On the way to pick up my son from school I nearly had a wreck. NO, I wasn’t texting or checking email. The vehicle in front of me stopped suddenly because the vehicle in front of him stopped suddenly. The cause for all the commotion was a tweener who decided to jump out in front of cars and cross the street on his bike. I found myself throwing my hands up in the air and muttering something about “Stupid kids these days!” I didn’t kill him. I didn’t call him an idiot to his face. In fact, he didn’t hear me at all. I’m good right?
According to the strictest interpretation, that being Pharisaic, I am in the right. However Jesus made it a habit of His to change the game. In one of His earliest teachings He stated,
21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’* 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone,* you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot,* you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone,* you are in danger of the fires of hell.*
23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice* at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
25 “When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.*
When I read those words, I realize that my anger led to wrongdoing. Lord, forgive me.
Jesus started with the law. “You have heard it said, ‘Do not murder’.” We all know this is wrong, right? We get it. To take another’s life from them and their family is wrong. In fact, a BIG wrong! But He did not stop. Jesus brought it back to relationships. Jesus would later be asked what the greatest commandment is. He replied that we are to love God and love our neighbor. He equated the two in priority. He would go on to say that all of the law hinged on these two concepts.
If we just read the command without a concept of relationships we have stopped short. We are not taking into consideration the intent of the law, only the letter of it. The religious leaders were very good at this. So are we.
What about murder? Jesus located the root of murder in anger and hatred (vv. 21–26). Rather than nurse anger, which may lead to murder, the kingdom citizen is to value peacemaking. He is to take the initiative to be reconciled to his brother. Later John would write, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). Jesus makes an adjustment.
- I am angry without cause. Sometimes we just get up on the wrong side of the bed and take it out on those around us. Things did not go our way during the day and we lash out at those who had nothing to do with it.
- I call someone an idiot. This is a word filled with utter contempt for someone. The implication is being empty-headed. I guess we should seek forgiveness for every blond joke?
- I call someone a fool. This moves from intellect, as before, to morally bankruptcy. The sense is that the person in question is considered morally worthless.
Jesus then tells us what to do about in a real world application. If I know someone has a problem with me I am to go and seek reconciliation. My ability to worship God and receive His blessing is on the line here. If we go to church but harbor ill against ANYONE we must first make it as right as we can before thinking that God can be worshipped! Our churches are powerless today in this culture because we have forgotten about the relational aspect of God’s intentions for us. If you have something against a person settle it quickly. If you are aware of someone having a problem with you, settle it quickly.