Jesus Teaches Contrarian Investing

Perhaps the most common stereotype people make about Jews regards money. Rumors, wild conspiracy theories, and slander have falsely been directed at Jews side-by-side with sinister associations of wealth and power.  

1898 cartoon showing Rothschild with the world in his hands. Cover illustration for Le Rire, 16 April 1898

For example, this cartoon depicting Lord Rothschild appeared on an 1898 cover of the French magazine Le Rire. It shows him with devilish hands, and a miserly face trying to grab the whole world.  Le Rire published this during the Dreyfuss affair, a highly public anti-semitic trial which rocked French society for a decade.

But there is little doubt that some outstanding Jews have demonstrated financial shrewdness. We highlight some here.

The Legendary Rothschilds

The Rothschilds were a Jewish family operating as private bankers to governments across Europe. They began during the Napoleonic wars (1803-1815).  Based in London, they had family connections across European capitals. They earned millions in interest from government loans and securities from many European nations.  The Rothschilds ingeniously invested their profits into railroads and other infrastructure across the European continent as the Industrial Revolution spread.  

Investment banking in the Americas

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Jewish entrepreneurs founded American investment banks which today dominate global commerce: 

These were all founded by entrepreneurial Jews with a knack for finance and investment. 

George Soros

George Soros

Today George Soros (1930 – ) carries the same reputation.  Born into a Jewish family in Hungary he relocated to the United States, beginning his own investment hedge fund in 1969.  Wikipedia reports his net worth as $9 billion – after having given away $32 billion.  He is most known for betting against the bank of England in 1992. This brought the UK’s Pound sterling to its knees, earning him billions in the process.  

Central Bankers

Jews have a prominent association with the US Federal Reserve. The Fed is the most powerful central bank in the world. It affects the economic livelihood today of everyone on the planet. It came into existence in 1913 primarily through the work of Jewish-German immigrant Paul Warburg. The past three chairmen of the US Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan (1987-2006), Ben Bernanke (2006-2014), and Janet Yellen (2014-2018) are Jewish.  

US Federal Reserve Eccles Building
Federalreserve, PD-USGov-BBG, via Wikimedia Commons

On a per capita basis Jews tend to demonstrate a keen entrepreneurial spirit with a financial interest that has brought many into high profile financial roles. But there is nothing sinister or a world conspiracy behind this as some have suggested.

Many do not realize it, but the most well-known Jew in history, Jesus of Nazareth, also taught and lived as an investor. However, he used non-traditional metrics in his investment outlook. We look here at the investment philosophy of this representative of Israel.

Jesus as Investor

Using a sufficiently long investment time horizon is the key to investor and banker success. They also need to properly assess the ability of borrowers to repay loans. Jesus, equally gifted as his Jewish brethren surveyed above in financial thinking, used a totally different investment time horizon than they did. This changed his risk/reward financial thinking, radically altering it from ours.

Jesus summed up his overall view on investment risk/reward with this.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

Jesus’ views on risk/reward

Say what you will about the reality of his long-term perspective on ‘treasures in heaven’, his valuation of ‘treasures on earth’ is shrewdly spot on.  The Rothschilds have lost the financial power that they had 150 years ago.  The European wars, the wealth confiscated by Nazis from Jews, and the nationalizing of European industries greatly reduced the Rothschilds’ family wealth. Most of the American banks surveyed above underwent bankruptcy or takeovers by other banks. They no longer operate.  Jesus’ assessment that amassed value on earth corrodes has been demonstrated time and again.  We do not always recognize it because our time horizon is short. But he used a time horizon stretching far out.

Jesus’ Investment Time Horizon

Jesus’ investment time horizon was uniquely long. Thus, he looked at value from the perspective of eternity in the Kingdom of God.  Seeing value from his perspective allowed another rich Jewish investor to likewise assess value differently. The Gospel records it like this:

19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Luke 19: 1-10
Zacchaeus in the tree
Randers Museum of Art, PD-US-expired, via Wikimedia Commons

Does Money Serve or Master?

The pledge by Zacchaeus to donate his assets to the needy and to promote the first ever ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ project does not mean owning temporary earthly assets are wrong. Rather as Jesus said elsewhere: 

Judas betrays Jesus for money
Lippo Memmi, PD-US-expired, via Wikimedia Commons

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 

Matthew 6:24

We usually think that money serves us, but our nature is such that instead we easily end up serving money.  Then it becomes impossible to value assets, life and our souls (psyche) in the time horizon of eternity.

Jesus held a unique financial perspective regarding the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, right after talking to Zacchaeus, Jesus taught this financial lesson.

The Story of the Ten Minas

11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’

14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’

17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’

19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’

20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth.21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow?23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’

25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

Luke 19:11-26

Owners? Or simply Managers?

Royman WalskiCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Without extracting all the meaning from this story a few observations are instructive:

  • The minas, through the whole story, always belong to the nobleman. He loaned them to the servants, looking for a return on his investment. The servants managed the minas but never owned them.  
  • Jesus represents himself as the nobleman in this story. He places us as the servants. We have been entrusted with ‘minas’, representing assets, value, opportunities and our natural talents. He expected the servants to produce a good return as any financial manager would for his investment clients.

Ultimately we do not own anything

We go through life thinking that our natural talents and opportunities are ours, but in reality, they are not ours, they have been loaned to us. Jesus shrewdly uses this story to remind us that we do not own our lives, health, opportunities, and even our future. We have to admit that this is true because we cannot retain them. Eventually, we have to give them all up. Jesus reminds us that these have been loaned to us temporarily.  

Finally, as any good investor, Jesus explains that those who have produced a return on their investment will have it all returned to them with opportunities for further investment. His Kingdom will give them more than they could have imagined.

We generally do not associate Jesus with shrewd financial thinking, as we do with his Jewish brethren, but he kept single-minded attention on investing. He invites us to co-invest in his investment, which cannot be lost, stolen, or destroyed. It is just that, like other Jewish financial visionaries, he saw further than we can. He looked as far as the establishment of His Kingdom. In that sense, he showed himself to not be a herd investor (looking to others to see what to invest in), but a shrewd contrarian investor who saw attainable value that others could not see. 

Jesus’ Investment Price

We might think of His Kingdom as ethereal, intangible or unreal.  But convinced of the reality of this investment return, he passed over all other investments. He put all his equity into it. Nathan Rothschild said about his investment philosophy:

“the time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets.”

Rothschild meant that we should invest when others are panic selling. Then we will get our investment at a good price.  We see how Jesus invested into The Kingdom with this maxim when his good friend dies.

Insight about your Psyche

Psychology comes from two Greek words. The ‘–ology’ comes from λόγος (logos = word, study of), and ‘Psych’ comes from ψυχή (psuché = soul, life). Hence, psychology is the study of our souls or our minds, emotions, behavior, and intellect. Psychology as an academic study took hold in the nineteenth century. 

Sigmund Freud - Wikipedia
Sigismund Schlomo Freud

One of the most well-known pioneers of psychology was Sigmund Freud (Sigismund Schlomo Freud 1856 – 1939), the founder of the branch of psychology known as psychoanalysis.  Though educated as a medical doctor, Freud became intrigued in using hypnosis as the means to explore and treat disorders.  After resigning from his medical position, he devoted the rest of his life to pursuing both an understanding and a framework to treat personality disorders. 

Freud’s Jewish heritage and his strong association with secular Jewish identity strongly influenced the development of his theories and his work, as biographers have pointed out.  In fact, all his early co-workers and colleagues in psychoanalysis were Jewish.  Even his first patient, Anna O, the treatment of whom launched Freud and psychoanalysis into prominence across the world, maintained a strong Jewish identity.  So it is not an exaggeration to state that the insight and brilliance of Jews have opened up for all of mankind theories by which we can understand ourselves and our souls better.

Freud and Jesus as influential Jews

But Freud and his colleagues were by no means the only ones to contribute to our understanding of our psyche. Nineteen hundred years before Freud, Jesus of Nazareth’s teachings about your and my ψυχή deserves consideration.

