Matthew chapter 5:21-30 (continued)
“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.’ 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.
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.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.
Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.’”
Last time we explored how Jesus fulfilled the Law of God and that our salvation in Him is secure because He is perfect for us when we could not be perfect in ourselves.This is hard thing for many people to understand. They can’t bring themselves to either admit that they are sinners and in need of forgiveness. Others understand it but refuse to simply humble themselves under God’s hand and take His free gift.
Today we will look at how Jesus took the Law and how it is even deeper that what anyone understood at the time.Jesus said this in Matthew 22: 35-40:
“Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus told us in these verses that the entire Law hangs on these two principles: Love God and love your neighbor. Think about that.What if we could simply follow these two rules to the letter?What would our world be like if we lived that way?Well, Jesus is about to tell us that very thing in these verses we are exploring today. He is about to give us the tools to live out the “love your neighbor.”
We are about to find out that love is a lot more than we have been led to believe in our lifetime. Love requires more than mushy feelings and butterflies in your stomach.Love is certainly more that an emotion and is sustained or quelled by personal choice.The standards of living that Jesusset are the highest that you will ever see.
These are God’s standards of holiness and we are called to be holy not only in our actions, but more importantly in our thoughts.Psalm 44:21 tells us that God knows the secrets of the heart. He knows what you are thinking, even if you say the right things, God knows what you wanted to say; Jesus is about to deal with the “heart of man.”
This is the real seat of who we truly are and this doctrine is going to hit us hard and often.It will either infuriate you or humble you, but you will have a hard time simply ignoring the information Jesus is about to teach us. In Proverbs 23:7, we find these heart hitting words:
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.”
Jesus is talking about being real with people.He is telling us that God expects us to be genuine in our daily lives and not to walk around being fakes.
The purpose of this lesson in verses 21-30 is to tell us that the Law was never about changing the way that we behaved, it was about changing the way that we think. If God can change the way we think, then the way we act will quickly follow.I cannot love my fellow man as God loves me until I love God; man is made in His image.Once I love God wholeheartedly then having the right attitude towards my neighbor or my enemy will never be an issue.
This is also an insight into how God loves us; He is not two faced.We are truly sinful people but God says that He loves us and will always be there for us.His words are to be trusted because God thinks exactly what He says.So He is not using words of love to cover hatred, He is not using words of encouragement when He is thinking evil.God’s heart is pure and that is the way He thinks towards you and me.
Whoever Is Angry Without a Cause, Verses 21-23
We all get angry, even God does.So what is this trying to say?Getting angry can’t be sinful because God can’t sin, so what is it that Jesus is teaching here?The word ‘Raca” is the same root word as we find in Psalm 14:1: “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God!” God is able to make the judgment about a person being a fool since He can see the whole person inside and out, but we have limited vision.The word can also refer to someone of bad moral character; we are not in a position to judge a person’s heart. We see the actions but we cannot see the root of the actions.
Let me offer an example, in the book of Judges we come across a man named Samson.In Judges 13-16 we find the account of his life as a judge of Israel.He was a man who defied the laws of God.He married Gentile women, he touched dead animals, he had sexual relations with women who were not his wives and on and on we can go.If one were to read the story of Samson only in the book of Judges one would come away with a very negative opinion of his life.But God offers us a different view in Hebrews 11:32-33:
“And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.”
God mentions Samson in the same breath as David and Samuel two of the biggest spiritual champions of the Bible. He talks about his faith, how he worked righteousness and obtained promises.This was God’s view of Samson and it is the only one that matters for all of eternity. Be careful who you call worthless and a fool, only God has the power to truly judge a man and He will in His time.
We are called then to love every brother in the Lord with genuine love and to honor that brother not only with our lips, BUT ALSO with our thoughts.If you think rightly about them you will not slip up and say bad things accidentally.
This is a very convicting lesson for me.I will admit that my mind and my mouth often run opposite to each other. I in my sinful state have called my brothers and sisters in the Lord fools and so I have taken the place of God and that is not right.
What about you?
Have you become a judge as well? Have you belittled, even in your mind, the person that God has made and has provided redemption for?If so both you and me need to repent and get right with God. The people we condemn are often the very people God may revere highly as His servants.
Get Right with a Brother, Verses 23-24
We are told in the epistles not to allow the sun to set on our anger; we see this in Ephesians 4:26:
“Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”
It is very important for us to never allow anger to fester.Like an untreated wound it will simply get worse and worse.Soon resentment and hatred will set in and people who were once our close friends will become our enemies.Jesus tells us in this section that it is very important to maintain proper relationships in the local church and in life in general.We must make sure that we do everything in our power to keep a right relationship with our brothers and sisters. In 1 John 4:20 we see this teaching:
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen.”
This hits us really hard.We are eager to say how much we love God sometimes and we come to church and lift our hands and sing out loud but the Lord tells us that we need to be right with our brothers/sisters whom we can see, before we can claim to be right with the God we can’t see.
Jesus tells us here that it is important to go and make things right with a brother.If he has something against you, go and make it right.Later on in his teaching Jesus tells Peter that we need to be ready to forgive our brothers and sisters infinitely, that is what 70 times 7 means, Matthew 18; 21-22.
In the model prayer found in Matthew 6:9-14 Jesus tells us that we should forgive others in the same way that God forgives us.BUT, this also means that we have to be ready and able to ask for forgiveness when we wrong a brother.And more importantly we need to be ready to ask for forgiveness even when we don’t think we are in the wrong. The salvation of a relationship should be more important than personal pride.
“Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
“Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses” (Proverbs 10:12).