Matthew 5:1 begins the famous Beatitudes – arguably the most treasured lines from all human speech/writing.
It introduces a section where a vision of a renewed and mature humanity; a humanity that has not left ‘religion’ behind (5:17-19), but which has been renewed (died to self and risen to God and others, we might say) and has thus (and only thus) progressed and matured beyond a life that is preoccupied with ‘religion’ and doing what is ‘right’. A humanity with a different kind of righteousness which fulfills the Law (5:17-20).
It showcases a bright and salty ‘hilltop humanity’ (5:13-16) marked out by certain attitudes, dispositions and actions (5:3-12). A people who have moved beyond ‘murder is wrong’ to ‘don’t be controlled by rage’ (5:21ff); beyond ‘adultery is wrong’ to ‘don’t be controlled by lust’ (5:27ff); beyond the lawfulness of divorce to committed faithfulness (5:31ff); beyond oaths to commitment to one’s ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (5:33ff); beyond a ‘just retaliation’ to graceful and sacrificial giving (5:38ff); beyond the imperfection of hatred of enemies to the perfection of love for all (5:43ff). This new humanity is a humanity whose giving (6:1ff), praying (6:5ff) and fasting (6:16ff) is not ‘religious’ but humble and loving; and who are not mastered by earthly treasure but who seek and trust the kingdom of God.