Rewriting the Law [Anger] | Matthew 5:21-26 (Mville)
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 5:21–5:26
Good Morning! We are continuing our series in the Book of Matthew looking at Jesus the promised Savior-King of God’s people. Jesus has begun His public ministry and has now drawn a large crowd to hear his preaching of the gospel of turning from sin to the kingdom of God and his teaching about what that actually looks like. So we are in the middle of this Message of the King. Last week we saw the gospel of Jesus (the promises of God) does not lower the standards of the Law (the commands of God) rather the gospel makes much of the Law, Jesus authority over it and fulfillment of it. We rested knowing that the high standard of the law was met by Jesus perfectly performing obedience to it and his sacrifice on the cross for it. We also said Jesus mission to fulfill the law included Jesus more clearly articulating the King’s law so it could be more rightly understood, applied, and followed by the citizens of the kingdom. Jesus distilled all the 613 ordnances and the 10 Commandments down to the root of Christians living to two simple commands to love God and love your neighbor. The next several sections Jesus takes case studies from the 10 commandments and the law, to rewrite the misunderstood/misapplied teachings of the Scribes and the Pharisees to lead people to obedience of the law that more accurately reflect the values of his kingdom. Jesus preached the kingdom of heaven is a revolution, not of radical rebellion, but of radical obedience.
Matt 5 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
6th Commandment Restated v 21
This first case study Jesus restates/rewrites the 6th commandment in Exodus 20:13 You shall not murder. This might be the simplest and most universally accepted of all the commandments, yet even with it there is so much confusion we have to actually define what murder is and what it is not. The Hebrew term for used for murder means causing human death, and includes everything from what we would call premeditated 1st degree murder, abortion, manslaughter, and even death caused by carelessness or neglect. That is a high standard. This term is NOT used in the Bible to describe killing in war or capital punishment for murder. Does murder happen in war yes, have innocent people likely been executed yes, but disciplined soldiers and lawful executioners are not committing murder by doing their job. Can we agree on this one? Maybe not. This commandment is important because God is the Creator of all life. Human life is uniquely significant because it is made in the image and likeness of God. Human live, our lives, have great value because they are considered greatly valuable to God. He is the author of our lives, He decides when and how our story begins and when and how our story ends. Murder is sin, not just because it harms another person, but because it is an attempt to take the pen from God’s hands into our own to write our ending for another person He has created. We are not authors of life, we are authors of death. Most of you can read this commandment, think about your life, and say “Check”. As with everything, Jesus raises the standard.
Anger = Murder v22
Jesus goes from “You’ve heard it said” to “But, I say to you”. He is saying teachers got it wrong. You may think your escaping judgment and getting off merely because you haven’t actually taken a life of someone else. Jesus says you’re wrong, more of you are liable for the same judgment of a murderer then you think. Jesus takes the 6th commandment from the extreme outward action of killing another person and drills it down all the way to the depths our inner heart attitudes and emotions. All of the sudden this part of the Sermon on the Mount goes from being applied to the relatively rare cases of physical murder to impacting EVERYONE who has ever had angry thought toward, uttered an unkind word, or directly insulted another!
Does that mean Christians can never be angry, or speak against, someone or something? No. There is a “righteous anger”. Eph 4 tells us to be angry and do not sin. Jesus was angry yet was without sin. God hates sin, God is not unemotional, He is angry with sin. When confronted with brokenness and sin in the world and in our lives it is right and appropriate to respond with anger. Yet not sin. What does this mean? Many original manuscripts of clarify the anger Jesus is talking about is “without cause.” Most of the anger we feel or display is not righteous anger over sin God hates because we share His heart, it is unjustified anger that comes from our own places of hate in our hearts. Anger becomes sin when we apply the same emotions and heart attitudes God reserves for sin against Him, to people or things that don’t meet our approval. Why do we get unjustifiably angry? Because we see the world with us in the place of God and believe people, circumstances, or things should all be subject to our rule and reign and bend to our will for our glory and our joy. We get angry when our laws have been transgressed; our will has not been done. Think the last time you were angry? What was it because God was wronged or because you were?
But I am justified in my anger, you don’t understand! All of our anger comes down to anger against God. Ever get angry against a lifeless object? Jonathan Edwards made a resolution never to get angry at an inanimate object, because ultimately it would be anger against God who is in control in inanimate objects, and they don't have any will to commit an immorality with which to get angry. We get angry as circumstances/situations. Is your first inclination to see how you were involved in causing it or are you looking to others to blame? God is in and Lord over our circumstances when we are angry at them we are ultimately angry at Him. Angry with people much? They are God’s creation, they are to be judged by Him and His standard not us and ours. When we are angry at people our hearts say “I wish they were dead, God got it wrong by giving them a life that interferes with mine. All would be better if they were not in it.” This is the heart of murder, unjustifiable anger towards and hatred of another that leads to a death wish. Jesus says it is at this point that sin has occurred. We cannot wrap our heads around why thoughts of anger, words of slander or insults to others are considered sin in the same category as murder. They all come from is the same destructive force of separation; that is what sin does. Jesus isn’t saying it is just as bad to insult as it is to murder, or that if you are angry at someone you might as well kill them. He is saying there are not the same degrees we place on sin. There is sin, or there no sin, no in between. The Law of the Kingdom, 6th commandment, is broken at anger in our hearts before, if ever, it get to murder in our hands.
