teaching them not to trust their outward attraction and eloquence but to pay attention to the "fruits" of their activities: "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit". The term "bad fruit" should not necessarily be understood as sins or abominable deeds, which the false prophets skillfully conceal. The harmful fruits of the false prophets’ labors, common to all of them, are pride and wrenching people away from God’s Kingdom.
A false prophet is unable to conceal his pride from the sensitive heart of a believer. One Saint commented that the devil could show the form of any virtue, except one — humility. Just as the wolf’s teeth become visible from under the sheep’s skin, so does pride emerge in the words, gestures and gaze of a false prophet. The seeking popularity false teachers love to perform, in front of the large amount of public, "healings" or "exorcism", to strike their audience with bold thoughts, and evoke excitement from the public. All their shows end with the large collections of money. How distant this cheap pathos and boldness is from the meek and humble image of the Savior and His Apostles!
Further on, the Lord reminds of the false prophets’ references to His miracles: "Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’" What wonders are they talking about? Can a false prophet work wonders? No! But the Lord sends His help according to the faith of the asking, and not through the merit of the individual that projects himself as a wonder-worker. The false prophets attributed to themselves those deeds that the Lord performed through His compassion towards people. It is also possible that the false prophets, in their self-delusion, imagined that they worked wonders. Anyway, on the Final Judgment Day, the Lord will reject them, pronouncing: "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"
Thus, although the false prophets weaken the Church in wrenching careless sheep from It, the faithful children of the Church should not be embarrassed by the lack of Its members and the seeming weakness of the true Church, because the Lord prefers the small number of people that safeguard the truth, to the large number of misguided individuals — "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom" and promises to the faithful His Divine protection from the spiritual wolves, saying: "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand" (Luke 12:32, John 10:28).
Thus, you can distinguish the false prophets by their lives and deeds. The following words of the Lord, are targeted as if against the contemporary sectarians, who preach the man’s justification through faith alone, without good deeds: "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven" (Mat. 7:21). This clearly shows that only the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is insufficient, but what is also needed is the life that is consistent with faith, i.e. the fulfilling of Christ’s commandments, good deeds. In the initial stages of the Christianity preaching, there were indeed many, who worked wonders with Christ’s Name, even Judas received such power with the twelve Apostles on an equal basis. However, this does not save, if the man does not care about the fulfilling of God’s commandments.
In conclusion of His Sermon on the Mount, the Lord repeats this thought: the one, who hears the Lord’s words and does not fulfill them, does not do good deeds, is like a person that builds his house on the sand; while a person that fulfils Christ’s commandments in reality, is like a person that had built his house on the rock. Such a comparison was close, and therefore understandable for the Jews, for in Palestine the frequent torrential rains, accompanied by the storms that swept away the houses, built on the sandy soil, were a normal phenomenon. Only those that fulfill Christ’s commandments will be able to withstand in the hour of trial, alike to the storms of intense temptations., Those who do not fulfill these commandments, easily fall into despair and perish, denying Christ; that is why our Church asks in the cants to affirm us on "His rock of commandments".
Evangelist Matthew concludes his narration about the Sermon on the Mount with the testimony about how the people were amazed with this new teaching, because the Lord taught as One having authority and not like the Scribes and Pharisees. In the main, the Pharisees’ teachings consisted of trivialities, of useless verbiage and contentious words; while the teachings of Jesus Christ were plain and elevated because He spoke from Himself personally, as the Son of God: "And I say to you…" — one clearly feels His Divine authority and power in these words.
[П1] Снято с портала еп. Александра (Милеант) РПЦЗ (+2005 г.) Свято-Троицкая Православная Школа.
[П2] Некролог епископа Александра (Милеант) (ДД-72).
[П3] Владыка Аверкий (1906-1976) является одним из учителей Церкви Зарубежной Руси. Родился в России. Жил в Болгарии, Подкарпатской Руси, Югославии, Германии и США. В Свято-Троицком Монастыре в Джорданвилле был настоятелем и ректором семинарии. Отличался глубоким и чистым православным мировоззрением. Всю свою плодотворную жизнь трудился на Ниве Господней.
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