Jesus said, in Matthew chapter 5 beginning at verse 21, “You’ve heard what was said to a people long ago, ‘Do not murder and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’”
It’s the letter, it’s the truth.
“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
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 the kind of anger that is a smoldering anger. 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.
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? “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, his name and you realize, boy, I use it casually and then the Sabbath and your realize, wow-ee, I didn’t realize it was a gift but I didn’t realize how much I violated it.
And then this morning, 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 Jesus is saying, 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.
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. You. 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.
And by the way, I’m going to just meddle around a little bit. And if you don’t like it, it’s okay, but I’d like, I want to ask you an applicational question.
Do your viewing habits demonstrate that you cherish and value every person’s value and life because they’re made in the image of God?
See, I don’t understand this, okay? I’m naïve, I came to Christ late, maybe I’m just, kind of, not in step with the program. How in the world can you understand the sixth commandment and understand the value and sacredness of human life and go rent videos and DVDs and spend money where all they do is blow up people.
And in slow motion, now, you know the bullets come through and the blood spreads and they fall back in slow motion and then buy stuff for your kids in Sega and Nintendo and watch them go to an arcade where you go to every single booth and almost every single time, what is it?
It’s some guy kicking and screaming and shooting. And you understand that’s how they train our military to desensitize them for human life so that when they get on the battlefield, they can kill. So they can have the courage to kill they have them do video games. They show them multiple desensitization of human life where they get used to human life being destroyed.
And I got Christians that I know that, oh, this is a guy movie. You know, Lethal Weapon 48. What is it that finds satisfaction in the human heart other than a perverted dark side of my heart and yours in watching other people blow up other people in slow motion and we call that entertainment?
I don’t get it. Candidly, I don’t think God gets it. I think it violates the sixth command. How in the world would I ever do anything that makes me think less of human life? Why in the world would I put anything in my hands or my kid’s hands that teach them how to kill and destroy and annihilate so that you score points?
I mean, people, let’s do the math here. You think that nineteen year old kid grew up in a vacuum? How in the world, what, how many TV programs, how many video games, how many movies, how much peer pressure, what would have to happen in a human being’s life to say, “I’m bored today, man! I just felt like killing someone.”
Or to raise a beer and say, “Human life, it means nothing!” And then the next day rape and kill two young girls. He didn’t wake up that day thinking he’d get there. He got there because we’ve been on a gradual, continual, downward trend, of devaluing life.
And I’ll tell you what, salt and light, let’s get salty. Salt and light, let’s get bright and let’s say, life matters in every way. No murdering by violent hands.
Second application, no murder by angry hearts. So let me ask you. Are there any grudges you’ve been harboring? Do you have any smoldering anger? 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 God says, “Let it go. Let it go.”
And you say, you don’t understand what they did to me, they don’t deserve for me to let it go! I know I don’t understand and I know they don’t deserve it. I’m not asking you to let it go because they deserve it.
I’m asking you to let it go because the person it’s destroying is you, not them. And I’m asking you to let it go on the authority of Christ because He says, as you have freely received, freely give.
And I’m asking you to let it go because Jesus was matter of fact and clear that if you do not forgive your brother, I will not forgive you. Let it go. Make it right.
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 they’ll find people who will listen. And then they’ll just spew out garbage.
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’s 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 it 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, 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.
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, 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.