“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).
Just as a river without banks becomes a swamp, mankind needs the Law to provide boundaries for human decency and civility. To eliminate the prideful self-satisfaction that can arise for not having done certain things, Jesus extends our understanding beyond the letter of the Law to the spirit of the Law. Six times, in the verses that follow (v. 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43), he says, “You have heard it said…but I say to you.” These serve as descriptive examples of the attitudes that should be applied to the entirety of the Law. Thus, instead of an unredeemable pride and self-satisfaction that characterizes those who are religious, for those seeking to follow Christ, it raises the bar for what we should aspire to each day.