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About this series
God's Boundaries for Abundant Living
Psychologists tell us that boundaries provide security, protection, and self-esteem. Long before psychology, God provided ten clear boundaries to protect His people from harm and give them the highest values ever recorded on the earth. "God's Boundaries for Abundant Living" gives a fresh look at the Ten Commandments and will help you discover God's boundaries for your highest, best and most abundant living.More from this series
Let’s do a little Bible study. And Bible study is making observations, what does it say? Doing some examination to say, what does it mean? And then making the application, what’s it mean to me?
And so, let’s go through and let’s start with, “But I tell you, anyone who is angry,” - put a circle around ‘angry,’ – “with his brother,” – and then put a box around ‘subject to judgment.’ You’re going to see a parallel occur.
So you have anyone who is angry will be subject to judgment. And then drop down and anyone who says to his brother – put a circle around the word “raca” – is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And then put a box around “Sanhedrin.” So circle around “raca” and then a box around “Sanhedrin.” And then as you move on, “But anyone who says ‘You fool!” Put a circle around “You fool!” – will be in danger of, put a box around the phrase, ‘the fire of hell’.”
And let me see if I can help explain what’s happening in this text that might lift it and give you some insight. Jesus says, “You’ve heard it said about murder and you know the letter of the law and the actual killing of someone. But I say to you, option or level one, anyone who is angry with his brother…”
And there are a couple different Greek words for anger. This is not the kind of anger where something happens and you blow up quickly. This is an anger that’s rooted in bitterness and resentment. This is the kind of anger that, you know, when a certain people’s name’s come to your mind, your stomach begins to tighten up. This is the kind of things that over, sometimes, weeks or months or even years that you have this perverted sense that they have so hurt you, and so violated you, and done things so unmentionable to you, that you have actual anger fantasies at times.
You know, you don’t really want them to get killed but if they were in, like, a mild auto accident it would be, like, okay. You know? And you would never admit that. If they had lost their job it would be, sort of, cool. If the person that they ran off with would leave them like they left you, it would, kind of, bring a little grin to your face. This is an anger that’s rooted in vengeance in wanting to pay someone back.
And Jesus says, “You’ve heard it said, ‘Do not murder’ but I want to tell you, level one, if you have this type of ongoing anger in your heart,” then what’s He say? What’s the box around? “You’re subject to judgment.”
And the word here for “judgment” was the lower courts in the local Jewish village, He says, that kind of anger means that you are liable and ought to have to go before the local village judge and deal with that issue because, by My estimation, you are guilty of a type of murder.
And then He bumps it to round two. He says, “But again I say, anyone who says to his brother ‘raca’.” And it’s a very hard word to translate. Barclay, in his commentary says, it’s to despise with arrogant contempt. The word literally means “you brainless one.”
The first type of anger is an emotional anger in your heart. The second, now, it moves to your lips. This is where you say things that cut people. You put them down. You’re critical. You’re cynical. This is someone, “You brainless one.” You embarrass them in front of people. This is where you use your tongue to do Lethal Weapon 4.
And you cut them up. And you stab them in the back. And you use your tongue to destroy them, and to hurt them, and to pound their self-esteem. And make them feel less than and to embarrass them. He says, anyone who says “raca” to his brother should go before the Sanhedrin. And then the Sanhedrin is the next step up from the village judge. That’s like the Supreme Court.
And then He goes on to the next word that you have circled. Anyone who says to his brother, you moron or what’s the translation here? You fool. It’s from, we get our word “moron.” The Greek word is “moros.” And our word moron often means a lack of intellectual ability. That’s not what this word means. This word means, you immoral one. This is using your tongue to say to a person, you are immoral.
This is using gossip and slander to paint a picture of someone else that they are wrong, that their motives are bad, that they’re immoral, that they’re doing things wrong. This is where you murder their reputation and you slander, and gossip, and say just enough information to put people in a very negative light in the eyes of others.
And Jesus says, when you murder a man’s reputation or a woman’s reputation. When you pass on untested truth. When you have anger in your heart. When you use your tongue to cut down people in blowups or outrage or passive aggressively try and jab people here and there. To put them down and raise you up, He says, take My word, you are guilty of murder. Murder has occurred in your heart. You have slayed people with your lips. You have defiled what? The image of God in them. You have made them to appear or you have damaged them in such a way, maybe they didn’t physically die but emotionally, and intellectually, and spiritually, and relationally you have committed murder. And Jesus says, it’s very, very serious.
A level one means you should go the local judge. A level two is you should be brought before the Supreme Court. And a level three, when you assassinate, a willful, malicious, slandering, gossiping intent, you’re guilty of the hellfire.
