We saw in our last post that the SPIRIT of the law is that anger = murder.
But it’s not just anger in the heart towards another human being. Jesus helps us feel the weight of this teaching throughout the verse: the righteousness of a follower of Jesus must not be guilty of either expressions of contempt or expressions of abuse. Look again at v. 22.
22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister, will be subject to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire.
In your Bible, in place of “INSULTS HIS BROTHER” you might see the word “RACA”. It is an untranslatable word (hence the phrase in the CSB). It was slang … generally understood to mean “worthless fellow” or “airhead.” The phrase “you fool” is a translation of the word “Moray” … where we get our word “MORON” from. These are terms of contempt … of abuse.
Jesus goes for the jugular here. Let me put it to you plainly.
Anger in your heart towards another human being … speaking contemptuously and abusively towards another person … it’s murder.
Singer/Songwriter David Wilcox acknowledges this reality of the human heart, but detracts from its seriousness, in his song “Blow-em Away.”
Every morning in my commute
Mild-mannered man in a business suit
When I wanna go home
At the end of my day
There are all these other cars stacked up in my way
I pull up behind one
Pull out my pistol
And blow ’em away.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book The Cost of Discipleship, gives Jesus’ teaching its true weight:
Anger is always an attack on the brother’s life, for it refuses to let him live and aims at his destruction. The disciple must be entirely innocent of anger, because anger is an offense against God and his neighbor. The angry word is a blow struck at our brother, a stab at his heart: it seeks to hit, to hurt, and to destroy. A deliberate insult is even worse, for we are then openly disgracing our brother in the eyes of the world, and causing others to despise him. With our hearts burning with hatred, we seek to annihilate his moral and material existence. We are passing judgment on him, and that is murder. And the murderer himself will be judged.
Jesus’ point is that the same heart that literally murders is the same heart that slanders, insults and is angry. Those things ARE murder because they reflect our heart’s desire to have that person “out of the way.”
Rob is Teaching Pastor at Blackman Baptist Church.