Summary: As we continue our series on the places where Jesus said, “I tell you the truth”, today we're in Matt. 5:21-26 where Jesus stresses the importance of dealing with our anger and mending relationships.
SETTLE THE MATTER
INTRODUCTION: As we continue our series on the places where Jesus said, “I tell you the truth”, we find ourselves at the place where Jesus stresses the importance of dealing with our anger and mending relationships. We’ve all had times where we were angry at someone. Perhaps we’ve been enraged, maybe even violent. When we don’t properly deal with our anger it results in bitterness, resentment and hatred. It eats away at us and it can cause us to inflict harm on others. That’s not the attitude or behavior that is becoming of a follower of Christ. Let’s see what Jesus has to say about the subject.
1) Settle the matter in your heart (21-22). Vs. 22-some manuscripts: “angry with his brother without cause”. Eph. 4:26-27, “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” He didn’t say, “Don’t get angry.” He said, “do not sin.’ Do not get angry for the wrong reasons or wrong causes. And don’t let it linger for if you do then you allow the devil to grab a hold of your heart and mind.
There were two Greek words used for anger. One was for the anger that comes and goes quickly. Then the other, used here in Matthew 5:22, was for the anger that festered and grew. That’s not to say there’s no problem with anger that flares up and dies quickly but the most damaging and consequential form of anger is the one that is the slow burn, where we keep throwing logs on the fire until we reach a boiling point and explode.
“Raca” Raca is an expression of contempt that means “empty head”. “You fool”. The word fool refers to a person who is godless. Psalm 14:1, “The fool in his heart says there is no God.” This Hebrew word for fool can mean one who is morally deficient. In Jesus’ day, to call someone a fool was a serious accusation. No one would consider saying such a thing unless anger had reached the point of hatred. In today’s world, it would be like telling someone to “go to hell” and truly meaning it!
It’s not that calling someone a fool punches our ticket to hell but Jesus is calling attention to the direction that someone who has that level of hatred is going. One may have thought that murdering someone in thought or with words was no big deal; only the actual act was something to be taken seriously. One may have elevated themselves above others by being able to say, “Well, at least I’ve never killed anyone.” But we see we have no reason to boast. While none of us here may actually be guilty of killing a person I’m sure we are all guilty of being angry enough to desire it; even once, but for a moment.
And that’s how we feel in our heart, we are a murderer. 1st John 3:15, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.” Jesus wants us to see that breaking the commandment of “do not murder” is something deeper than just the actual act itself. Before it’s an act it’s a thought. Jesus wants us to take what’s going on in our hearts and minds seriously before it ever gets to the breaking point.
2) Settle the matter with your brother (23-24). Vs. 23-“and there remember.” When God puts someone on your heart, he does it for a reason. We’re not to just dismiss it. We might think such a thing as a distraction meant to pull us away from our worship but when God does it we must see it as something that we need to address or else it will disrupt our worship.
“Brother has something against you”. It’s one thing to deal with the anger in your own heart toward someone, it’s one thing to address someone that you’re angry with; but to be proactive when it’s the other person who’s mad at you is something else entirely. We may be resistant to approach someone whom we’ve offended thinking, “I don’t know what they’re so angry about; it was no big deal; they just need to get over it”. But that’s just our perception. It’s much easier to downplay it when we’re the offender.
Sometimes we don’t know why someone is mad at us. Our first reaction to this might be, “I don’t have a problem with him. He’s the one with the problem, let him come to me.” But Jesus wants us to see that it doesn’t matter-if you know there is a problem-address it-no matter who is at fault. As the Fourfold Gospel commentary puts it, “The lesson teaches us to be reconciled with all who bear grudges against us, and says nothing as to whether their reasons are sufficient or insufficient, just or unjust.”