Some have argued that the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7) describes a lifestyle that is too lofty for anyone to practically live out (Niebuhr, 1979), despite the fact that Jesus effectively spent the remainder of his ministry living it out as an example for all who would follow after him (Lawson, 2008, p. 29). It would seem cruel for Jesus to call his followers to abide by a new law code that was even more difficult to follow than the old Jewish Law, however, it is clear by Jesus’ life and teachings that he was not interested in establishing a new law in place of the old one (Allard, 2010, p. 399). This leaves readers of Matthew’s gospel wondering what the purpose of the Sermon on the Mount was.
Jesus gave his people the Sermon on the Mount in order to establish an ethical baseline to measure one’s life against by measuring the thoughts and feelings of the individual rather than just actions (Fedler, 2006). Where believers can get tripped up is that the Sermon on the Mount has the feeling of a new law code. It is here the fullness of the entirety of scripture comes in.
The key to the Sermon on the Mount can be found in the words of Paul in Galatians 5 where he provides his readers with the fruits of the spirit. Paul, who is a virtue ethicist (Fedler, 2006) offers a list of fruits, which are actually virtues followers of Christ are to live by. It is the development of these virtues that lead to happiness, productivity, and harmony for an individual (Sarros et al., 2006, p. 684). It is also the development of these virtues given by Paul that living out the Sermon on the Mount is accomplished.
Allard, R. E. (2010). Freedom on your head (1 Corinthians 11:2-16): a paradigm for the structure of Paul’s ethics. Word & World, 30(4), 399–407.
Fedler, K. D. (2006). Exploring Christian Ethics: Biblical Foundations for Morality. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press.
Lawson, D. (2008). Transforming initiatives: leadership ethics from the Sermon on the Mount. The Journal of Applied Christian Leadership, 3(1), 28–45.
Niebuhr, R. (1979). An Interpretation of Christian Ethics (Reissue edition). San Francisco, Calif.: Seabury Press.
Sarros, J. C., Cooper, B. K., & Hartican, A. M. (2006). Leadership and character. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 27(8), 682–699.