Some historians and philosophers have pointed out that much of our scientific and medical literature is updated often because new discoveries and new knowledge render previously accepted knowledge obsolete. No one in their right mind would ever be comfortable with a physician using a 50-year-old textbook as a guide for treatment of patients. As knowledge increases our perspective continues to evolve.
This is why encountering the teachings of Jesus is such a fascinating experience. All the things Christ said in the three chapters (Matthew 5-7) that we refer to as the Sermon on the Mount are especially sublime. Augustine described them as “a perfect standard of the Christian life.” In a passage so simple that it can be read in one short sitting, Jesus outlined deep spiritual and ethical truths that, even after centuries of new knowledge about the world, have not yet become obsolete.
In a brief, yet brilliant, sweep of wisdom, Jesus lays down the essential principles of humility (Matthew 5:3), forgiveness (Matthew 6:12, 14-15), mercy (Matthew 5:7), influence (Matthew 5:13-16), interpersonal relationships (Matthew 5:21-24), authentic piety (Matthew 6:1-7), and lasting contentment (Matthew 6:25-34). These principles hold the secret to living a meaningful and complete life. There is no better source of psychological and emotional health and healing.
As psychiatrist J.T. Fisher and coauthor L.S. Hawley put it:
“If you were to take the sum total of all authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene––if you were to combine them and refine them and cleave out the excess verbiage––if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley, and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the sermon on the mount. And it would suffer immeasurably through comparison. For nearly two thousand years, the Christian world has been holding in its hands the complete answer to its restless and fruitless yearnings. Here… [r]est the blueprints for successful human life with optimum mental health and contentment” (A Few Buttons Missing, p. 273,quoted in What If The Bible Had Never Been Written, p.12, James Kennedy).
May God give us a higher sense of awareness for the precious treasures we have access to in the teachings of Jesus. And may we not merely speak of these truths, but actually live them out that we may demonstrate to the world around us that Christ came “that [we] might have life, and that [we] may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10)!