English Standard Version ESV
The Message Bible MSG
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.
"Don't suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures - either God's Law or the Prophets. I'm not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama.
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.
God's Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God's Law will be alive and working.
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.
"Trivialize even the smallest item in God's Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously, show the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom.
20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won't know the first thing about entering the kingdom.
21 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.'
"You're familiar with the command to the ancients, 'Do not murder.'
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.
I'm telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother 'idiot!' and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell 'stupid!' at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.
23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,
"This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has 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.
abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
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.
"Or say you're out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don't lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you're likely to end up in court, maybe even jail.
26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
If that happens, you won't get out without a stiff fine.
27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.'
"You know the next commandment pretty well, too: 'Don't go to bed with another's spouse.'
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.
But don't think you've preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices - they also corrupt.
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.
"Let's not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here's what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer. You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile.
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.
And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump.
31 "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.'
"Remember the Scripture that says, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him do it legally, giving her divorce papers and her legal rights'?
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.
Too many of you are using that as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending to be righteous just because you are 'legal.' Please, no more pretending. If you divorce your wife, you're responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity). And if you marry such a divorced adulteress, you're automatically an adulterer yourself. You can't use legal cover to mask a moral failure.
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.'
"And don't say anything you don't mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions.
34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,
You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, 'I'll pray for you,' and never doing it, or saying, 'God be with you,' and not meaning it. You don't make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true.
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.
Just say 'yes' and 'no.' When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.
38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: 'Eye for eye, tooth for 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.
Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it.
40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it.
41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.
42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
"You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.'
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer,
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.
for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best - the sun to warm and the rain to nourish - to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that.
47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
"In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved.