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Ethical Analysis of the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew Chapters 5-7 Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: May 17th, 2022

Introduction

The Sermon on the Mount refers to a portion of the Bible that contains some of the things that Jesus said and the lessons that He taught to his disciples. Jesus teaches about how one should live a moral life. The Sermon on the Mount is found in the book of Mathew chapters 5, 6 and 7. According to McArthur (1978), it is also one of the passages in the Bible that has been quoted widely by various people. Some of the teachings found in the Sermon on the Mount include the beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, teachings about salt and the light, anger and murder, lust and adultery, divorce, oaths, an eye for an eye, love for one’s enemies, giving to the needy, treasures in heaven, the narrow gate and the wise builder. Christians believe that this passage in the Bible is one of the most important passages that deal with the Christian conduct. Christians are urged to be perfect just as God is.

In the beatitudes, Jesus states how He expects people in the kingdom of God to conduct themselves. Together with the other teachings found in this passage, the beatitudes emphasize on the importance of loving other people and being humble instead of acting forcefully towards other people. Jesus goes on to refer to the disciple as the light of the world and the salt of the earth.

Application of Ethics

According to Herrick (2012), some scholars claim that Jesus abrogated some section of the Mosaic Law during the Sermon on the Mount. However, others contend that actually Jesus intended to uphold the Law of Moses. Jesus advocated obedience and the right relationships between men. At the heart of the sermon is the perception that Jesus intended that all the actions of men would be dictated by the precepts of love.

In that sermon he also taught that he expected total obedience to the Mosaic Law. He claimed that if one broke even a single commandment he had in essence violated the whole law. To further drive the point home, he further added stricter rules that emphasized the need to have the right motives when dealing with fellow men. In fact, he likened hating ones brother with actually committing murder.

He also warned against acts of ostentation which are meant to show people how upright one is. He cautioned them about doing good in order to be acknowledged by men for there is no reward for that. He further reminded them, against judging others so that they would also not be judged.

In addition, he reminded his followers that they were the salt of the world. In essence, he was encouraging them to always do good deeds. Good deeds imply living as per the ethical standards. To further underscore this assertion, Jesus said that if the salt lost its flavor it could be thrown away to be trumped on by men. This was a poignant warning to his followers that if they ceased to do good deeds there was a punishment which would follow. In effect, Jesus was advocating for a strict observance of ethical standards as found in the Mosaic Law.

Ethical Dilemmas

According to Herrick (2012), one of the ethical considerations that are brought to the fore by the Sermon on the Mount is the absolutist view. This view propagates that the scripture must be interpreted in its literal manner and obeyed without any deviation. This school of though advocates for adherence to strict moral standards despite the prevailing situations or the environment.

In addition, there is another consideration brought forward which is referred to as the modification view. This view hinges on the premise that Jesus sharply admonished his followers about hating others “without a cause”. The inclusion of this clause brought about the perception that one could be justified in hating another provided there are sufficient grounds.

Some scholars also contend that there is another perspective-the hyperbole view. They claim that Jesus somehow went overboard in his demands; that it is not possible to attain follow all his instructions. In addition, others argue that the sermon emphasized more on attitudes more that the act itself this is also referred to as the “attitudes not the acts view”.

Another view which has also been advocated is the “two realms view “.This view is of the opinion that the instructions found in the Sermon on the Mount are only spiritual and should be applied as such. However, for issues dealing with the physical realm the earthly rules will apply.

There is also another view which is referred to as the analogy view. This serves to lessen the impact of the sermon by figuring it out using another scripture. Another controversial perception is the “unconditional divine will view”. This seeks to observe the demand of the law while at the same time seeking adjustment in order to accommodate the frailty of the human nature. Apart from the absolutist view all the others serve to dilute the precepts of the Sermon of the Mount albeit in varying degrees. There is a general perception being advanced that it is somewhat permissible to disobey the scriptures if the situation so demands.

Medical ethics

According to Gillon (1994), there are four principles that can help a medical profession to make decisions when confronted with ethical issues. The main thrust of this approach is that despite our different backgrounds we cannot fail to act within these precepts.

Autonomy means that medical professionals will at all times respect the self rule of other people. This implies they will treat people with the dignity that they deserve. They will respect the principle of confidentiality and they will not deceive their patients unless by express permission by the patients.

When using the twin principle of beneficence and non-maleficence the medical practitioner must strive at all times to treat the patients with very minimal risks. That is the net benefit must outweigh the risk. The principle of justice argues that medical professionals must at all times apply fairness in terms of allocation of health care as well as when arbitrating on issues to do with ethics.

Ethical approaches

According to Cushman (2005), normative ethics refers the study about what is right and wrong. It attempts at setting universal rules which can be used to distinguish between the two. Virtue ethics seeks to promote the cultivation of virtues at the expense of the prescribed acceptable behavior. On the other hand deontological ethics seeks to take the stance that the end justifies the means. In order to justify this stance, it relies on human reason and natural laws to defend actions that might seem to be unethical.

Utilitarian ethics are of the opinion that an action is right so long as it serves to bring about good or desirable outcomes. By contrast, feminist ethics place more emphasis on care and human relationships at the expense of any prevailing ethical standards. According to the teachings on the sermon on the mount most of this ethical views apart from the normative ethics seems to be on collision course with the fundamental principle of this part of the scripture namely-to seek for higher morality more that actually what was advocated by the mosaic law which somewhat seems superficial. Jesus advocated to an absolute adherence to both the spirit and the letter of the law which view is contradicted by most of this approaches.

Application of the Sermon on the Practice of Nursing

The teaching does not contradict the nursing professional ethics at first glance and especially in an ideal situation. However, in situations such as the one, requiring a nurse to disclose the condition of a patient will result to the nurse betraying the trust bestowed upon by the patient and therefore acting in contravention of the sermon. In addition the teaching also touched upon the principle of love to govern the actions in effect making the preservation of life the goal of any human being just as dictated by the nursing ethics.

Conclusions

The sermon brings out the view that people should be humble and at all times try to do good to others without fail even to those who wrong them. This is applicable even now to the nursing profession because the main aim for nursing is to preserve life and to treat their patients with dignity at all times.

Reference List

Cushman, R. (2005). Ethics Terms and Terminology. Miami: Miami education. Web.

Gillon, R. (1994). Medical ethics: four principles plus attention to scope. London: BMJ Publishing Group. Web.

Herrick, G. (2012). A Summary of Understanding the Sermon on the Mount. Richardson: Bible.org. Web.

McArthur, K. (1978). Understanding the Sermon on the Mount. Westport: Greenwood Press.

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