But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said those who model His attitudes, affections, and actions are guaranteed genuine joy in this life and unending happiness in the next life. That kind of righteous living is what we call ethical righteousness. But we can have the wrong standard for ethical righteousness. Sometimes we think as long as we do not murder anybody or sleep with somebody else’s mate, that is enough to earn God’s approval in our lives. No, Jesus said. His standard is far higher than that if we want to get to where we really want to go in this life.
In Matthew 5:21, Jesus reminded His audience of the Old Testament standard when it comes to personal relationships: “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’” That was the minimum standard: do not murder anybody.
Now, there are some allowances for killing in the Bible. In Genesis 9:6, God outlined the principle for capital punishment. He said, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” This is one of God’s foundational principles, and it is found in the New Testament as well. Paul said in Romans 13:4, “[Government] does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minster of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” The Bible also makes allowances for self-defense. In Luke 22:36, Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.” Why? To slice bread? No, to defend themselves. The Bible says you can protect your life and that of your family. But if you take the life of somebody else in a premeditated, angry way, you are guilty. That was the minimum standard.
However, simply not killing somebody does not guarantee a fulfilling relationship with that person, does it? So Jesus raised the bar. He said in Matthew 5:22, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”
Jesus was addressing the attitudes behind the action of murder. Yes, murder is the extreme way of severing your relationship with another person, but there are other ways to fracture an important relationship.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Straight Talk About Your Relationships” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2022.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org