Anger seems to be an emotion that most people want to avoid. I know I certainly don’t enjoy being angry. Yet, it is a part of life that most people, if not all people, experience at one point or another. God’s Word instructs us to be slow to anger; however, this doesn’t mean we should never be angry. Even Jesus got angry at times, but He also warned us about the dangers of anger in the sermon on the mount.
In Matthew 5-7, Jesus addresses some false interpretations concerning 6 different topics of the Law. The first of them being murder. It is important to understand that Jesus is not correcting the Old Testament. Instead, He is providing a more accurate interpretation by which His followers can live. Jesus begins by stating the law, “do not murder” and then the interpretation, “whoever murders will be subject to judgement.” No one has a problem with the idea of murderers being judged and punished, but Jesus wants us to understand that anger and name calling are also deserving of judgment. As we think about why murder is bad, we can better grasp Jesus’ reasoning.
The Value of Human Life
In Genesis 9:6 God explains to Noah the value of life. He explains why murder is so bad and what the punishment for murder should be. “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans his blood will be shed, for God made humans in his image” (Gen 9:6 CSB). The punishment for murder should be death. The reason is this: humans were made in God’s image. Since we have been made in God’s image, our lives have great value—value that must be respected at all costs.
Pause and Think:
- Read Matthew 5:21-26
- Why do you think anger and name calling are so bad?
- Why is it important to remember that all humans have been created in God’s image?
“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 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. So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 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. 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. Truly I tell you, you will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny.
The Evil of Anger – Matthew 5:21-22a
Ordinarily, anger doesn’t receive the severe consequences that murder does. Few things really do, and for this, I am thankful. Perhaps the lack of consequence makes anger easy to overlook. Sometimes people get angry, and nothing really seems to happen as a result. However, there are other times where anger can lead to many bad decisions. Anger is a problem because it is often the first step to murder and a whole host of other evil acts against other people who have been created in God’s image.
Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.1 John 3:15 CSB
Anger acts as fertilizer for bad decisions. If we aren’t careful, anger overtakes us and runs us into the ground. Sometimes anger leads us to make bad decisions, and, out of spite, we hurt others. The ESV Study Bible gives warning of what anger can do: “Anger typically entails a desire to damage or destroy the other person, either in some personal way or literally in the form of murder.” Jesus makes it clear that, not only should we not take someone’s life, but we shouldn’t wish harm on anyone either. When our anger leads us to desiring harm and misfortune on others, we need to calm down. We need to repent!
Name Calling is an Evil like Murder – Matthew 5:21-22b
We all know the old saying, “Sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Now whether you personally agree or not, Jesus makes it clear that this is not a good quote to guide how we treat others. Jesus makes it clear that when we insult others, or call others names, we are subject to judgment. This seems extreme in our world were speaking poorly of others happens so regularly. Yet, the regularity of this evil does not make it okay. Regularity never excuses evil.
Name calling is an act of anger that we shouldn’t tolerate. Jesus certainly doesn’t tolerate it. Back in the day, names carried even more significance than they do today. In the first century, when you called someone a name, it was as if you were taking away the meaning of their name and giving them a new name of disgrace. Name calling was taken very seriously back then and should be taken seriously today, along with other ways of demeaning people created in God’s image.
When we call others names, we are tearing the person down emotionally. Even when we are doing so jokingly, it can still hurt the other person. We are created in the image of God. There is not only great value placed on our lives because of this, but there is also a demand of great respect for one another. We need to show respect by treating one another as we would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12) while striving to remember that we are all God’s image bearers. No one created in God’s image should ever be mocked or bullied.
“With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness. Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way.”James 3:9-10 CSB
The Importance of Reconciliation – Matthew 5:23-24
In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus gives us an example of the importance of reconciliation. He says,
“So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 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’ command is powerful. Worship is clearly important, and his audience would have understood that importance. Yet, Jesus says that they need to be ready to walk away from that sacrifice to reconcile with a brother.
Ultimately, Jesus is saying that there is nothing more important than reconciling with those who are upset with us because of our wrongdoing. We need to make sure that reconciliation is at the top of our priority list. Worship is important to God, but when there is strife between Christians, the worship that is given to Him will not be pleasing. We are to be of the same mind, and we are to have the same goals when worshipping him.
The Urgency of Reconciliation—Matthew 5:25-26
We see the importance of reconciliation in Jesus first illustration in Matthew 5:23-24 because He prioritizes reconciliation over other important responsibilities. Following that thought, in Matthew 5:25-26 He shows us the urgency of reconciliation. When we don’t quickly reconcile, things continue to get worse.
Jesus gives us another example. Taking a matter to court can be a long process and can ultimately make matters worse. Often times people were not as severely punished if they were able to reconcile outside of court. Just like it is better to settle a matter out of court before differences are allowed to fester, so is it better to quickly settle wrongdoing among your brothers and sisters in Christ quickly. It is important that we strive for peace as quickly as possible, so that we don’t allow opportunity for anger to rule in our hearts.
Concluding thoughts on Jesus’ instructions on Anger and Reconciliation:
Jesus wants us to understand the importance of reconciliation and the dangers of anger. God certainly desires His people to live at peace with all people and for His church to be united. Anger threatens unity and peace. If we are going to be a united and peaceable people, we must pay careful attention to Jesus’ explanation of the Law. We must not allow anger to overcome us. It can lead to an assortment of poor decisions, that are more than capable of destroying us and the unity and peace God desires for us.
While anger is sometimes completely justified, it is also the source of name calling, evil acts against others, and even murder – which is why anger can be subject to God’s judgment. We must be careful. Reconciliation must be a priority. We must seek to resolve all of our conflicts, angers, and frustrations quickly. God desires His people to be at peace. Anger threatens this, so we must make haste to reach reconciliation.
Talk About It:
- Why is anger dangerous?
- Is reconciliation important to God?
- How can we avoid being angry with others?
- The ESV Study Bible (p. 1829). Note on Matthew 5:21-48
- 2. The ESV Study Bible (p. 1829). Note on 5:22.
- Truth for today: Matthew 1-16. Page 168.
- CSB Study Bible Notes (p. 1507) Note on 5:25-26
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