When we get angry … and swear … and insult … we murder, and we forfeit our relationship with God. We erect a barrier not only between ourselves and the ones that we murder, but between ourselves and God. This is why Jesus continues in vv. 23-24.
23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
Jesus’ point here is that wherever there is anger in our heart toward a person, we are to actually have a POSITIVE, PROACTIVE attitude. Jesus teaches in these verses that there is no value, as far as God is concerned, in an act of worship or in other so-called “good works” that are done when there is anger and strife between you and a brother.
Let me put it more clearly: if you are in a state of conscious enmity against another person … if you are harboring anger towards another … there is NO VALUE IN YOUR WORSHIP.
For an illustration, let me tell you about what I call the Worship Wars. Sometimes it’s about decorations; maybe the chairs aren’t comfortable enough; perhaps the sound is not quite right; often times it’s the music. But even most of that people will overlook if the sermon is good, but often times it is not.
But all of those complaints are attempts to detail a general dissatisfaction with worship in general. People genuinely want worship to be meaningful, and these are typically what comes to mind (preaching, music, aesthetics, etc.).
Ironically, NO ONE has ever come to me and said, “Perhaps the reason worship is not as meaningful as it could be is because there are many of us who are not right with someone. We are angry with another, or another is angry with us.” It’s NEVER happened.
Psalm 66:18 says “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”
Lastly, and very briefly, I’d like for you to see the need to view all of your relationships in the context of your relationship with God. Look at vv. 25-26.
25 Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him to the court, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny.
What Jesus is doing in these last two verses is illustrating the importance of resolving our anger because to be a disciple … to be a person of the Beatitudes … is to be a person who has a clear conscience in his relationship to God.
Let me put it more practically: the disciple does not hesitate to bring reconciliation in his earthly relationships because he has been reconciled with God for salvation, and wants to remain reconciled to God relationally, day by day.
Rob is Teaching Pastor at Blackman Baptist Church.