All About Anger

21 Aug

Matthew 5:21-26:

21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’22 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.23 Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25 Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.

One of the most shocking crimes a society deals with is when a child kills. Sometimes it is a swarming of a child by a group of kids. Sometimes it is the killing of parents by children. And sometimes, its  the killing of a girl directed by another girl who happens to be jealous of her.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Why does murder occur? Jesus will say in Matthew 15 that it is out of a person’s own heart that “come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matt. 15:19).

We do not sin simply because of Satan or because of social depravity, stress, bad influences, or any other cause you may think of in this neverending victim culture. Those things may tempt us to sin and make it easier to do so, but when we commit sin-or even have the intention of committing sin-it is our decision . Sin is an act of the will.

No doubt most people at the time of Jesus were in full agreement with capital punishment for the crime but were convinced that they were innocent of that particular evil.

But the truth is this: the anger that lies behind murder, You see, it is anger which many people think is not really a sin that is actually one of the worst of sins.And it is anger that leads to health issues, broken relationships, our relationship with God, and yes, even murder.

Anger, unchecked and uncorrected, affects: 1) Our View of Ourselves, 2) Our Worship of God, and 3) Our Relation to Others.

So let’s look at it.

Anger affects how we view ourselves.
Matthew 5:21-22

21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’22 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.

When it refers to “those of old”, we are talking about rabbis and scribes who were the authors of numerous traditions and rules that had been so spoken  and so enforced that they had come to replace the authority of Scripture.  And their traditions had even defined murder. For example, it did not include the act of killing someone in self defense.

Murder was strictly limited to the act of physically taking another person’s life.

 

Jesus had already warned that God’s righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees

But Jesus stepped beyond that. He said basically “that’s a good rule. But it goes beyond that. It’s not just the act of murder but the heart behind it.

In verse 22 Jesus gives three examples that show the divine definition of murder: being angry with another person, insult him, or calling him a fool.

First, there is the evil and and danger of anger.

Matthew 5:22

22 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.

Ultimately, Jesus was saying this:

“Let me tell what the Scriptures themselves say, what God’s truth is on the matter. You cannot justify yourselves because you have not committed the physical act of murder. Murder goes much deeper than that. It originates in the heart, not in the hands. It starts with evil thoughts, regardless of whether or not those thoughts are brought to consummation in action.”

We must not think that God forbids all anger with other people. There is a place for righteous indignation against sin.

Jesus himself was angry when he cleared the temple. He was angry with those who assailed him for healing on the Sabbath. And in Matthew 23:17 he called the Pharisees “blind fools.” So we conclude that there is a place for anger. Jesus was angry at sin and injustice, but he never became angry at personal insult or affront. Peter says that when Jesus was dying, “when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). But we see that there is a place for righteous anger. Such anger brings pleasure to God.

Jesus therefore does not prohibit every form of anger. Paul tells us to:
Ephesians 4:26-32

 26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. 28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. 

In our day of peace and harmony at any cost, of positive thinking, and of confusing godly love with human sentimentality, we often need to show more anger against certain things. There are things in our country, our communities, our schools, and even in our churches about which we have no excuse for not being angry, vocally angry. God Himself is “angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11, KJV).

But Jesus is not talking about anger over God’s being dishonored, but rather selfish anger, anger against a brother, whoever that might be, because he or she have done something against us, or simply irritates and displeases us. This type of anger has to do with brooding, simmering anger that is nurtured and not allowed to die. It is seen in the holding of a grudge, in the smoldering bitterness that refuses to forgive. It is the anger that cherishes resentment and does not want reconciliation.

According to Jesus, such anger is a form of murder. That’s how seriously He takes it.

Then there is the evil and danger of slander.

Matthew 5:22

[22](But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment); whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; (and whoever says, ’You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire). 

The specific insult mentioned in the original language in the second half of verse 22 is Raca which was a term commonly used in Jesus’ day that has no exact modern translation. It is a term of malicious abuse, derision, and slander. It has been variously rendered as brainless idiot, worthless fellow, silly fool, empty head, blockhead, and the like. It was a word of arrogant contempt. David spoke of persons who use such slander as those who “sharpen their tongues as a serpent; poison of a viper is under their lips” (Ps. 140:3).

To slander a creature made in God’s image is to slander God Himself and is equivalent to murdering that person.

Finally, there is the evil and danger of condemning character.

Matthew 5:22

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council); and whoever says, ’You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire”

Jesus’ prohibition is against slanderously calling a person a fool out of anger and hatred. Such an expression of malicious animosity is tantamount to murder and makes us liable to the hell of fire /guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

Geenna (hell) is derived from Hinnom, the name of a valley just southwest of Jerusalem used as the city dump. It was a forbidding place where trash was continually burned and where the fire, smoke, and stench never ceased. The name of the valley therefore came to be a metonym for the place of eternal torment, and was so used by Jesus eleven times

There is no mistaking the severity of the Savior’s words. He teaches that anger contains the seeds of murder, that abusive language contains the spirit of murder, and that cursing language implies the very desire to murder.
This does not mean that we should go ahead and murder someone we hate, since we have already sinned inwardly. Obviously, sinful feelings are not excuses for sinful deeds.

Anger puts people at a disadvantage in every undertaking in life. When Sinbad and his sailors landed on a tropical island, they saw high up in the trees coconuts which could quench their thirst and satisfy their hunger. The coconuts were far above the reach of Sinbad and the sailors, but in the branches of the trees were the chattering apes. Sinbad and his men began to throw stones and sticks up at the apes. This enraged the monkeys and they began to seize the coconuts and hurl them down at the men on the ground. That was just what Sinbad and his men wanted. They got the apes angry so that the apes would gather their food for them. That is a good illustration of how by indulgence in anger we play into the hands of our foes.

But anger not only effects how we view ourselves but also how we worship God.

Matthew 5:23-24

[23]So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, [24]leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (ESV)

Jesus’ teaching not only affects our view of ourselves by shattering all self-righteousness and showing that we are guilty and worthy of hell, but it also shows how the sins of anger and hatred affect our relationship to God,

Worship was a major concern of the scribes and Pharisees, directly or indirectly the focus of almost everything they did. They spent much time in the synagogues and in the Temple. They made sacrifices, offered prayers, gave tithes, and carried on religious activities of every sort. But it was all heartless external ceremony.
• One of the greatest pitfalls in the instruction of children is to focus on external obedience while neglecting heartful devotion. When we neglect the heart in instruction, especially in teaching about honouring God, we train little Pharisees. That is why so many teens show so little interest in the things of faith once they leave home. Parents who spent all their time in focusing on external ritual obedience find out too late that they neglected the essence of proper worship in heart-felt devotion.

In Matthew 5:23, So /Therefore refers back to Jesus’ point that sin, just as righteousness, is first of all internal. As long as there is internal sin, outward acts of worship are not acceptable to God. Jesus continues to focus on the particular sin of hatred against someone else, a brother in the broadest sense. Reconciliation must precede worship.

The scene of offering your gift at the altar was a familiar one to Jews. Every Jew realized that sin caused a breach in one’s relationship with God, and that the sacrifices and offerings were intended to restore a right relationship with Him. Jesus said, “if you remember that your brother has something against you.” Unresolved conflict has priority and must be settled.
• Notice it is that the situation here is when your brother has something against you. It is not sufficient to say that this is his problem, let him deal with it. Matthew 18 deals with the situation when we have something against another. In this situation it deals with the flip side. What is the “something” that Christ refers to?

The phrase your brother has something against you could also refer to anger or hatred on the brother’s part. That is, even if we hold nothing against him, if he is angry with or hates us, we should do everything in our power to be reconciled to him. Obviously we cannot change another person’s heart or attitude, but our desire and effort should be to close the breach as much as is possible from our side and to hold no anger ourselves even if the other person does.
• We cannot guarantee that another person will agree to be reconciled with us, but we should make every effort “as far as it depends on” us (Rom 12:18).

Regardless of who is responsible for the break in relationship-and often there is guilt on both sides-we should determine to make a reconciliation before we come before God to worship. True worship is not enhanced by better music, better prayers, better architecture, or even better preaching. True worship is enhanced by better relationships between those who come to worship.
• When one in our family or school or a friend has something against you, we have a responsibility to act.
• This is the courageous and mature action. This shows character and forges bonds much closer than casual friendliness.

