September 26, 2021 – Matthew 5

Lesson Date: September 26, 2021

Focal Scripture Passage: Matthew 5:1-12, 20-22, 27-28

AIM: To lead students to discover what Jesus said about inner attitudes and outward actions, and to examine themselves to determine if their inner thoughts and attitudes are pleasing to God.


Before class: Read the notes on Matthew 5 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book.  Become familiar with the following three brief case studies so you can tell them to the class without reading them.  To make the case studies more vivid you could enlist three class members ahead of time and ask them to role-play the case studies as first-person testimonies.


INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Share the following case studies with the class.  Tell them the three persons described in the case studies are all active and faithful members of the same church.

Susan is faithful to her church.  She attends Sunday School regularly, sings in the choir, serves in the nursery, and brings her tithes each week.  When asked privately by her teacher to share her testimony, she replied, “I don’t believe in all that ‘born-again’ stuff.  I believe if you just live right and do good things God will let you into heaven.”

Carrie is also an active church member.  She thinks the climate of violence and murder in America today is terrible.  When she gathers with her friends in the break room at work, however, Carrie is quite verbal about her disdain, dislike, and even hatred for other employees and her supervisors.

Jim teaches Sunday School at the church.  Whenever the Bible passage has anything to do with morality, Jim speaks strongly against the immorality and adultery that is so common in our culture.  When Jim is at home alone, however, he regularly looks at pornography on the Internet.

Tell the class all three of these individuals are respected members of their church.  Based on peoples’ opinions of them, any of them could hold an important position in the church.  Ask: “What, if anything, is wrong with these people?” (their outward behavior at church looks good, but their inner thoughts and attitudes don’t match their outward appearance).

Tell the students that Jesus taught about outward behavior and inner thoughts in His most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount.  We are beginning a three-week study of that sermon today.  The title of today’s lesson from Matthew 5 is, It’s the Thought that Counts.



