Anger & Murder
As we go through the Sermon on the Mount it’s important to remember that Jesus wasn’t laying down a new way of living but showing them that the purpose of the Law, which was to reveal their need for a Savior. The Pharisees had altered and redefined the Law so it was achievable and, thus, they were filled with self-righteousness. When you try to make the Law achievable through human effort you distort its true meaning.
Matthew 5:21–22 “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.”
You have heard that it was said to those of old,
The Scribes and Pharisees focused on their traditions and here Jesus brings their traditions into contact with the full meaning of the Law. This is the first of six contrasts, each of which is introduced by the formula: “You have heard that it was said…” Jesus is laying down the full impact of the Law. The Pharisees were trying to make the Law achievable and missing the point.
‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’
The commandment against murder was in the Law but they added to it, “whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” They added the warning of judgment. They may have been referring to civil judgment. However, the case is far more than just punishment. Are the consequences of sin enough to keep us from sinning? Should we keep from sin simply because we want to avoid the consequences? Consequences are good to avoid but this law misses the whole point. Sin separates us from God, our creator. It isn’t simply about avoiding punishment but of treasuring the gift of intimacy with God. His commands are to keep us, and society as a whole, reflecting on His glory and good purposes toward us. He gave His life for to forgive us and relieve the consequences of sin – AND to have fellowship with us! The purpose of the Law is about the glory of God – not just avoiding the consequences of sin.
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment;
Jesus tells them if anyone is angry with a brother in their heart, and without cause, they are exposed to precisely the same demand and the same punishment of the law. Murder had always been defined as an external act. God is concerned with the heart. Anger in our heart toward any human being, especially to those who belong to the household of faith, is seen by God as reprehensible as murder.
whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council;
Jesus is talking about anger without cause and even our expressions of contempt. To insult your brother was to consider him “nothing or worthless.” It goes straight to identity. He’s telling us when we diminish someone’s identity we take away the value of another and are in danger of judgment. Contempt, a feeling of scorn and derision, is the very spirit that ultimately leads to murder. Anytime we speak and take from the image of God we destroy. “Thou shat not kill.” Killing does not only mean destroying life physically. It means trying to destroy the spirit and the soul of a person in any shape or form.
and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
Civil magistrates are the least of our worries if we have unjust anger in our hearts and seek to destroy others even if only with our words. To call someone a fool is an expression of abuse, the vilifying of a person. Anger destroys instead of builds. We of the New Covenant should never allow anger a place in our hearts; we must never be a part of destroying someone even if with our tongue. We’ve been saved to build and restore people never to destroy people in any respect.
Sinful anger must be faced honestly and acknowledged before God. Not only for what it does to the object but for what it does to us. Anger and bitterness destroy the possessor as much as the one with whom we are angry. Do we commit murder? Yes, when we harbor grudges, gossip, kill by neglect, spite or jealousy.
Does this mean that anger is always wrong? Jesus was often angry with the religious. He called them snakes, blind, hypocrites, foolish of heart and slow to believe. When Jesus made these pronouncements, He did so judicially. He did so as one given authority of God. If you notice He always issues these statements against false religion and hypocrisy. Our anger must only be against sin – we must never feel angry with a sinner. We should feel only sorrow and compassion for him. Ephesians says, “be angry and sin not!” Our Lord’s anger was always a righteous indignation, a holy anger, an expression of the wrath of God.
I hope you have an incredibly blessed week. We are called to walk in the Spirit. Let Christ who lives in you, express His life through you. Look for a divine appointment to share love and life with others.
You are loved!