Photo credit to Brittany Cunningham.
“But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, ‘Thou fool,’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” Matthew 5:22
Jesus, You always take things deeper than we do. Here You were telling us that we were thinking we were obeying You because we weren’t being murderers. Like I can pat myself on the back, “I”m good, whoa, I would never kill someone.” Of course not. That’s an easy command. But You take us for a real loop here. Your telling me, that if that is all I’ve gotten from that command, I’ve totally missed it. Because the root of murder starts way before murder itself. So if I’m to obey that command, I need to take care of the harmful roots that lead to the act. And that brings me to the verse I’m dealing with today.
Jesus, You tell me it’s good for me to think about the command not to kill, not to murder. But You want me to look at Your heart, and my heart, and the heart of Your commands. You take what seems like an easy command and make it more personal and harder. The Complete Jewish Bible translates Your words this way, ‘But I tell you that anyone who nurses anger against his brother will be subject to judgment; that whoever calls his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing!’ will be brought before the Sanhedrin, that whoever says, ‘Fool!’ incurs the penalty of burning in the fire of Gei-Hinnom [Hell]!” But did you notice that something in the first version of these words is missing in this second version? And I checked out a bunch of other versions, like the GNB, and ESV, and GW, and they were all missing something too. It’s this part that really catches me today. Can you find the phrase that’s missing?
“But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause…” Is that really there? Why do the other versions leave that out? So I checked with an interlinear Greek study Bible. Is that there in the original text? Because if it is, I think this is very important. And it is there! It’s translated as “simulately liable” or “feigned liable.” What in the world does that mean?
Simulate means “to feign; to conterfeit, to assume the mere appearance of something, without the reality.” Simulate and feign are synonyms. Feigned itself means “invented; devised; imagined; assumed.” Now think about our anger towards others. Isn’t it often assumed that someone had a particular intention. I appear to know their heart without really having that ability because that ability, to know a man’s heart, belongs to You alone, God. I make up some charges because I have been offended, I have perceived things a particular way, and not even necessarily the real way. I imagine the fault. I make assumptions. And I become angry. I nurse that anger and I become angrier. I say things that are hurtful to the one who I perceived as hurting me.
I think this is the heart of anger. This is what You want me to understand. My self-protection causes me to see things falsely, to make up my own ideas and miss the truth. It causes me to desire my desires and my well-being over the well-being of my brother. Why would I call him, “Raca”? Raca means “O empty one.” It’s like calling someone else worthless. It’s defined as a “term of utter vilification.” I defame someone else. Why? Because I feel defamed by them. This is what happens in my mind and heart. If I’m honest with myself, I can see myself doing this when I become angry. I can see others doing this to me in their anger. But what did You say about this?
Did You say that I’m angry without a cause? What do You mean, I don’t have a right to be angry? How can I not? What right do I have to hold another person to a higher standard than myself? If I can’t perceive my own heart, or control my own tongue every moment, or pursue the most appropriate action every second of the day, then who am I to hold my brother to such a standard. Who am I to devalue my fellow man’s worth above my own? If I am faulting him for doing so, then haven’t I done the same? Doesn’t that make me a liar if I’m supposed to esteem him as more valuable than myself? Oh, really? I’m not just supposed to say that, I”m supposed to live that? And I would think someone else a moron because they didn’t understand me? Where is my understanding of them? Doesn’t that make me just as much a moron?
When it comes to harboring anger we act like the two morons in this joke. “Two morons stand on a cliff with their arms outstretched. One has some budgies lined up on each arm, the other has parrots lined up on his arms. After a couple of minutes, they both leap off the cliff and fall to the ground. Laying next to each other in intensive care at the hospital, one moron says to the other, “I don’t think much of this budgie jumping.” The other moron replies, “Yeah, I’m not too keen on this parrotgliding either.” Jesus is telling me that harboring anger is just as moronic.
The world doesn’t revolve around me and neither should my own life or thoughts revolve around me. In the following verse You don’t tell me that when I go to the altar with my gift for You, I need to go tell my brother to get things right with me. You say that when I remember, when I realize that my brother has something against me, I should run to reconcile with him right away. Go down one more verse and You tell me to reconcile with my adversary quickly. Why? Because if I wait, that bitter root has time to grow more bitter. And it’s not just the root in my adversary, it’s that root in me that is deceived into looking at someone else as my adversary, when in reality he is my brother.
Go back to Adam and Eve. Where did mankind come from? We are brothers. We are of the same flesh and earthly blood. I’m no better and no worse than my fellow human. But we each are as accountable to and for one another. I will be held accountable for my treatment of my fellow man and I will pay for my choices.
What cause do I really have to be angry? That drunk driver murdered my child! Didn’t we murder God’s Son on the cross? Wasn’t it by our selfish desires and for our sin that He had to die? They said cruel and false things about me! They abused me! They mocked me! They won’t listen! They don’t understand! They’ve disregarded my rights! They hate me without a cause! Sounds like everything that Jesus went through for every one of us so that He could make a new kind of brother, a brother in Christ, a child of God. Who ever had a truly just cause to be angry at Him? And if any one ever had a righteous cause to be angry, didn’t God for how we treated His Son and Himself with such contempt and disdain? But if the One who had every right to be angry chose to forgive instead, then what right do I, a faulty human, have to hold anger against my fellow man. It’s a lie. And I don’t want to live in a lie.
Lord, I need You to bring Your desires, Your way of thinking, and Your way of seeing others alive in me. I need to remember that no matter what anyone has percievedly done to me it does not ever give me justification to hold anger and bitterness against them. I pray that You will enable me to tear out anger from the root so that no root remains. It’s definitely a heart issue I need to deal continually with. It’s so easy to become offended. It’s so easy to think about my own needs and desires above those around me. Teach me to put it in Your perspective that I would be able to teach others graciously even while my own needs and desires are unmet. Let me learn to value others above myself as I value You above all. And let me remember that I’m not the one who is supposed to take care of myself. I need to leave myself in Your hands and use my hands and the rest of me to follow You in taking care of others needs.