In this situation, here in Matthew 5:24, Jesus specifies that we should: leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Isaiah 1:11-17

[11]”What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. [12]”When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? [13]Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations– I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. [14]Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. [15]When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. [16]Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, [17]learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (ESV)

Settle the breach between you and your brother before you try to settle the breach between you and God. Not to do that is to be a hypocrite by asking for forgiveness without repenting. Paul interprets this concept in relation to the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11). An in 1 Peter 3:7 God also warns husbands to honor their wives lest their prayers be hindered. God receives no worship from a believer who is not on speaking terms with another.
When there is animosity or sin of any sort in our heart there cannot be integrity in our worship. Samuel said:
1 Samuel 15:22

[22]And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 

Nearly a thousand years before Christ preached the Sermon on the Mount the psalmist had declared:
Psalm 66:18

[18]If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. (ESV)
We live in a time of “easy believism” and name it and claim it theology. The result of the lack of confession is a shallow faith and powerless ministry.

Feel as if your prayers are going nowhere, and worship is boring; check first your confession of sin. Is it heartfelt denunciation of sin and pleading before God, or are you going through the motions.

There is probably no more neglected aspect of Christian life and worship in particular than the genuine confession and agonizing over sin.

Anger has an affect on our worship with God, but not in the ways we often think. There is a story of a little Scottish boy wouldn’t eat his prunes, so his mother sent him off to bed saying, “God is angry at you.”

Soon after the boy went to his room a violent storm broke out. Amidst flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, the mother looked into the boy’s room, worried that he would be terrified. When she opened the door she found him looking out the window muttering, “My, such a fuss to make over a few prunes.”

Anger effects how we view ourselves, how we worship God, and finally, how we relate with others.
Matthew 5:25-26 [25]Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. [26]Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. 

These verses are essentially a commentary on the previous two. Using an illustration from the common practice of imprisoning a person for an unpaid debt, Jesus teaches that if someone holds a debt of any sort against us, that person is to make it good as soon as possible and before it is too late and the result is judgment

The time for reconciliation, just as the time for salvation, is always now. Tomorrow is often too late. We are not to allow bitterness, anger, hatred, or any other sin to keep us separated from other people, whoever they are.

In the first two verses of our text,  the command for reconciliation is given to the innocent as well as the guilty party. But in the last two verses, the focus is strictly on the one who is guilty. Roman law provided that a plaintiff could bring the accused with him to face the judge. The two themselves could settle the matter while you are going with him to court/on the way, but not after the court became involved. If a man had wronged someone and that issue was headed for court, he should come to terms quickly and settle the account  before he had to face judgment. The sequence of going from the judge to the guard/officer to prison shows the typical procedure in dealing with a guilty person. To avoid judgment and prison he had to pay the last penny/cent (a small Roman coin) owed.

In light of vv. 21–22 they obviously refer primarily to the spiritual goal of averting God’s wrath on Judgment Day before it is too late to (avert judgment). As a metaphor with one central point of comparison, the details of vv. 25–26 must not be allegorized. No spiritual counterparts to the adversary and officer appear, nor does v. 26 support the traditional Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory, as if one could ever pay enough to get out of hell.
This illustration is a picture of sin against another person. Such sin must be resolved to avoid having to face a sentence front the divine Judge. The precise penalty to which Jesus alludes is not made clear. Being put/thrown into prison and not being able to get out until the debt is paid is an analogy of God’s punishment. The basic teaching is plain and unmistakable: we are to make every effort, with no delay, to make our relationship right with our brother before our relationship can be right with God and to avoid judgment.

In the context of first century justice, a convicted criminal in prison could not, at that time, pay his debt to society by simply serving his time. Restitution had to be made. He might have to sell his property, or perhaps his wife or children could manage to pay his debt; sometimes family members would even be sold into slavery to pay such a debt. But anyone who is condemned by God and cast into the prison of hell will never be able to regain their freedom, no matter what the members of his family might be willing to do. That would be the fate of anyone following the example of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. The righteousness of Jesus’ disciples had to surpass that of those false teachers. This is possible only when Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed to sinners through faith

In the fullest sense, of course, because no one ever fully has right attitudes toward others, no worship is acceptable. Thus everything Jesus teaches in this passage, as in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, is to show the absolutely perfect standard of God’s righteousness and the absolutely impossible task of our meeting that standard in our own power. He shatters self-righteousness in order to drive us to His righteousness, which alone is acceptable to God.

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