“You have heard that it was said …”
“But I say to you…”
In Week 4, we delved a little deeper into understanding what Jesus meant by a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. He taught that obeying God’s Law at face value wasn’t enough because the commands had deeper implications. Sure, they were to be kept externally. But more importantly, they were to be kept internally down to the very motivations of the soul. He wanted them and us to see that the foundation for murder and adultery first take root in the heart. Jesus began his prescription for deeper obedience by casting light on the progression of anger unresolved.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old,‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 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. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 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. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” Matthew 5:21-26
On the video, Ms. Wilkin instructs the listener that emotion has no right or wrong. The trouble comes with how we handle our emotion and in this instance, anger. When is anger a sin and not a sin? Righteous anger, according to Ms. Wilkin, is anger felt when the Father’s will is violated. A prime example of this type of anger was when Jesus overturned the tables in the Temple (Matthew 21:12,13).
Sinful anger, on the other hand, is the type that we hang onto and cultivate. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives two ordinary examples. He said that those who insulted their brother needed the Sanhedrin (Council of Elders) to reprimand them. The word used for insult in the above translation is Raca. Translation for Raca is tricky because the tone of voice used in conjunction with the spoken word actually defines the word. Did your mother ever say to you when you were angry with her, “Don’t you use that tone of voice with me,”? When my mother said those words, I knew that I needed to straighten up my attitude. My anger towards my mother combined with the way I spoke my words to her is the idea of Raca. Generally speaking, our workbook definition as stupid or empty-headed is acceptable.
Next, Jesus addressed the person who will be in danger of the hell of fire. This person calls his brother a “fool”, a moros in Greek. In our workbook, we discovered that this word meant a person who was morally worthless. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary states that Raca “scorns a man’s mind and calls him stupid; moros scorns his heart and character; hence the Lord’s more severe condemnation.” These examples that Jesus used show how our speech can heighten anger. When I have anger in my heart and the emotion is left unchecked, my anger can easily lead to the use of words that I can’t take back. Those words can lead to fractured relationships. Over time, if my anger continues to grow unchecked, the anger could turn into contempt. Jesus cited these common examples as ones that happen among those living in a community of faith. Relationships with fellow believers are to reflect God’s glory. Broken relationships dim the kingdom of God.
Unresolved anger also interferes with the worship of God and Jesus instructs in this passage the need for resolution. The brother was not to wait for the other to seek his forgiveness or to repair the hurt. He was to approach for reconciliation first. Most of the time, my fractured relationships with others have been easily restored and repaired but I’ve encountered a few times in my life when I’ve sought reconciliation with someone and they refused. I must confess that those experiences have been some of the hardest and saddest to bear. I wish reconciliation had taken place but the truth is that we can’t make others forgive, repent, or forget. Only God can work in their hearts. Ms. Wilkin states that we have a responsibility to mend them as far as possible because Jesus reconciled us.
Sometimes, broken relationships lead to court. Jesus recommends that matters be settled quickly before they fester, before they are brought before a judge, and before the situation escalates resulting in the defendant spending life in jail. Even small disagreements can blossom into being problems. Can’t they? Many lawsuits and court hearings would be avoided if we learned how to curb our tempers. Proverbs 29:22 states that “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot tempered one commits many sins.” Unfortunately, I can attest that this saying is true. We need to learn to handle feelings of anger and irritation in a proper and timely manner so relationships aren’t destroyed. James 1:19,20 offers a prescription to help a child of God rid themselves of anger. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Ms. Wilkin reminded us that Paul stated in his letter to the church at Ephesus that in anger we’re not to sin (Ephesians 4:26). Instead, we’re to try and resolve the matter with mercy and grace.
Jesus then seamlessly continued his teaching by moving from anger and fractured relationships to adultery. He stated that adultery wasn’t only the physical act but also the lustful intent. The verb “look” is in the present tense which means that the action is continuous and habitual. The word “lust” in Greek means to look with the deliberate intention of lusting and to look in a way that awakens and stimulates desire. Jesus was addressing, therefore, anyone who continually and habitually looked at a woman with the deliberate intention of being aroused. No physical performance necessary, the act was already taking place in the heart. On the video, Ms. Wilkin taught that adultery takes place when anger and contempt have festered in the marital relationship.
“‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone that looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.’” Matthew 5:27-30
During the first century, the institute of marriage was in a state of crisis. The Jewish marriage had been an oddity among the cultures around them. But divorce had become all too common and many young women were resistant to marry. They feared an unstable union which would jeopardize their legal and social standing. Jewish men were finding frivolous reasons to seek divorce from their wives such as spoiling the dinner with too much seasoning, talking with other men in public or if she spoke disrespectfully to her husband’s parents. Since the reasons for divorce had become dishonorable, Jesus spoke for the rights of dignity, the sanctity of marriage, and of restoring purity among His people. He also hints at the importance of giving value and respect to others, namely women. Ms. Wilkin shared on the video that Origen of Alexandria took this passage literally and made himself a eunuch in order to obey. She taught that Jesus was using hyperbole and addressing those who stand too close to sin and that they should flee rather than stand in a place of temptation. Anything that would lure us to destruction should be cut out of our lives even if they’re precious to us like a body part in order to walk righteously before God. Ms. Wilkin concluded her video by sharing Paul’s instruction to the believers at Colosse on how to live holy and righteous.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:12,13
Start Week 5 beginning on page 61. Don’t forget to plan a little extra time for your first lesson so that you will be able to complete the reading assignment of the entire Sermon on the Mount.
If you’re interested in viewing the video that accompanies the study, the video can be purchased for download by clicking here. I’m unable to offer the video online due to copyright laws.
If you’d like to start from the beginning, you can find all of the past lessons by clicking here.