Murder And Anger Begin In The Heart



‘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.’ 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 court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.’ Matthew 5:21-22

After our Lord stressed the importance of His followers being truly righteous, He continued His Sermon on the Mount, addressing a variety of subjects that His audience was well acquainted with.

Jesus’ use of the phrase, ‘you have heard’, is accurate since the common people generally didn’t have access to a copy of the Old Testament for personal reading, they heard the law read and interpreted by the religious leaders.

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount Jesus repeatedly says, ‘you have heard’, indicating that what the people were being taught and the way these Old Testament verses were being interpreted by their teachers, were not accurate.

The way they were being interpreted often led to confusion and in more cases than not, division between the rabbis and the people as a whole.

It should be noted that Jesus doesn’t take away anything from the Old Testament while addressing the topics in this chapter, Matthew 5:18, but He does add His own teaching to it.

Jesus quotes from the Old Testaments Scriptures, Exodus 20:13 / Deuteronomy 5:17 which said, ‘you shall not murder’.

In the Old Testament murder was punishable by death, Exodus 21:12, but by the time Jesus came on the scene, the leaders had messed with this law to such an extent that if anyone committed murder, they wouldn’t be punished with death but simply be brought to judgement and be spared the death penalty.

However, He supplemented that teaching by declaring mental murder, i.e., unwarranted anger, to also be wrong and cause for judgment.

He puts anger at the same level of sin as murder, anyone who has murderous thoughts in their heart against their fellow brother or sister is considered in the eyes of Jesus to be a murderer.

The Jew’s interpretation of the Old Testament law demanded punishment of the outward actions of crime against our brother or sister, but Jesus wants to prevent murder in the first place by pointing out where it all begins, in the heart.

Jesus used the phrase, ‘but I say to you’, to create a strong contrast between what they had heard of old and His authoritative declarations, Matthew 7:28-29.

The Lord isn’t doing anything inappropriate here by presenting laws that go beyond explicit Old Testament revelation. Moses announced that the new Lawgiver would speak the words of God and that His words must be heard and obeyed, Deuteronomy 18:15-20 / Acts 3:22-23.

Jesus is doing such on this occasion and preparing His disciples for the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness. Even though Jesus’ teachings here go beyond the Old Testament revelation, such did not become binding until His death, i.e., when the Old Law was fulfilled, Colossians 2:14 / Hebrews 9:16-18.

Also, nothing that Jesus spoke about in this chapter, or anywhere else, contradicted the Old Law in any way. Thus, even if a Jew immediately started living by the principles Jesus taught, i.e., before they were binding, he wouldn’t be violating the Old Testament.

In this text, Jesus separates the sin of anger without cause into three categories. Anger that is unwarranted and not righteous.

1. Silent anger, a person who is angry with their brother but keeps quiet or his anger to himself.

Barclay, in his commentary, says the following.

‘So Jesus forbids for ever the anger which broods, the anger which will not forget, the anger which refuses to be pacified, the anger which seeks revenge.’

2. Harsh speech, a person whose anger finds expression in labelling someone with harsh words such as ‘Raca’, meaning ‘empty head’ or ‘good for nothing’, 2 Samuel 6:20.

Barclay, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Raca is an almost untranslatable word, because it describes a tone of voice more than anything else. Its whole accent is the accent of contempt. It is the word of one who despises another with an arrogant contempt.’

3. Bitter rebuke, a person whose anger finds expression by rebuking someone with bitter words such as ‘fool’. Calling someone a fool is an attack against their character.

Admittedly, in our culture, this may not seem as bad as calling someone a ‘good for nothing,’ but some translators believe that the word used here for ‘fool’ expresses strong feelings of contempt, like wishing the worst upon someone or condemning them verbally.

Jesus plainly teaches that to be angry without cause makes us guilty. He shows the seriousness of the sin by showing the three respective methods of judgment.

First, punishment by the regular Hebrew court, then condemnation by the ‘council’, i.e., the Sanhedrin or highest Hebrew court, and finally the divine punishment of ‘hell fire’, Matthew 5:29-30 / Matthew 18:9 / Mark 9:43-47 / Matthew 23:15 / Matthew 23:33.

Here we see Jesus explaining the consequences of anger, the anger grows into hatred which then grows into the action of murder. And notice that Jesus says if ‘anyone is angry with their brother or sister will be subject to judgment.’

Sin has its stages, and God takes note of it from its inception in the heart. Our soul is in danger long before our feelings bear the fruits of violence and murder, Genesis 4:5-8.

True righteousness originates from the inside, and Jesus’ teachings go beyond the external actions and into the heart, Leviticus 19:18. Most murderers won’t murder without a motive, and the spirit that excludes hatred and unrighteous anger will make committing the act of murder impossible.

Getting angry is not inherently sinful, Psalm 7:11 / Ephesians 4:26, nor is the use of the word ‘fool’, Matthew 23:17-19. Anger, appropriately expressed in response to rebelliousness against God’s will, is righteous indignation, Mark 3:5 / Mark 11:15-17.

But, anger in response to personal mistreatment is entirely different and dangerous, James 1:19-20. We must make sure our words are always carefully chosen from a heart filled with love that seeks the best interests of others, Ephesians 4:15.

If words flow from our mouth that are abusive and injurious, beware, for the fire of hell approaches, James 3:3-12.

We all need to be all so careful of the words we use, especially towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we truly understood the consequences of Jesus’ words here I believe we all would be a little more careful in what we say, James 3:9.

Jesus is very clear in what He teaches us here, He says that all sins which have these attitudes, anger, reproach, and insults are all punishable offences. Notice the natural three-stage progression of the inflicted punishment, the judgment, the council, and finally, the destruction of hell, the place where the evil soul will spend eternity. 1 John 5:17.

The way Christians speak to each other is embarrassing at times, especially if they don’t agree with some Bible Scripture, it’s amazing when someone receives ‘a letter’ condemning a person to hell and it’s usually signed, ‘in Christian love.’

I mean when people receive this kind of correspondence, you can almost feel the anger and hatred in the words of the one who sent it, these people need to listen to Jesus’ words here and be careful.