Murder Begins in the Heart

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. ~ Matthew 5:21-26.

Summary
Those whose sinful and unrepentant hearts reveal their anger and hatred for others, even for those who are close enough to be brothers, are in grave danger of judgement and hell. Bringing a gift to God is no substitute. Repentance will produce a desire to be reconciled to the person offended. Judgement is the only alternative to repentance.

Analysis
“You have heard that it was said” (v.21) — Jesus is not referring to the teaching of God’s law itself, with its promises, but the teaching of the law by scribes and Pharisees.

“You fool!” (v.22) — Apparently Jewish law had sanctions against the specific insult Raca, but Jesus shows that any verbal abuse makes one liable to eternal damnation.

“hell fire” — This is Gehenna, the “valley of Hinnom,” a trash dump outside Jerusalem where fires burned constantly. It was notorious as the location of human sacrifices by fire during the reigns of Ahaz and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6). Jeremiah called it the “Valley of Slaughter” a symbol of God’s fearful judgment (Jeremiah 7:32).

“Agree with your adversary quickly” (v.25) — While vv.23,24 deal with the reconciliation of an offended brother, vv.25,26 address the problem of conflict in larger society — in this case legal conflict. Christians are to work for reconciliation in all areas of life.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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