How important is it to strive to get along with other people? It’s very important!
We’ve found ourselves working our way through the fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, the first of three chapters that incorporate the Sermon on the Mount, and in our couple of previous Little Lessons, we looked at some very pivotal, transitional verses in the early part of that sermon where Jesus emphatically stated He did not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but rather He came to fill them to the full.
And He talked about how important it was to keep and to teach others his commandments, and in verse 20 of Matthew chapter 5 where we left off last time, He dropped a bomb and said that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, naturally all of those in his audience that day who looked up to and who respected their spiritual leaders, the scribes and pharisees, probably went into a little bit of a panic mode saying, “Oh my goodness. I got to be better than those guys. I have to be more righteous than the scribes and pharisees. I mean, they’re our spiritual leaders. How will I ever surpass their righteousness because I’d like to get into heaven?”
And so, Jesus, being sympathetic to that panic, launches right in to an explanation of how his followers can be more righteous than the scribes and pharisees, and it’s not really all that difficult, especially when you have the help of the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the spirit, the first of which is love flowing through you by the power of Christ. Hallelujah.
So we’re beginning today now in Matthew chapter 5 and verse number 21 where Jesus begins to talk about human relationships, something that the scribes and pharisees were not very good at, at all, and it becomes evident in what we’re about to read from Jesus’ sermon on the mount.
He says in verse number 21, “You have heard that the ancients were told, “You shall not commit murder.”” Well, in my Bible, that’s in all capital letters, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, because that’s basically a direct quote from the Ten Commandments. You shall not murder. So, Jesus’ audience had heard that. Naturally, they had heard the Ten Commandments. Nobody necessarily ever read it in a book because they didn’t have books.
They only had scrolls, and scrolls were kept in the synagogues and so forth, and the scribes and pharisees, and the teachers of the law would get up and read from those scrolls, so over the course of their lives, they would’ve heard many times, thou shall not commit murder. And then Jesus goes on, and “Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.” Well, that’s not in all caps, so I’m not sure exactly where that came from, but nevertheless, it’s a warning against murder and the consequences of murder.
The consequences there don’t seem to dire, do they? Because if you read the law, the Old Testament. If you read right in Genesis, after the first murder, God makes kind of a decree and says that, well He establishes capital punishment as a just principle that whoever takes the life of somebody else, “Takes the life of a man, by man his life shall be taken.” And we see that, of course, played out in the Mosaic law as well.
So this little statement about whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court almost sounds like a downplay of what God actually said. We don’t know the source of it, but Jesus is going to talk about heaven’s viewpoint of the consequences of not just murder, but the consequence of getting into anything that resembles the act of murder. Getting into what we might call the groove or the track that ultimately can lead to murder.
So He’s going to raise the bar, not from what God revealed in the Old Testament. He’s going to raise the bar from what the scribes and pharisees have been teaching relative to the whole idea of the sin of murder.
So Jesus then comes up with his counterpoint in verse 22, the first of several counterpoints, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the courts.” So He’s referencing what He just said about you’ve heard that whoever commits murder shall be guilty before the court, well I’m telling you that you don’t have to commit murder to get into the court, you only have to be angry with your brother, and you’ll find yourself in court.
And it becomes very clear that He’s not talking about any human court here. He’s talking about heaven’s court ’cause heaven is always watching, right? Right. So, let’s just stop right here. Why hurry through this? Let’s take it at face value. When we begin to get angry at a brother, it’s time to stop and realize I’m in court in heaven right now. I’ve put myself on trial. I’m being watched to see what’s going to happen. Am I going to overcome my anger?
Scripture talks about be angry and sin not. Of course, the Bible talks about if you’re angry or upset, if you’re offended by your brother, you’re supposed to go to him, so will I work towards reconciliation here? Or am I going to commit murder or some form of murder, which we’re going to read about shortly here? Okay? All right. Good word. And I’m needing to hear this myself just as much as you, so don’t feel like I’m picking on you, all right?
“Whoever is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court.” Now we go to the next step. “Whoever says to his brother.” So, now you’re not working towards reconciliation in your anger. You’re not doing what God wants you to do with your anger ’cause you may have a legitimate reason to be angry. Sure. Just ’cause you’re in court doesn’t mean your guilty, right? Right. It just means you’re on trial. That’s where they decide whether you are guilty or not once you get to court.
So you’re angry. You’re in court. But, you go the next step. “Whoever shall say to his brother, “You good for nothing.”” Hmm. See, you’re not working for reconciliation here. Not going to him privately and saying, “Hey, you’ve offended me, can I tell you what happened? Let’s work …” No, no. In one sense, in a small sense, obviously a lesser sense, murdering your brother with your words, saying something demeaning to your brother. What’s the consequence? You’ll be guilty before the Supreme Court.
So you’ve just gone up a notch. This is not just a petty offenses court. Now you’ve gotten into the big court, the Supreme Court of heaven, and you’re being watched very closely now to see what you’re going to do.
Third thing that Jesus says, “And whoever says, “You fool.”” And that doesn’t really translate as being much worse than good-for-nothing does it? I just suspect that in the Greek or the original Aramaic, that it was a little bit more derogatory than just, “you fool”. Maybe we could say, “You idiot, you.” “Shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”
So, you see, Jesus is raising the bar from what the pharisees taught, that if you commit murder, you’re going to go to court. Oh my goodness. No, no. If you get angry, you’re going to go to God’s court. If you begin to speak some venomous words, you’re in the Supreme Court, you speak some really venomous words, and in God’s view, you’re guilty enough now to go into the hell of fire.
So what did we learn today? We learned that when we get angry, stop and say, “I’m in court, and what should I do? I should deal with this the way God said I should deal with this. Go in private, in love, and confront.”
All right, that’s all the time we have for today. We’ll pick up right here on our next Little Lesson. God bless you.