“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45 KJV)
In a section of His well-known Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5 through 7), Jesus taught His disciples the proper interpretation of some of the Old Testament principles. The people were used to following rules, created by the Pharisees, that didn’t necessarily agree with biblical principles. That’s why He mentioned the goodness of God in this verse, to convince them to change their behavior towards their enemies. Let’s take a deeper look at this text.
#1 God Gives Good Things to Everyone
People are used to giving good things to their friends and to those whom they love. Everyone does that (Matthew 5:46-47). But Jesus taught us that God gives good things to everyone, even to people who ignore Him and deny Him. God makes the sunshine for everyone and the rainfall for everyone. This is how merciful our Lord is.
A psalmist also wrote about this. He said, “The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145:9 KJV). When we look at creation, we see the goodness and mercifulness of God. A tree’s fruits are available for everyone, both the just (those who obey God) and the unjust (those who don’t).
Barnabas and Paul said that God “did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17 KJV). The Lord enabled everyone to taste the good things He gives them (like food) and to be glad.
Every good thing a person enjoys in life comes from God. James wrote that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17 KJV). This is how good our God is!
#2 God’s High Standard
Starting in Matthew 5:21, Jesus presented the correct interpretation of several well-known Old Testament laws and principles to His disciples. In verse 43, we find the beginning of this specific section. Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy” (Matthew 5:43 KJV).
Note that there is no Old Testament commandment to “hate thine enemy.” This is something that the Pharisees taught the people based on a couple of verses from the Psalms (see Psalm 31:6 and 139:21). But there is no direct order from God or a prophet saying that’s how He wanted all His people to behave.
So, Jesus corrected that misconception. He said, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 KJV).
Jesus got this principle from an Old Testament commandment: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18 KJV). That’s the same text He quoted, along with Deuteronomy 6:5, when He was asked about the greatest commandment (see Matthew 22:34-40).
This commandment should not be news to the Jewish people. It was in the Law of Moses all along. But that was not how they learned. So, Jesus needed to correct them (and us). God doesn’t lower His standards to accommodate His children. He wants us to raise our standards to please Him.
Jesus summed up His lesson by saying, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 KJV). Perfection needs to be our goal. It is unattainable at this side of eternity, but we still need to aim for it.
#3 We Must Reflect God’s Goodness
After telling His disciples how they should behave towards their enemies, he gave them the reason: “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45 KJV).
Can you see how Jesus associated the goodness of God with our behavior? If we are children of God, we need to imitate our Father. He does good for everyone. So should we. This kind of behavior doesn’t make sense for the natural person. It only makes sense for a person whose mind was renewed by God (Romans 12:2).
When we do what God wants us to do, like when we love our enemies and do good unto them as God does, we give testimony of His goodness to the world. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 KJV).
Jesus taught us about the goodness and mercifulness of God, and how He gives good things to everyone, the just and the unjust. He explained how a child of God needs to behave, especially towards their enemies. We must pray for them, bless them, and do good to them. That’s how we will reflect the Lord’s goodness to the world and show them how merciful He is, even to the ones who hate Him. Our good behavior will bring glory to our Lord.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.