It is not enough to merely abstain from taking our neighbors life; we also should not be actively harming it. But there is more to radical obedience then avoiding or not causing harm. Human life is important, because it is important to God, so as subjects of the King we don’t just NOT murder, we are to work towards making others thrive. It is never about how much bad, malice we can display or get away with it is about how much love and joy we can show in obedience to God the love, joy, life giver. Not putting to death is just the beginning we are to go all the way to not taking life, to giving life. Jesus raises the bar.
Words Matter/Hearts Matter
Unjustified, and uncheck anger in our hearts rarely stays there. Anger is toxic and it will find a way to seep out of us. It can come out in violent actions, but before it ever comes out physically, if at all, it almost always comes out verbally. Jesus is addressing this as sin. When he says “whoever insults his brother will be liable” there is a text note for the word “insult” that says in the greek there is the world “Raca” we don’t know what it means, but we do know it was a grievous insult or term of abuse. Without question there would have been a gasp in the crowd at Jesus even saying this word publicly. There were sanctions given by the Jewish councils for using this insult. This was one of the 7 words you can’t say on Jewish radio. We don’t use it, we don’t know what it means and none of you were offended when I said it so, why bring attention to it? We have our own lists of abuses words culturally, corporately as a church, and individually.
Luke 6:45 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
The point is, our words matter, to others and ultimately to God because they come from our hearts. How much thought do you give to what you say to others and about others? Our words have intense power.
James 3:6 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.
Our words have an incredible power to murder. Our words can murder conversations, over time they can murder friendships, jobs, even marriages. They can literally destroy the course of our lives and the lives of others. The closer you are to someone the more their words, even the tone of them, as an outflow of their heart can impact you and vice versa. Who do you not talk to now because of something they’ve said to you? Who doesn’t talk to you? They can have the power to discourage, literally remove courage, and instill fear in its place. The stakes are even higher for anyone in leadership, authority, or influence over others. Their words carry more weight. Section starts with Teachers should be judged harsher for what they say. The greater your influence is over others, the more your words have a potential to harm.
Jesus says when you give a label or insult to someone you are holding them in contempt. Contempt is a steady degradation of someone else in your eyes, thinking of others as “less than” is the opposite of humility. It is the opposite of gospel community. We are telling others you don’t belong in the world of my creation. We are making a judgment and declaring something about the person that God has not. We are rejecting how God see them and what He has said about them as His image bearers in favor of how we see them. We are trying to establish power or authority over other people and their identities that God has not given us. When you’ve rejected God, it is easier to reject people. Christians when you realized you’ve been approved by God it should be easier to accept those He as approved.
James 1:19-20 19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. In John ch1, Jesus is called “The Word”, who in Him is life. God’s word brings life. As followers of “The Word” our words to others are to bring life to them. That has to be our deepest desire in what and how we speak to one another.
Ephesian 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
It is not enough not to speak anger or to just control our temper. “got nothing nice to say, don’t’ say anything,” is only the beginning. Jesus doesn’t want us to simply not sin He was us to use our words as tools to build others up. But when we allow ourselves to be controlled by our unjustified anger we will be judged for it. In Jesus kingdom, hate of your brother will not be a value. It will be condemned. Jesus says because of our sinful anger we are liable for Hell of fire. Words have meanings, Gehenna is trash dump outside Jerusalem that was always burning. Notorious for human sacrifices in during reign of Ahaz and Manasseth “Valley of Slaughter” When your unjustified anger towards others leads you contempt wanting another person discarded from your life or to speak words to wrongly judge and tear them down, or you treat other people like garbage , you are the one who deserves the place of human sacrifice and burning garbage, not them. But they…But they…It doesn’t matter. Your heart, your words, your actions are what matter.
How have your words brought others life? How have they brought death? What do you need to change?
Family Feud v 23-24
We will be judged not just on how we don’t hate, but we will be judge on how we love one another….
John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
We are spending eternity together we might as well get along! Yet we know this is not always the case, so how are we as the people of God supposed to deal when anger comes out? God is a Father and He wants His children to love each other. Don’t come to Dad if you have unfinished business with your brother or sister. Jesus gives us clear instructions on how we are to act as a family to prevent conflict and to resolve and restore relationships for better unity, more effective mission/witness, and purer worship of God. Among Christian brothers and sisters anger is to be eliminated. Let that sink in. (I have been guilt of this) You are not to arouse anger in other. Don’t do things or say thing you KNOW are going to insight another person. If you know someone is offended by you it should bother you at least a little. Not in the sense of wanting to be a people pleaser, but it should make you check your heart, words, and actions. This might require you to ask someone else because we do not see ourselves clearly, this is called Gospel Community.
