The Sermon on the Mount is widely regarded as one of the most influential speeches in human history. This world has been made so much better through the centuries as men and women have applied these teachings of Jesus to their lives. The sermon is truly a masterpiece from the Master Himself!
But one thing seems to have been rarely noticed about the sermon: It is overwhelmingly negative. Any honest, unvarnished look at it, uncolored by our modern negative view of negativity, would reach this conclusion.
Don’t believe me? Just look in Matthew’s account for yourself.
In chapter five Jesus corrects a great number of misconceptions that His listeners had heard. He repeatedly uses the words “you have heard that it was said…but I say unto you.” He is basically telling people that what they’d heard and thought before was either no longer valid or just flat wrong.
In chapter seven, Jesus tells His listeners that few will go to heaven, and that many will walk the broad way that leads to eternal destruction (7:13-14). He also says that many who call Him Lord will not enter the kingdom of heaven because they practice lawlessness (7:22-23). Ouch! That’s some negative preaching!
But chapter six of Matthew’s record contains an absolute onslaught of negativity, made conspicuous by Jesus’ repeated use of the command “do not.”
- “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (6:1 )
- “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” (6:2)
- “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (6:3)
- “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (6:7)
- “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” (6:8)
- “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” (6:16)
- “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.” (6:19)
- “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (6:25)
- “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?'”(6:31)
- “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (6:34)
In case you weren’t counting, that’s TEN TIMES in this one chapter that Jesus begins a command with “DO NOT!” How could such negative words make such a positive impact? Could it be that some of us are positively wrong when it comes to negativity? Could it be that positive change is effected as much by the things we avoid and subtract as by the things we add and pursue? WHO KNEW?!? Jesus did.