We have been exploring the life and teachings of Jesus from his Jewishness, proposing that Jesus embodies the intended end goal of the Jewish nation. As such, his insights, advances, and experiences parallel to some extent that of the Jewish nation as a whole (our conclusion comes here). Accordingly, we now turn to what Jesus taught about our psyche or soul.

Freud remains a polarizing figure because of his radical theories of the human soul. For example, he originated and popularized the Oedipus complex which he claimed was a stage in life when a boy hated his father and wanted sex with his mother. Freud postulated the existence of the libido, the sexualized energy with which mental processes and structures are invested and which generates erotic attachments. According to Freud, the libido should not be repressed but rather allow its appetites to be satisfied.

Jesus and our Psyche

Jesus likewise remains today a polarizing figure in large part because of his teachings about the human soul.  Here are two discourses of his regarding the ψυχή that to this day generate much discussion

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life (ψυχή, soul, psyche) will lose it, but whoever loses their life (ψυχή , soul, psyche) for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul (ψυχή, psyche)? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul (ψυχή, psyche)?

Matthew 16:24-26

Jesus’ Paradox of the Soul (ψυχή)

Jesus uses a paradox to teach about the soul (ψυχή).  This paradox stems from a self-evident truth; we cannot permanently retain or hold onto our souls.  No matter what we do in life, at death our souls are lost.  This is true no matter our level of education, our wealth, where we live, or the power and prestige that we amass over the course of our life.  We cannot keep our ψυχή.  Inevitably it is lost.

Based on this some surmise that we should live with this in mind and fully maximize the experience of the ψυχή during its transient existence by protecting and preserving the ψυχή as much as possible.  This is a view that Freud espoused. 

But to do that warns Jesus, will result in permanently losing one’s soul.  Jesus then confronts us by creating a paradox of the ψυχή by insisting that we give our ψυχή (soul) away to him, and only then will we be able to keep or preserve it.  In a real sense, he asks us to trust him to such an extent that we give up that which we cannot keep (our ψυχή) to gain it back permanently.  Note he does not suggest we give our ψυχή to a church, a religion or an important religious person, but to him.

Jesus’ second ψυχή paradox

Most of us hesitate to believe Jesus such that we would entrust him with our souls.  Rather we go through life protecting and enlarging our ψυχή.  In so doing however, instead of creating peace, rest and tranquility in our lives we find the opposite.  We become weary and burdened.  Jesus used this reality to teach a second paradox of the ψυχή.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (ψυχή, psyche) 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Through history people have yoked oxen, donkeys and horses to do the heaviest tasks that have wearied the human race since the beginning of agriculture – ploughing soil.  ‘Yoke’ is thus a metaphor for difficult labor that utterly tires one out.  Yet Jesus, in thrusting his paradox upon us, insists that the yoke he would place upon us will rest our souls.  Our lives will experience peace as we put on his yoke.

Practice what you preach

While the western world has to a large extent sought to apply Freud’s doctrine, especially seeking self-fulfillment, meaning and liberation in sexual pursuits, it is paradoxical that Freud never applied his ideas to his own family.  He wrote and taught a radical social innovation especially between the sexes. But he ran his home utterly as a socially conservative.  His wife subserviently made his dinners on his rigid schedule, and even spread his toothpaste onto his toothbrush.  He never discussed his sexual theories with his wife.  He sent his sons to their family doctor to learn about sex.  Freud tightly controlled his sisters and daughters, not allowing them to go out to work. He kept them at home sewing, painting and playing the piano. (reference 1 below)

Jesus, on the other hand, applied his teachings of the soul first to his own life.  With his disciples arguing from rivalries and jealousies between them, Jesus intervened:

25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life (ψυχή) as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:25-28

Jesus shouldered his yoke by living his life to serve, rather than being served.  He did so to the extent that he gave his soul as a ransom or payment for many. 

The Truly light Yoke?

