Matthew 5: 21-26, Beware that Anger Kills Ministry!
General Idea: This passage starts a series of applications from Jesus' introductory remarks in Matthew 5:17-20. Because God's law is a reflection of God's purity and holiness, and because He is a God of details, He gives us specific issues that are to show root causes of sin and unrighteousness. Our behaviors are reflections of our motives, each one leading to another, as a chain reaction. By cutting the top of the link of the sin chain, we can remove most of the problems we cause, experience, and endure from others in our personal life, church, and even society at large.
1. Applying The Sixth Commandment (Exodus. 20:13):
a. Murder just does not happen, something led up to it--and that something is the sin and uncontrolled anger we have.
b. "You have heard it said" was a common rabbinic way to draw attention to the lesson and give personal commentary to a Scriptural passage. Jesus was referring to the teachings of the Pharisees, not the OT Law, and taking what they said to task (Matt. 5:21; 27; 31; 33; 38; 43). Jesus is, of course, the ultimate commentator!
c. Reca means, "empty headed one" and is a Hebrew colloquialism for contempt, i.e. stupid. Jesus cuts right to the issue of pride and arrogance, the quintessential thing God hates most, and the root cause of all sin, including murder (Job 41:34; 2 Chron. 26:16; 32:26; Psalm 10:4-5; 18:27; 31:18; 56:2; 59:12; 62:10; 73:6-12; 101:5; 131:1; 6:17; Prov. 8:13; 11:2; 13:10; 16:18; 21:4; 24; 29:23; 30:13; Isa. 2:11-21; 13:19; 16: 6; 23:9; Ezek. 28:2; Obad. 1:3; 1 Cor. 1:6; 2 Cor. 5:12; 7:4; Gal. 6:4; and these are just a few!)
d. "Without a cause" is a right cause that means anger would be just when there is unrepentant sin (Rom. 1: 18-32).
e. "You fool" refers to verbal abuse and swearing. The Pharisees had very specific words, and ways of word usage, that was considered wrong and must be avoided, thus, Jesus countermands them by saying all foul and harmful language is wrong. This should cause us to take an inventory on how we use language and our mouth--to edify, or to put down--and what Christ expects of our words.
f. Hell fire (Gehenna) refers to the valley of Hinnom, the place where the heinous child sacrifices took place under Ahaz and Mansasseh (2 Chron. 28; 33). Jeremiah referred to it as the Valley of Slaughter (Jer. 7:32). This was the wickedest place a Jewish mind could conceive of, and where the first century Jews burned their trash. It also refers to everlasting torment (Mark 9:43-48).
g. Our refusal to deal with sin through repentance will have lasting, and dire consequences, both here on earth, and for eternity to come!
i. We must be aware of the serious destructive nature of anger (Psalm 37:8; Prov. 6:16-19; Rom. 12:18-21; Gal. 5:19- 21; Eph. 4:31; 1 Pet. 3:7)!
ii. The inward choice to hold onto anger is murder because one will lead to the other, maybe not literally, but as a destroyer of relationships. And, in God's eyes, relationships are the most important things in our lives-- besides Him!
iii. Do not neglect your motives and the root causes of broken relationships, sin, and murder.
2. We have a call to keep the Law! Not every aspect and dietary guideline, although you will be much healthier if you do, but, to let it show how much you need the cross!
a. We have the obligation to teach the Law and use it as a pointer to what Christ has done. It is essential to the Gospel, because without the Law, the Gospel is meaningless, because Christ would not have been needed to redeem us.
3. Agree with your adversary gives us an image of God's Heavenly court and how He reconciled Himself to us. Therefore, when we refuse to do so, it is an extreme insult to Him.
a. We have a call to keep our relations healthy by being people who are willing to relinquish pride, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. This is essential before we can go to God (Gen. 4:4-7; Prov. 15:8; Isa. 1:10-15; Jer.6: 20; Amos 5:21-24).
i. What good is it to ask for forgiveness or help from Christ, if we are unwilling to do such a small thing for someone else!
ii. We are to seek resolution to problems quickly, as they come up. When we do not, they fester, get worse, and kill the relationship. So, be a person who is willing to reconcile, to solve problems, and not escalate them, that you do all in your power to end it (Eph. 4:26-27)!
iii. Jesus is referring a contrast from the minor debt imprisonment like small claims court (although you could be held until you repaid what you owed, and your family may be sold for it) to the Sanhedrim, which was like the Supreme Court.
iv. Last penny (Greek last is quadrans penny is "Kodrantes") to the very last, was the smallest and one of the least valuable Roman coins.
b. By being a person who seeks reconciliation, we will avoid needless strife and stress in our lives--especially in the church. How sad it is when secular courts have to go in and resolve deputes between brothers in the Lord!
Having an unforgiving attitude is fatal to worship; we cannot truly worship God with a heart of anger, contempt, and bitterness! When we seek to worship Him in that state, it, too, is an extreme insult to Him! This attitude will have lasting consequences into eternity and judgment! Jesus calls us to deal with our anger that so often leads to murder in various forms, from literally killing someone, to destroying relationships and escalating small problems into big ones, because our pride is in the way. If we truly desire to be His disciple, we will be as committed to reconciliation as He is with us (John 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:22-23)!
1. If you grew up in a family with other brothers and sisters, how did your parents settle disputes?
2. How do you handle anger, yours as well as other's anger directed at you or a family member?
3. How would you define "uncontrolled anger"?
4. How do you feel, knowing that God is concerned with details, and He gives us specific issues that are the root causes of sin and unrighteousness?
5. When you see specific issues you are struggling with in Scripture, such as anger, how do you respond? How should you respond?
6. Can you name a behavior that you have exhibited, that is a reflection of your motives?
7. In your experience what "sin chain," or root problem, have you seen as the cause of most problems in your personal life, church, or society at large?
8. What led up to that problem?
9. What could have happened if you had cut the top link of the sin chain in that problem?
10. How do you feel when someone calls you stupid? How should you respond to it?
11. What is the quintessential thing that God hates the most? Why do you practice it?
12. How should you handle foul and harmful language coming from you, or directed at you? What does Christ expect of your words?
13. As a Christian, you have been liberated from God's wrath and a future in Hell. Did that liberation cause a sense of wonder and a response of, "Wow, look what God did for me?"
14. What would happen if you refused to deal with sin through repentance? What would be the lasting, and dire consequences, both here on earth, and for eternity to come?
15. What can you do to consider and control your motives, and the root causes of broken relationships, sin, and murder?
16. We have a call to keep our relationships healthy by being people who are willing to relinquish pride, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. This is essential before we can go to God. So, what are the steps you need to take to make this more of a reality in your life and relationships?
17. Why would an unforgiving attitude be fatal to worship?
18. Since God reconciled Himself to us, when we refuse to do likewise with others, how would it be an extreme insult to Him?
19. What good would it do to ask for forgiveness or help from Christ, if we are unwilling to do such a small thing for someone else?
20. How can you prepare yourself to seek resolution to problems quickly, as they come up?
As leaders pointing others to Christ, we must be aware of the serious destructive nature of anger.
© 2002, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org