  1. Review.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (the beginning of Jesus’ ministry; His temptations, calling His first disciples, and His preaching, teaching, and healing).
    • Ask if any volunteer would recite last week’s memory verse (Matt. 4:4).
  2. Attitudes that Bring Blessings.
    • Explain the following:
    • Ask a volunteer to read Matthew 5:1-2
    • Ask: “What did Jesus do when He saw the multitudes?” (He taught them).
    • Read Matthew 5:3-6.
    • Ask: “What is the first word of verses 3, 4, 5, and 6?” (blessed).
    • Explain that the word blessed means “fortunate,” “well off,” or “happy.” Jesus began His sermon by describing attitudes that bring blessings.
    • Ask: “In verse 3, who did Jesus say was blessed?” (the poor in spirit).
    • Tell the class the “poor in spirit” are people who realize they are spiritually destitute. Such humble people turn to Jesus for salvation and therefore go to heaven.
    • Ask: “In verse 4, who did Jesus say was blessed?” (those who mourn).
    • Explain that “they that mourn” are people who experience godly sorrow and grief over their sins. God will forgive and comfort those who sincerely repent.
    • Ask: “In verse 5, who did Jesus say was blessed?” (the meek).
    • Tell the students that “meek” people are teachable, do not defend their sin, and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
    • Ask: “In verse 6, who did Jesus say was blessed?” (those who hunger and thirst after righteousness).
    • Ask: “What did Jesus promise those people?” (they will be filled: they will receive Christ’s righteousness; see 2 Cor. 5:21)
    • Explain the following:
      • These verses describe what takes place when a person receives Christ.
      • He first realizes he is spiritually poor and destitute: he can’t save himself or get to heaven on his own merits (v. 3).
      • This causes the person to sincerely mourns over his sin (v. 4).
      • Such an individual will not defend his sin, but will meekly turn to Jesus Christ for salvation (v. 5).
      • God then gives that person a hunger for righteousness and holy living (verse 6).
    • Ask: “Do verses 3-6 describe inner attitudes or outward actions?” (inner attitudes).
    • Summarize: In the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said those who realize their spiritual need and hunger for righteousness are blessed for all eternity.
  3. Outward Actions that Result in Blessings.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Matthew 5:7-9.
    • Tell the students that while verses 3-6 deal with inner attitudes of the heart, verses 7-10 deal with outward manifestations of those inner attitudes
    • Ask: “What are the outward manifestations named in verses 7-9?” (being merciful, pure in heart, and seeking to make peace).
    • Explain the following:
      • Merciful means compassionate. The merciful person has experienced God’s forgiveness and is willing to extend that forgiveness to others.
      • Those who are pure in heart have experienced the cleansing of Jesus Christ in salvation. They are saved and will see God face to face in heaven.
      • Genuine salvation should manifest itself in a desire to live at peace with everyone (Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:18; Heb. 12:14).
    • Tell the class we can understand why the people described in verses 7-9 would be blessed, but the next verses present another, seemingly unlikely source of blessing.
    • Read Matthew 5:10-12.
    • Ask: “According to verse 10, who else is blessed?” (those who are persecuted for doing right and standing up for righteousness).
    • Ask: “In verse 11 who did Jesus say is blessed?” (those who are persecuted and spoken against for His sake).
    • Ask: “How many of you want to sign up for persecution?” (none of us do)
    • Ask: “According to verse 12, what did Jesus say we should do when we are persecuted?” (rejoice and be exceeding glad because we will have a great reward in heaven).
    • Ask: “Why should we feel this way?” (because we are in good company: God’s prophets were also persecuted).
    • Summarize: Jesus said those who live like redeemed children of God will experience blessing, even when they go through persecution.
  4. Inner Attitude vs. Outward Behavior.
    • Explain the following:
      • The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day (scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and chief priests) prided themselves on obeying every point of the Old Testament Law.
      • In fact, some of them created new rules that were much stricter than God’s, just to be sure they didn’t come close to breaking any of God’s laws.
      • The Pharisees were the strictest of them all: they fasted twice each week, made lengthy public prayers, and even wore special clothing so everyone would know they were Pharisees.
      • The Jewish religious leaders paraded their religion for public view, but Jesus knew that most of them were wicked and corrupt on the inside.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Matthew 5:20.
    • Tell the students Jesus said the outward “righteous” behavior of the scribes and Pharisees was not sufficient to get them to heaven. Outward actions will not take you to heaven.
    • Read Matthew 5:21-22.
    • Ask: ‘What law did Jesus quote in verse 21?” (the sixth of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not kill” – Ex. 20:13).
    • Stress the fact that Jesus’ teaching went far beyond the outward act of murder.
    • Ask: “What did He say in verse 22?” (that anger in the heart makes one just as guilty as actual murder).
    • Tell the students Jesus’ standard was much higher than that of the scribes and Pharisees.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Matthew 5:27-28.
    • Ask: ‘What law did Jesus quote in verse 27?” (the seventh of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” – Ex. 20:14).
    • Stress the fact that Jesus’ teaching went beyond the outward act of adultery.
    • Ask: “What did He say in verse 28?” (lust in the heart makes one just as guilty as actual adultery).
    • Tell the class that once again, Jesus’ standard was much higher than that of the scribes and Pharisees.
    • Explain the following:
      • Our outward actions reveal who we want people to think we are.
      • Our private thoughts reveal who we really are.
      • Later Jesus elaborated on this, when He said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19).
      • Like the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day, our outward behavior may fool people into thinking we are spiritual and righteous, but God knows the truth about us.
    • Summarize: Jesus taught that our inward attitudes are a truer picture of our character and spirituality than our outward behavior.


PERSONAL APPLICATION: Remind the students that you began today’s lesson with three brief stories.  Tell them about Susan again.  Ask: “What is Susan’s problem?” (she is trying to work her way to heaven by doing good works; she needs to turn from her sins and humbly come to Jesus Christ for genuine salvation).

Tell them about Carrie again.  Ask: “What is Carrie’s problem?” (she has murderous hatred in her heart, making her just as guilty before God as if he had actually committed murder).

Tell them about Jim again.  Ask: “What is Jim’s problem?” (he has a lustful and adulterous heart, making him just as guilty before God as if he had actually committed adultery).

Tell the students that all three of those people look like they’ve got it all together when they are at church, but their hearts are not right with God.

Ask: “What about you?  In the privacy of your own thoughts are you a murderer or an adulterer?  Is God pleased with your heart?  Are you ‘poor in spirit’ enough to humbly admit and confess your sin?  Does the realization of your sin bring a sense of grief and mourning to your heart, so that you want to repent? Are you willing to meekly surrender your will to God?  Do you want Him to give you a genuine hunger and thirst for righteous thoughts and righteous living?”

Ask everyone to bow their head and close their eyes.  Ask them to privately examine themselves to determine if their inner thoughts and attitudes are pleasing to God.  Encourage them to confess their sins and beg God for His mercy and cleansing.  Urge any who have never been saved to repent of their sins and turn to Jesus right now.  Voice a closing prayer.


CONCLUSION: Encourage everyone to examine their thoughts and actions every day this week.  Next week we will have another lesson from the Sermon on the Mount.

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