Whether Jesus’ yoke truly is light and a source of rest, one may argue with.  But the Freudian path of advancing one’s life seems indeed to result in wearisome burdens.  Consider now how far we have come after about a century of applying his ideas.  What dominates headlines and social media feeds?  #Metoo, asexuality, Epstein, unending allegations sexual violence, endemic pornography addictions.  When we think that we have advanced, just look at where we are. 

Freud & Jesus: Credentials backing their Insights

Freud’s credentials and the credibility of his ideas rested on the perception that they were scientific.  But how scientific were they? It is instructive that his ideas were not advanced based on the scientific method of observation and experimentation. Freud simply recounted stories as case studies. He told stories as other fiction writers of his era, but brought into his writings a conviction of truth, and we believed him. As Freud himself stated,

It still strikes myself as strange that the case histories I write should read like short stories and that, as one might say, the lack the serious stamp of science

As quoted in Paul Johnston, A History of the Jews. 1986, p.416

Jesus credentialed his teaching about (ψυχή) by not only applying it, but also by demonstrating authority over his (ψυχή)

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life (ψυχή) —only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

John 10:17-18

He based his credentials about his insight into (ψυχή) not on a paper he wrote, or a reputation he earned, but on his resurrection

Next we delve into what he means by ‘my Father’. We do so by reflecting on the the coming AI-based virtual realities that offer clues to the source of our physical reality. We begin by reflecting on the fundamental building blocks upon which our civilization has been built – the alphabet, the actual letters as well as Googles’ parent company Alphabet.

  1. A History of the Jews, Paul Johnson.  1987. p413.

Like Moses: Teaching with Authority on the Mountain

Guru (गुरु) comes from ‘Gu’ (darkness) and ‘Ru’ (light) in its original Sanskrit.  A Guru teaches to dispel the darkness of ignorance by light of true knowledge.  Speaking from the shores of Galilee, Jesus exemplified this by teaching with such impact that it would be felt even 1900 years later and far away in India through his influence on Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi & Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

Mahatma Gandhi

In England, 1900 years after Jesus’ birth, a young law student from India now known as Mahatma Gandhi (or Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi) was given a Bible.  When he read Jesus’ teachings known as the Sermon on the Mount he recounts

“the Sermon on the Mount which went straight to my heart.”

M. K. Gandhi, An Autobiography OR The Story of My Experiments with Truth. 1927 p.63

Jesus’ teaching about ‘turning the other cheek’ gave insight to Gandhi on the ancient Hindu concept of non-injury and non-killing.  Gandhi later refined this teaching into political force in Satyagraha, his use of non-violent non-cooperation with the British rulers.  Several decades of satyagraha resulted in the independence of India from Great Britain, in a largely peaceful manner.  Jesus’ teaching triggered all this. 

So what was it that Jesus taught?

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

After Jesus’ testing by the devil he started to teach.  His longest message recorded in the Gospels is called the Sermon on the Mount. Read the complete sermon while highlights are given here. Then we look back to Moses for deeper insight.

Jesus taught the following:

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not 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 tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.


31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.


33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 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 swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Eye for Eye

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Love for Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Carl Bloch, PD-US-expired, via Wikimedia Commons

Sermon on the Mount reveals Authority

Jesus taught with the form “You have heard that it was said … but I tell you … ”. In this structure he quoted first from Moses, and then extended the scope of the command to inner motives, thoughts and words.  Jesus taught by taking strict commands given through Moses and made them even much more difficult to do!

But what is remarkable is the manner in which he extended the commands of Moses’ Law. He did so based on his own authority. He simply said ‘But I tell you…’ and with that he increased the scope of the command. This authority that he simply assumed was what struck his listeners.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Matthew 7:28-29

Jesus taught as one with great authority. Earlier Bible prophets passed messages from God to people, but here it was different. Why could Jesus teach like this? Psalm 2, where the ‘Christ’ was first foreseen as a title, described God speaking to the Christ like this

I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.

Psalm 2:8

God gave ‘the Christ’ authority over the nations, even to the ends of the earth. So as the Christ, Jesus claimed the authority to teach like he did.

