Jesus brings the first example of how his followers are to live a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees. Listen to what he says:
“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, ‘Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister, will be subject to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire. So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him to the court, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny.Matthew 5:21-26 (CSB)
He doesn’t start with the first of the Ten Commandments but skips to the sixth—Do not murder. The first five relate directly to a person’s allegiance and love for God, but the last of the commandments are rules that relate to our actions toward our fellow human beings. We can only relate to them if we don’t kill them, which I think is an interesting way for God to get the point across.
I’m sure as he looked out on that huge crowd that day, there were few who would have actually broken that sixth commandment. When he spoke those words, most would have been satisfied in their own self-righteousness as followers of God’s laws.
Jesus bursts our self-righteous bubbles by getting to the heart of the matter.
The reason a person is led to commit murder in the first place is because they’re angry with another person. That’s why he’s not letting them off so easy: “But I tell you,” he says. “Everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”
Sin doesn’t start with the act but with the heart.
Anger leads to contempt, and contempt leads to hate, and hate leads to murder. Jesus is showing us there is a natural progression from the state of the heart to a specific action that breaks God’s law. The Pharisees were satisfied with their outward conduct while ignoring the inner sin. I’m pretty sure that’s why he called them “white-washed tombs.” Remember his list of woes to the scribes and Pharisees?
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside of it may also become clean.Matthew 23:25-26
Anger leads to judgment. Insult leads to court. Calling a brother “You fool!” leads to hellfire.
This emphasis on inner feelings and vocal name-calling shows that degradation of one’s fellow man, no matter the way it’s portrayed, is against the Law of God and equal to death.
I’m sure this left them reeling on the mountainside. “How then, can anyone be saved?” they wondered. I’m so grateful that Jesus, in his compassion and mercy, provides the solution: Before you offer a sacrifice, before you do your spiritual duty, make sure your slate is clean with your brother or sister.
Settle any matter that is hindering your attitude toward another—and do it quickly.
Even if we might have good reason to be angry with another person, because they are acting unjustly toward us, this doesn’t mean we allow ill feelings to take root. Jesus says that those who follow him, will settle disputes that may hinder their witness.
Jesus cuts to the chase on the mountainside because he knows that the first place we fail in our efforts to live for him is in our attitude and relationship with others.
Do you have anger or contempt for your brother or sister today? Nip it in the bud by seeking reconciliation and restoration. Not only will you be saved from being condemned as a murderer, but as a person who is easily angered and slanders as well.
John got it when he wrote:
Dear friends, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive whatever we ask from him because we keep his commands and do what is pleasing in his sight.1 John 3:21-22
May today be the day you have confidence before God by his…
Grace and Peace