Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Does calling your brother a fool make you guilty of hell. Is this what Jesus means? The NASB softens it down by adding the words "guilty ENOUGH TO GO into the fiery hell." but literally it says "whoever says ‘Fool’ will be sent to fiery hell"


I’ve been thinking about "Murder". Not committing murder but the subject of "murder". Jesus uses "murder" as a teaching unit on the mountain for His disciples. But He takes the view that it’s what happens on the inside that matters. He says something really interesting in Matthew 5:21-22 (NASB).

"You have heard that the ancients were told, ’YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ’Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ’You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ’You fool,’ shall be guilty (enough to go) into the fiery hell."

Notice the progression, from "the court" to "the supreme court" to "the fiery hell" - human court, human high court, to hell - Strange progression. "Hell" doesn’t seem to fit. You would think that He would have said "human court, human high court, GOD’S COURT," and then spoken about judgment. But instead it’s "curse your brother and go straight to hell, do not pass go".

It seems strange that getting angry and calling your brother a fool would make you guilty of hell. Is this what Jesus means? The NASB softens it down by adding the words "guilty ENOUGH TO GO into the fiery hell." but literally it says "whoever says ‘Fool’ will be sent to fiery hell."

Am I going to hell for calling someone a fool? If I am then chances are you will join me. I don’t know of anyone who has not shot out an angry statement against someone like this. So let’s see if there’s more here than meets the eye. If I’m going to hell for cursing someone then it’s worth examining!

First of all let’s look at the accusation.

Calling a man a "fool" in those days was to call him an unbeliever. Psalm 14:1-3 spells it out by saying

"Only fools say in their hearts, "There is no God." They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good! The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race; He looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!"

So call someone "a fool" and you were casting doubt on his moral character and his spiritual standing before God. Tiger Woods has recently had his character and reputation destroyed by his foolish actions - his affairs.

To call someone "a fool" was to destroy his reputation. So Jesus is saying "If you destroy a brothers name and reputation, you are liable to the most severe judgment of all - "hell"".

Now the word for "hell" is interesting. According to William Barclay, it literally referred to the Valley of Hinnom, to the South West of Jerusalem. William Barclay says "It was notorious as the place where Ahaz had introduced into Israel the fire worship of the heathen God Molech, to whom little children were burned in the fire. ... (2 Chronicles 28:3). Josiah, the reforming king, had stamped out that worship, and had ordered that the valley should be forever after an accursed place. ...(2 Kings 23:10). In consequence of this, the Valley of Hinnom became the place where the refuse of the Jesusalem was cast out and destroyed. I was a kind of public incinerator. Always the fire smouldered in it, and a pall of thick smoke lay over it, ... So Gehennah, the Valley of Hinnom, became identified in people’s minds with all that was accursed and filthy , the place where useless and evil things were destroyed. That is why it became a synonym for the place of God’s destroying power, for hell."

So this is what I think Jesus is saying,

"Murder is always wrong and it will always be condemned and brought before a human court. But you need to realise that I’m more concerned with the root cause, the inward infestation of sin in a person’s heart, the anger that get’s a foothold because it is allowed uncontrolled and free reign to rule over a persons heart. This careless and vengeful anger can destroy the character and reputation of others and is just as worthy of the highest judgment as murder. In fact it comes from the pit of hell and deserves the same kind of judgment. It’s your inward heart that gives way to sin and sin condemns you. I’m not only talking about the big sins but all sin is worthy of God’s severest judgment."

To me, Jesus has already spelled out those who will find salvation, those who recognise that they are spiritually poor and who has no place to go but to trust in God. He’s already spoken of the heart attitude needed - someone who mourns over their sin, not one who allows it to rule their lives. He’s talked about the meek, that inward controlled strength that only Christ can give. He’s spoken of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and those who obtain the mercy of God, the pure in heart, the peacemakers who lead others to have peace with God.

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