Jesus warns here that any disciple who nullifies (this is the true meaning of the word "breaks" here) one of the "least" of those commandments and teaches others to do so also, will be "least" in the kingdom of heaven (5:19).What do you think he means by "least"? And how does he illustrate such commands in what follows? It appears that he does not mean commands that God himself considers least important, nor does he mean the easiest ones to obey. Controlling lustful thoughts and even momentary anger are not trivial tasks! Instead, Jesus probably has in mind offenses that we might be inclined to view as less serious. For example, anger and insults are thought by most people to be less serious offenses than murder. Jesus does not claim that they are more serious, just equally important for disciples to avoid.
Elsewhere Jesus does attack the Pharisees and scribes. But here that matter is not in the forefront. The focus is more positive than negative. He acknowledges that there is a certain degree of real "righteousness" advocated and taught—but not always practiced (Mt 23:2-3)—by the Pharisees. That which was good in what they advocated was ultimately derived from scripture. Jesus here challenges all of us who claim to be his disciples to live lives that exceed the pharisaic standards, and he proceeds to give us illustrations of what he has in mind.
Concerning Anger, 5:21-26
This may be another example of Matthew's subtle allusions to events in the life of David, since Jesus is the better son of David. You recall how in 1 Sam 25 David overreacted to an insult from a man whose name (Nabal) means "fool" in Hebrew, and in a fit of anger swore to massacre every male in Nabal's family. It was only the calm and wise intervention of Nabal's wife Abigail that kept him from doing this hideous act of revenge for a mere insult. You might say that David was "provoked," but obviously God was not pleased with his initial intention, which he swore to do in the name of Yahweh (God)!
Jesus allows no excuse to justify anger or verbal abuse. This is in keeping with his teaching elsewhere about turning the other cheek. This, of course, raises questions for many of us about the legitimacy of anger at seeing someone abuse another person. But neither Jesus nor Matthew want to complicate the issue here with such “exceptions.” Once you start bringing in “exceptions,” you start looking for ways to circumvent Jesus’ demand for consistent love and forgiveness.
Concerning Lust, 5:27-30
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do 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 sin, 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 sin, 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. (Matthew 5:27-30 NIV)
When God created the first woman, he said he was going to make for the man a "helper that would complement him" (that is the meaning of "helper fit for" in Gen 2:18). Women complement men, and men women. This is the genius of God's design. We need each other. We should not be competing, but helping each other.
“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 unchastity, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31–32)
Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; she then leaves his house 2 and goes off to become another man’s wife. 3 Then suppose the second man dislikes her, writes her a bill of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house (or the second man who married her dies); 4 her first husband, who sent her away, is not permitted to take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that would be abhorrent to the LORD, and you shall not bring guilt on the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a possession. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4 NRSV)
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I tell you, Do not swear 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 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37 NIV)
LORD, who may be welcome in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? 2 He whose conduct is blameless and who does what is right, who speaks the truth from his heart 3 and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on others, 4 who doesn’t emulate a dishonest person but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, 5 who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken. (Psalms 15:1-5)
“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 someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42 NIV)
“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 sons 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 brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48 NIV)
O LORD, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? 2 Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart; 3 who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors; 4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the LORD; who stand by their oath even to their hurt; 5 who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved. (Psalms 15:1-5 NRSV)