Jesus' commands - positive or negative?
by Rod Jackson

All verses are quoted from the NASB anything in [square brackets] is added by me for clarity. Whenever I have quoted a verse that has a direct positive command I will underline the command in the verse. Similarly if there is a negative command in a verse then I will use italics to highlight the negative command.

I have been teaching Sunday School for some time now. I never had any formal training, a few seminars here and there. One thing along the way that I was taught was that you should always speak in the positive to children, never in the negative. I duely took this onboard and tried to incorporate it into my style of teaching without really thinking about it. That is, until one time a child in my class answered a question that was quite definitely wrong. I could not think of a way to tell them it was wrong in a positive sense and I just said, "yes"; implying that the child had answered correctly. In other words, I lied to that child, merely for the sake of this rule. After that I seriously thought about why I did that and how I should have correctly handled that situation.

Jesus was also a teacher, but He was a perfect teacher. So just by going through the book of Matthew I have listed all the direct commands of Jesus, and I've catalogued them as either positive or negative. But being careful not to commit the either/or fallacy I have also catalogued anytime that both positive and negative commands are used. What I mean by a "direct command" is this - when Jesus was teaching on the sermon on the mount He said,

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3

This is an indirect command. If Jesus had of said "You shall be poor in spirit and in this way be blessed" then it would have been a direct positive command only. But if Jesus had of said "You shall not be rich in spirit and in this way be blessed" then it would have been a direct negative command only. And finally if Jesus had of said "You shall be poor in spirit and you shall not be rich in spirit and in this way be blessed" then it would have been a direct positive and negative command. So here is a sample list of verses -

"Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28

"But Jesus said, `Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.' " Matthew 19:14

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; " Matthew 6:19-20

This very small sample I have selected just to prove that there is nothing wrong with using positive or negative commands as Jesus used both.

Here is my complete listing for the book of Matthew. I have divided the commands up by single verses and not by topics. So something only went into the "both positive and negative" section if they were listed in the one verse. I have put an "if" in brackets before the verse when a command required some condition to happen before one should be doing it.

Direct positive commands only are found in
Matthew 3:15; 4:10,17,19; 5:12,16,(if)24,25,(if)29-30,31,37,38,(if)40-41,42-44,48; 6:(if)3,(if)6,9,(if)17,20,33; 7:5,7,12; 8:4,13,22; 9:9,13,24,30; 10,6-8,(if)11-12,(if)14,16,(if)23,27; 11:4,(if)15,(if)28-29; 12:13; 13:(if)9,18,(if)43; 14:16,18,29; 15:4,10; 16:6,(if)24; 17:7,9,17,27; 18:(if)8-9,(if)15-17; 19:(if)17,19,(if)21; 21:2; 22:19,21,37,39; 23:23,26; 24:4,16,20,32,33,42,44; 25:13; 26:18,26,27,36,38,41,46,50,52,75; 28:19,20

Direct negative commands only are found in
Matthew 4:4,7; 5:17,21,27,34-36,39; 6:(if)2,(if)5,(if)7-8,(if)16,19,25,31,34; 7:1,6; 10:5,9,10,(if)19,26,31,34; 14:27; 18:10,(if)35; 19:18; 23:8-10; 24:6,17,18,(if)23,(if)26

Direct commands that are both positive and negative are found in
Matthew 5:33; 10:(if)13,28; 19:14; 20:26,27; 23:3; 28:10

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