It’s interesting that all of the instructions are given to the person who has done the offending. Jesus doesn’t say “If you are offended make sure you tell that person before they come to worship me.” He says “If you remember, if you know your brother/sister has something against you. Don’t think about who needs to be coming to you before they come to God think about who you have been angry with who have you shown malice towards or even who you have offended. Remember, the definition of murder included death by carelessness or neglect. Sometimes we offend unnecessarily or unintentionally, regardless it is on us to seek to restore relationships with others. God initiates with us we are to initiate with others. It is up to you to take the initiative. This is not any easy word, it is difficult, it is humbling. I have been on an apology tour. Last year at this time I said some careless words during an announcement time that offended others, it was not my intent and my default attitude was they should just shrug it off. That would have been easy to just let it pass, but that would have given an opportunity for anger, bitterness, or mistrust between us to get a foot hold or cause them to disregard others words I might say that are intended to build up or encourage.
If you are separated from your brother or sister because of anger that is unjustified, slander, insults or anything that has brought about disharmony, before you come to this place, into a ROAD Group, into community, and think you are honoring God, go and make it right before taking communion. We are to build loving relationships with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, and with our neighbors.
Who has something against you right now? Who do you need to pursue for reconciliation so you can return to pure worship of God and effective mission for God?
Rom 12:17-18 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. But have you even tried? Before you do anything else, make it right, work for reconciliation. On the other side, if you are a Christian and you are the one who has something, even legitimate, against a brother or sister and they come to you seeking peace you should be prepared to receive them and ready to forgive. Eph 4: 31-32 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Community Cancer v25
Forgiveness and peace within the body, the church is critical. If unchecked, individual anger will lead to corporate chaos. Sin, left alone, will never stay contained, it will spread like a cancer in the community. Anger, bitterness, hatred, leads to churches splitting and dividing. Our church has just gone through a division. We divided for Gospel multiplication, because we love Jesus and want to see others changed by Jesus and yet it has not been entirely smooth, or without some hurt feeling. We divided for Gospel mission and yet it was still a little painful. The church community in Marysville has suffered through a few decades of churches splits over angry words and bitterness where even families are separate and demonized by each other. Yes there are more churches in Marysville because of it, and God can intend our evil for His good, but God wants churches planted over love for Him and His mission, and love for people and their souls, not because brothers have hatred for each other so deep they cannot worship the same God together. At Damascus Road, we are not perfect and we have likely offended brother, but we work as much as depends on us to, live peaceably with the churches around us, in this city through the Marysville Area Pastors Association, with the churches we’ve covenanted with in 3Strand, and with our partner churches in Acts 29. We love our brothers and sisters in Christ and work together for the gospel because of the gospel. This is how Christians are to live and work with one another. Yet we have all failed.
Because we have all failed to love God and love our neighbors perfectly we are all in a state of conflict with God. There is a judgment coming for all of us at the end of our days. The word for judgment can also be translated crisis. We have insulted God, we have held him in contempt. We owe him. We are not to delay in averting this crisis, because there will be a time when it is too late and we will suffer the just punishment for our sin of anger towards God and towards His people. ALL of us are called to come to terms quickly. Some translations say “Make friends with your opponent” We are guilty of anger, insulting, desiring murder of God and there are only two ways we will be dealt with when it comes time for our judgment. God will be our just opponent, or our merciful friend. Do NOT delay, come to the cross quickly.
In this life God offers friendship, when judgment comes you will be handed over the prison guard where there will be no mercy, no lessening of punishment sentence of a murderer. If we allow anger bitterness rage, to go unchecked before meeting the ultimate judge of our hearts, God, it will be too late.
When we fail to love our neighbors as ourselves we have failed to keep the implications of the Law Jesus has outlined. We fail at this ALL THE TIME! We all harbor anger that is unjustified! Let it go, nail it to the cross. Jesus suffered for the wrath of our sin and the sins of others, let him bear it so you don’t have to. Because Jesus was murdered we do not have to go to the Gehenna where we are never released. Jesus was murdered for us because we are murders. We have all broken this law in our hearts. The cross is where Jesus died by the hands of angry murderers for the sins of angry murders. Trust Jesus.
More in The King Has Come | Matthew
May 11, 2014Jesus the Rock | Matthew 7:24-29 (Mville)
May 11, 2014Jesus is (Scary) Gracious | Matthew 7.15-23 (Snoh)
May 4, 2014Kingdom Admission | Matthew 7:13-23 (Mville)