Do you have a temper? I do, and I always have. There was a time in my life when my first reaction to everything was anger. Before Christ I would make all the excuses, “I’ve had a hard life, my parents this or my parents that, they did this to me.” I’ve gotten better about blaming everyone else about my problems, but, this passage always convicts me and sends me asking for forgiveness, every time I read it.
Matthew 5:21-22 HCSB
“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool! ’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron! ’ will be subject to hellfire.
Jesus, after his first discourse about His relationship with the law goes right after the teacher’s interpretation. The Pharisees and Sadducees would have taught from the law of Moses the ten commandments, and Jesus doesn’t negate or dismiss the law. He definitely questions their interpretation of it. The Pharisees taught only about the outward actions of the sinners. Jesus went right to the heart of the matter, our heart, and where murder starts.
Jesus doesn’t say that being angry is just as bad as murder, murder is definitely worse. Jesus does say that being angry is a sin and we still need a savior. The words used for fool and moron are kinda hard to translate. They describe an intent instead of an action. They descirbe the intent of malice and contempt towards others. A contempt and malice that cannot be quenched. The heart of the issue is the intent behind the anger is what leads to murder. Jesus doesn’t just want for us to deal with our actions but our intentions. He wants to change the heart, not just the outward appearance of the way we do things. He would say, not committing murder is great, but if hold the intent in our hearts we are guilty as well.
Matthew 5:23-26 HCSB
So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I assure you: You will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny!
Jesus tells us that our personal relationships are more important than we give them credit. How we deal with others affects our relationship with God, especially when it comes to anger. Jesus says it’s better to skip going to church until you’ve dealt with the broken relationship. Once that relationship is mended then we can truly enjoy fellowship with the Father without hindrance.
Jesus is speaking figuratively. Our anger imprisons us, and we do it to oursleves. All the while thinking that it’s the other person who’s hurt us, but, it’s only really us. Nelson Mandela has a quote, “Bitterness is like drinking poison hoping to harm the person you’re angry at.” He’s absolutely right and Jesus would agree with him. When we hold onto grudges, anger, malice, comtempt for others we not only face the prison of our feelings, we face the judgment of the Father for our sin. To which the payment is more than we can ever afford.