You know, I don’t know about you but these Ten Commandments are kind of tough to take, aren’t they? And, you know, the first three were like, sort of like, whoa. You know, God is so great and no other God and no worship but true worship. And then, you know, we talked about how, you know, honoring your father and your mother.
And I don’t know about you but when I got to this one, I thought, you know, maybe I’m going to sort of skim tonight. You know what I mean? It’s like, I haven’t had a lot of problem killing people I didn’t think. I mean, it’s not like I think, you know, God I’m sorry for what I did, you know, ten years ago. And I’m sorry for what I did twenty years ago.
But, you know, I just don’t have murder in my background. I didn’t think. Until I studied this text carefully. And when you study this text and you hear the heart of Jesus and you hear, see all murder, malicious, intentional murder. Where does it begin? I mean, people don’t just wake up and say, “Hmm, might be a good day to kill someone.”
Murder begins with unresolved anger. Murder begins when things don’t get resolved and then stuff starts playing in your mind. And then, you understand where most murders occur? You know the most dangerous place for a police officer in America? It’s not in a gang shooting. The most dangerous place, I got a good, good buddy. He said, what you would dread is the domestic violence call. When you got a call that there is shouting and people having problems, he said, that’s where you can get killed.
And he said most of the people, it’s in a rage. And they got a gun or something or a knife laying around the house and people never woke up that morning and shut off the little button on the alarm and said, “Well honey, I think I’ll probably kill you tonight so are you ready?”
It’s just a normal day and they get up and it can be over something silly as who’s going to get to watch which TV program and there’s all this unresolved anger and then they start getting after one another and screaming and shouting and then in a moment of rage, someone gets a gun or someone does something and people die.
And Jesus is saying, I want to cut it off at the pass. And I want to deal with your heart and the way I’m going to deal with your heart is I’m going to help you see where it comes out of your lips and then I’m going to move it and say that when you assassinate another person’s character, I want you to know that with Me, you’re on very, very dangerous ground.
So what do you do when that happens? He goes on. He says, “Therefore, if you’re offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you.”
Did you notice the shift? He’s talking about your unresolved anger but He says, now if you come. If you come to a place like this or come to a church service and you’re there and you want to offer your gift.
And the gift may be you as a living sacrifice. It might be earlier like we sang, I’m going to sing praises to God. It might be you just can’t wait and God has blessed you and you’re thinking, man, I’ve been working all week and I’m going to take a good chunk of this percentage and I want to offer it as gift to You because I want to see Your work go forward.
He says, when you come before Him, before you offer prayer or offer your money or offer your song or offer your body as a living sacrifice. If you’re there and you’re prompted by My spirit to remember, someone has something against you, He said, here’s the spiritual thing: Stop. Stop your quiet time right then. Stop reading your Bible right then. Walk out of the worship service if you need to. Go find your brother and make it right. Relational harmony. Anger resolved. Chaos between family members. Bitterness that has gone on for years. People that don’t talk to one another.
People who say negative things just as a matter of habit and find a little group of people that they can say negative things about this group and that group. We all do it. And we find a little group that’ll agree with us.
And it’s all about how unfair we’ve been treated, from our perspective. And then we find a little group that we can say and whine and bemoan and pour it out and make someone else the object and they get shrunk.
And God says, clean that up. It’s deathly. It’s as deathly to emotions, it’s as deathly to your spiritual life, it’s deathly to the body of Christ as when people out and out murder one another.
And so, if your brother has something against you, not even you have something against him. Where is the initiative here? The initiative is anybody who’s sensitive enough to God to realize there’s a problem. Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to your brother. And then come and offer your gift. If it means apologizing, apologize. If it means seeking forgiveness, seek forgiveness. If it means, you know, I understand that you have this against me. I want you to know, I forgive you. If it means repenting, if it means restitution, if it means that maybe this is the only night you are to come to this meeting at this time so that you get on the phone tonight and make a phone call and tell someone you’re sorry.
Or you think through the letter that you need to write to maybe one of your kids or a friend or one of your parents. And as far as it depends on you, get your slate clean. And you get up early in the morning and you write that letter. And as far as it depends on you, before God and man, you lay that out. Maybe that’s why you’re here tonight. I don’t know.
The sixth command is about preserving life.
By way of conclusion I’ve put it in a box for emphasis. Because human life is the most precious of all commodities on the planet. God provides boundaries to protect it above all else. And by way of review, are you ready? Here’s the prohibition. And I want to give the application.
