Matthew, the author of the New Testament Gospel bearing his name
(The Gospel According to Matthew), was a Jewish tax collector whose
life was changed by accepting Jesus as his Messiah/Savior, and who
became His disciple.
Matthew wrote in the hope of showing to his fellow Jews that Jesus
was indeed the long-awaited Messiah who fulfilled the Old Testament’s
teachings. Therefore, as the first book of the New Testament, The Gospel
of Matthew offers a logical transition from the Hebrew Bible (Old
Testament). But he did not stop there; he reminds his readers that Jesus
is the Savior of all people worldwide.
In Matthew 5:17 Jesus continues His sermon –
17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I
did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.
18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not
the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all
19 "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and
so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but
whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the
kingdom of heaven.
20 "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of
~ New American Standard Bible
In these verses, it appears that Jesus felt that He must reassure his
audience that He did not come to introduce a new religion. He tells them
that He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, and that this
fulfillment would extend to every detail (“smallest letter” or “stroke”;
also may be expressed as “jot” or “tittle.”)
But the fulfillment of the Law that He speaks of can be summarized in
one word – LOVE. In Matthew, Jesus makes it very clear that the rituals
and traditions of the scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders, are
not what save a person.
When one of those leaders, a lawyer, tests Him by asking, “Teacher,
which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36), Jesus
answers: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with
all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost
commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as
yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the
Prophets.” (Matthew 22: 37-40)
It follows that one who truly loves God, as Jesus outlines in this
passage, cannot harm anything that God has created – humans, other
animals, or the world in which we live. Genesis 1:31 says: “And God saw
all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”
You cannot claim to love God “with all your heart, and with all your
soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37) and contribute, directly
or indirectly, to the pain and suffering of any of God’s creatures or to
any of the injustices that the Law was intended to prevent.