Matthew 5:21-22 – “You have heard…‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be answerable to the court.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be answerable to the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be answerable to the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (NASB)
Jesus’ listeners were astonished that he was teaching with such authority (Matt. 7:28-29). For Jesus to first quote the Old Testament law and then transition to, ‘but I say…’ makes him the world’s worst egoist or the eternal Son of God who spoke with divine authority. The great Christian apologist C. S. Lewis once said, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic…or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Jesus gets to the heart of the law in His teaching saying in essence, if you have anger in your heart, you’re on the premise of being seen as a murderer in God’s eyes. Anger in and of itself is not sin, it’s what we do in our anger that becomes murderous. Jesus gives examples of murderous hearts, via slanderous terms coming out of us, revealing our heart’s malice, calling fellow image bearers of God fools – lit. morons, or useless and good for nothing. Jesus uses the hierarchy of the local court to talk about the progression of anger and how it manifests itself in more and more potential judgment. His conclusion? We should be quick to get our hearts right again by pursuing peace as far as it depends on us (Matt. 5:23-26).
Heavenly Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for reminding us how important it is to deal with our anger with the help of the Holy Spirit. Lord, help us to be peacemakers and face conflict head on under your control, humbling ourselves and asking for forgiveness when we use slanderous words. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.