Monday, May 14, 2007



Matthew 5:21-26

The first pair that Jesus presents is MURDER and ADULTERY. Both of these illustrate how important it is to focus on the internal over the externals. The first one of the pair is MURDER:

21 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift.

25 "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. [This refers to a debtor's prison. Handle your conflicts to the best of your ability to avoid hurtful circumstances.]

Jesus is going for the jugular when speaking of murder. He is going deeper to the core of murder-anger. The problem is that no one is exempt when it comes to Jesus' teaching. Everyone has anger toward others in his heart. And Jesus points out that this core anger or resentment is worthy of the fire of hell. What they had been taught was the external-murder-was the most important, but Jesus says there is something deeper to be concerned about-your anger. Most people believe if they look good and haven't actually murdered anyone, then they are righteous. Jesus is saying that if you have anger or resentment toward another, then you are guilty of murder.

I don't think anyone would be against this teaching that a murderer ought to be sent to court for some accountability. Jesus takes the entire matter deeper. He is saying that murder is not committed simply on the social level between people (externally), but murder goes deeper into the heart (internally).

Jesus notes there are three degrees of murder. 1st Degree Murder is everyone who is angry at another brother. The root of murder is in the heart-anger! Now, you will have anger, but don't hang on to it and allow it to fester. That will prove to be as destructive as the social act of murder.

2nd Degree Murder is everyone who calls his brother "good-for-nothing". The word, Raca, has to do with attacking one's head, calling him stupid.

3rd Degree Murder is everyone who calls another a "fool". This term has to do with contempt for a person's heart and character. Jesus covers the entire spectrum of anger here.

Jesus then turns to driving His point home by using an extreme illustration. Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you. In other words, Jesus says that even the high act of worshipping God must not take precedence over your relationships with others. This is a powerful point. He will reiterate this dynamic later in His speech. You must understand that your relationships with one another are at the heart of God. Jesus sets out the best procedure to follow:

· Leave your offering there-stop your worship or attention toward the Lord. · Go to your brother-seek out this offended one. · Be reconciled to him-as far as it depends upon you. However, you may not accomplish full reconciliation in return. · Then come and present your offering, because now you are ready to face the God of gods.

Be careful not to act like a Pharisee and wrangle over words like saying, "Well, I haven't really had 'anger' in my heart, maybe 'dislike' but not anger. Nor have I called anyone 'stupid' or 'fool', therefore I've not done any of these things that are at the heart of murder.

GET OVER IT! You may not have murdered someone in society (an outward act), but you are guilty of murder through one or more of the degrees of murder (an inward act). NOW ACT UPON IT THE JESUS WAY. Be willing to acknowledge that you are just as bad off as any murderer in society. When you are tempted to rationalize your external behavior, quickly check out your heart. That's where God is checking you out.