I have been given a question about a portion of the Sermon on the Mount that talks about murder and being angry. It also talks about calling people fools and morons. Here is the passage that the question comes from:
“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says,‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.” ~ Matthew 5:21-22
The question is, “If I am angry with someone am I really guilty of murder?”
When you first look at this passage, you can be thrown a little, because you have words like murder (phoneuo), angry (orgizo), fool (racca) or moron (moros). We try to attach our meanings to these words to try to figure out what this passage is saying.
With this idea in mind, it sounds like being angry, as well as calling people names, is just as bad a murder. In our western-culture mindset we have a hard time with these passages.
Let’s look at these words and see what kind of meaning they have in the culture in which the words were written. Murder or phoneuo means to kill, destroy, slay, strike or strike down. These are easy for us to grasp.
Angry or orgizo means to be angry or to make angry, irritate or be irritated, to become hot or moved to physical displays of anger. This word also seems pretty easy to understand.
Fool or racca means fool or foolish, empty or empty headed and good for nothing. Here we see that we are not just talking about the person’s actions but what is found on the inside.
This is significant, because we know from scripture that He is in us and therefore we are saying that this person is good for nothing and God/Jesus can have no effect on Him. This statement is obviously untrue, God/Jesus can have an effect on anyone.
Moron or moros means to be foolish in action or to be not worth saving, dull or stupid. There is a deeper meaning here than we think. When we are angry to the point where we say, “fool” then we are saying that what Jesus came to do is not worth that person we call a fool. In our words and thoughts we say that person is not worth being rescued by Jesus.
We know as Christ followers that we are all made in the image of God. We know that God thinks we are all worth saving. So in this context, saying that God’s creation is worthless and empty is just as bad as the taking of a life.
The old phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is so false. Words often create even greater damage than a physical beating ever could. With this passage of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is trying to tell us that we can destroy people with our words and is stressing that we can do greater harm than killing them ever could.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has just talked about how people are blessed by putting themselves in the proper place with Jesus. We call these the Beatitudes. We have been taught by Jesus in this sermon that we are salt and light. We as followers of Jesus are preservers of life. It is our living relationship with Jesus that gives our lives flavor.
Jesus tells the crowd that He came to make the law whole with this teaching. In other words, He would give the true meaning to what man has distorted in the law. He talks about murder and adultery and how these things take control of our heart. When these things have control of our hearts, it leads to actions that are contrary to God’s will of how He wants us to act.
Jesus goes as far to say that this will affect your worship. And that if you have a problem with someone you need to leave your sacrifice at the temple and go to that person and make peace so that your worship and your relationship with God can be accepted.
Christ’s whole point of this teaching was to teach about reconciliation. Reconciliation with people in your life, even your enemies. Perhaps this is why many people have a hard time with this passage. They really don’t want to be reconciled or settle things quickly, they want an excuse to react. They won’t yield to Jesus.
This can be hard because it is opposite of what our world tells us to do. We are taught to hurt first and hurt hard so that people can’t hurt us. We are also taught that if someone hurts us, then we are to hurt worse than we were hurt.
I believe this is why Jesus says we are guilty of murder when we take our words and destroy (a meaning of the greek word for murder) someone’s character. Scriptures like Ephesians 6:12-13 make this even more clear:
“For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.”
Sometimes, I believe that we in the church have not prepared to take our stand.
I think that anger is a slippery slope that can cause us to go farther than we thought we would go. We are taught not to sin in our anger. This is the key. Being angry is not a sin but taking the thought of that anger to the next level into hate is a sin. In our heart we have murdered.
This is not an easy teaching by Jesus but we see Him apply this same thought process to adultery. Looking with lustful eyes and taking that lust to the next level whether mentally or physically we are equally guilty of adultery. Many of us have a hard time with this teaching because anger and hate are easier to justify.
It is my prayer that we would all allow Jesus to heal our anger, our hurt and our hard hearts.
In His Grip,