The prohibition is, please stop the violence. No murder by violent hands. Stop it. And maybe you haven’t physically killed someone, are you ready? Maybe you have. Maybe you’re sitting here and you’re thinking, my lands, it was 1972. It was 1964. And, man, we were in trouble and I didn’t even think of it and I didn’t know. I wasn’t a Christian and it wasn’t even about human life and I talked my girlfriend to go into New York and have an abortion. I’m an accessory to murder and it’s bugged me. And I’ve never got it right. Or maybe you’re a woman here. And all the while I’ve been talking just images are coming back to your mind. And no one knows.
And you haven’t received forgiveness. You haven’t been able to deal with it. You haven’t been able to make it right. God brought you here tonight not to condemn you but to restore you and to forgive you and let you know you’re not beyond His reach. You’re not a second-class citizen.
You know what amazes me about, most of the Bible was written by murderers, did you know that? Moses, David, Paul. Paul wrote over half the New Testament. He was a murderer. David wrote the most precious material, I think, we have in Scripture in terms of God’s heart, in the Psalms. And Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible.
And in moments of anger, and in moments of ignorance, and in moments where they were out of control, they killed. And God forgave, and God restored, and God used, and that’s His message to you. The blood of Christ is sufficient. And He wants you to receive it. No murder by violent hands.
Second application, no murder by angry hearts. So let me ask you. Are there any grudges you’ve been harboring? At a boss, one of your kids, at a parent, at an ex-mate, former business partner? Is there someone down and if you got really honest tonight, is there a name or a face that comes to your mind that you’ve got some level of resentment or a grudge and tonight God says, “Let it go. Let it go.”
No murder by violent hands, no murder by angry hearts, and finally, no murder by lethal lips. And this is one we, sort of just, since everybody does it. Have your lips assassinated someone’s character? Do you need to go back and tell someone, “I’m sorry”? Or go tell someone you said something to that, you know, “I heard that. It’s untested. I don’t know if it’s true or not. I was in this meeting and God brought it to mind and I passed on information and I’m sorry.” Have your lips shot down someone’s self-esteem? Have your lips murdered someone else’s reputation? Have you listened to someone else berate and put down and talk negatively about another person without putting up the stop sign? By the way, this is how gossip stops in the body of Christ.
Because, see, what people do is they’ll find people that will listen. I call them spiritual garbage cans. And you know what you need to do? You need to let them know, I’m not a garbage can and I got a lid. And when they start talking about another person, you hold up the lid like this that says, “stop.” And you say it really winsomely and you smile because it’s really going to hurt their feelings.
And you say, “You know something? You know, there’s a Scriptural passage that says if I’m not a part of the problem and I’m not part of the solution, I don’t think I should be hearing this. So if you need, it sounds like you need to go talk to what’s her name or what’s his name. But I don’t think I’m the person you need to talk to. Sounds like there are some relational issues and I think Matthew 18 says you go first. And if they won’t listen and you need me to go with you later, I will. But I don’t receive this kind of stuff.”
You think that would help the body of Christ? You think that’d clean up? I’ll tell you what, you only have to have someone, I’ve had someone do that to me. That’s where I learned it. And boy was I embarrassed. And because you know what? When you’re assassinating a person’s character it seems so justified in your mind, right? It seems so right and you are so right and they’re so wrong. And you’re in such denial, like.
And when you’re saying it, it doesn’t even feel or even seem like sin until someone takes the lid off the top of the garbage can that you’re trying to dump into and puts it in front of you and says, and you go, ooh boy. This is ugly. And this is me. And, yeah, I think you’re right. This is inappropriate.
And then you go apologize. And you know what I’ve learned? You know how you stop that stuff? You just make a little pact with the Lord. Every time You make it known to me or someone else makes it known to me that my lips have assassinated another’s character, passed on truth that is untested, or done something that harms another person, I will go to that person and ask them to forgive me and apologize. You do that a half a dozen times, I’ll tell you what. It is a powerful antidote to murdering with your lips.
1 John 1:9 may never be more precious for some of us than tonight. If any of us would agree. It’s what “confess” means. If any of us would come into alignment with what reality is about our present situation. If any of us would confess our sins, God is faithful. And He is just. Not only to forgive but to cleanse you and to cleanse me of all unrighteousness.
And the greatest ending of our night is not some big ra-ra or sing a big song. The greatest ending of this night is for you to bow your head, confess when and where, specifically, you have murdered with your lips, or with your hands, or in your heart. And become a forgiven Moses, a forgiven David, or a forgiven Paul that walks out these doors fresh and clean as white wool. Fresh and clean as snow that just dropped. And a conscience that is pure. And a life that God wants to use as a fellow, forgiven sinner just like them and just like me.