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. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 5:19-20 ESV]
With these two verses Jesus closes a circle begun with His first statement “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 5:3 ESV]. Within the circle are all of the characteristics God is building into the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. Outside of the circle is eternity. Like God, who transcends space and time, each Christian, as they grow and spiritually mature, will transcend the circle. This does not mean the qualities God is building into those who are His will no longer be necessary, as if anyone can grow out of being poor in spirit or no longer hunger and thirst for righteousness. Once emplaced these characteristics do not change. They do form the eternal foundation, laid in space and time, for the whole person who lives for eternity.
Everyone is a teacher. Everything done reveals what has been taught, what has been learned, and teaches in some way lessons to all with whom we come in contact. Our training is evident, the evidence of our training scattered with every step, gesture, word and thought. From the earliest training given by those who raise us to the right now impacts us for eternity. Our thinking and decisions, what we are right now allowing or giving permission to enter our life, influences who we are and what we will become. God may define who we and direct our development but we still have responsibility for our actions and reactions.
You teach others what you believe whether you are aware or care. Those who are poor in spirit have recognized the reality of sin in their lives, the world and those around them. They love the truth and hate sin. They confront sin and the lie behind it as part of their spiritual nature.
Being poor in spirit, with its characteristic and motivations, is only the beginning, the first step, in the call and life of the citizen of God’s kingdom. Each step which follows, each of the characteristics and motivations Jesus describes, He builds into the person making them whole and fitting them for eternity with Him. Though He does this with the individual we are part of a whole, a member of the body of Christ, where one piece influences and affects all others. We do not live independently from Christ or separated from the Church.
We are also His witnesses in this world for His righteousness and goodness. Who we are, what motivates us, all we do, all we are is critical to our witness. As servants, owned by Him, He governs us and gives each a purpose, being salt and light, showing His love, His mercy, purity and peace. What you do reflects who you are and dictates what you will become. How well we learn the lessons taught, conforming to the straightness of His will for us, is seen in the influence we have on those around us. God is deepening our relationship with Him and strengthening our relationship with others at the same time. Being a citizen of His kingdom is not for the lazy but the diligent. There are no shortcuts.
Midway through His time, as Jesus prepared His disciples before sending them out, His instructions were explicit and definitive. Here are the people you are to teach. Go to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” [Matthew 10:6 EV]. Later, He would send them throughout the world.
Should those of the world accept you, good. Should they reject you “shake the dust from your feet” [Matthew 10:14 ESV] as you leave. People will reject you, persecute and drag you into court, and kill you. Your message is clear. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” [Matthew 10:7 ESV and many other places]. You are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Act like citizens of the kingdom of heaven not like citizens of the fallen world. Why? “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master” [Matthew 10:24-25 ESV].
Preparation for eternity is preparation to be like Him for eternity. What we do right now counts.