Jesus in relation to Moses and David who respectively wrote of coming Prophet and Christ

The Prophet and the Sermon on the Mount

In fact, long before, Moses had predicted the coming of ‘the Prophet’, who would be unique in how he taught. Moses had written

The LORD Said …”I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.”

Deuteronomy 18:18-19

In teaching as he did, Jesus exercised his authority as the Christ and fulfilled Moses’ prophecy of the coming Prophet who would teach with the authority of God’s ‘words in his mouth’. He was both The Christ and The Prophet.

Jesus & Moses

In fact, Jesus meant to both draw comparison and contrast to Moses by the whole manner in which he delivered the Sermon on the Mount.  To give this Sermon …

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,

Matthew 5:1
Gustave Doré, PD-US-expired, via Wikimedia Commons

Why did Jesus go up the mountain?  Notice what Moses had done to receive the Ten Commandments..

The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up  (Ex 19:20)

Moses ‘went up’ the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. When Jesus likewise ‘went up’ the mountain he took on the role of Moses.  This makes sense because The Prophet who was to come would be

… a prophet like you (Moses)…

Deuteronomy 18:18

The Prophet had to be like Moses, and since Moses went up the mountain to give his teaching, so did Jesus. 

God’s Plan demonstrated in its Harmony and Unity

This shows a unity in thought and intent that reaches over a thousand years. Only one mind can span such an long time interval – God’s. This exhibits evidence that this is His plan. Plans originating from people conflict with that of other people. Look at the myriad of political and economic plans that contradict one another. But this plan demonstrates a unity and harmony stretching through history – an indicator that the Divine has set it in motion.

Initiating A New Era for Us

Though Jesus and Moses pattern each other in ascending the mountain, those receiving their teachings did not.  Jesus had his disciples come right up the mountain to be close to him when he sat down and taught.  But when Moses received the Ten Commandments…

the Lord said to him, “Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish. 22 Even the priests, who approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break out against them.”

Exodus 19:21-22

The people receiving the Ten Commandments could not go near the mountain on pain of death, but Jesus’ followers could sit right with him on the mountain when he taught. This demonstrated the dawn of a new Era, characterized by proximity to God, rather than distance from Him.  As the New Testament explains

For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household

Ephesians 2: 18-19

Jesus showed in how his his listeners sat with him that the way was now opening for us to become ‘members of his household’.

But his message also explained what he expected of the ‘members of his household’.

You & me and the Sermon on the Mount

This Sermon might perplex you. How can anyone live these kinds of commands that address our hearts and our motives? What was Jesus Christ’s intent?  We can see the answer from his concluding sentence.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


Notice that this is a command, not a suggestion. He required that we be perfect!


Because God is perfect and if we are to be members of his household then nothing less than perfect will do. We often think that perhaps simply more good than bad deeds – that will be sufficient. But if that were the case, and God let us join his household, we would destroy the perfection of His House and turn it into the mess that we have in this world. It is our lust, greed, anger that destroys our lives here today. If we join His Household still enslaved to that lust, greed and anger then that Household will quickly become like this world – full of problems made by us.

In fact, much of Jesus’ teaching focused on our inner hearts rather than outward ceremony.  Consider how, elsewhere, he focuses on our inward hearts.

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”


A Perfect Household for us

So perfect inner purity is the required standard for His household.  God will only let the ‘perfect’ into his perfect household. But that raises a huge problem.

How will we get into this Household if we are not perfect?

The utter impossibility of us being perfect enough could cause us to despair.

But that is what he wants! When we despair of ever being good enough, when we stop trusting in our own merits then we become ‘poor in spirit’. And Jesus, in starting this whole Sermon, said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3

The beginning of wisdom for us is not to dismiss these teachings as not applying to us. They do! The standard is to ‘Be perfect’. As we let that standard sink in, and realize that we are not capable of it, then we may be ready to accept the help he wants to give, rather than depending on our own merit.

This is the step his teaching pushes us to take. Next, we see Jesus demonstrate the authority that his teaching had assumed.