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.
In a way, all of us in a way are guilty of breaking the Sixth Commandment. You may protest, “I’ve never killed anyone!” Hopefully that is true of you. But there’s more than one way to kill a person.
We can destroy human life not only through physical violence but also through our words. You may think, That’s really a stretch, Pastor, to link murder to the way we speak to other people. Jesus didn’t think so. Notice the link He made between physical murder and the harmful words we speak to another person in Matthew 5:21–22. Jesus said, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 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.” You see, when you verbally assault another person, you’re verbally assaulting God’s creation.
Whenever you verbally assault somebody out of anger, out of bitterness, you are destroying something of value. Somebody has said, “By physical violence we usurp God’s right to number a man’s days, but by verbal violence we usurp God’s right to measure a person’s worth.”
James said, “No one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. For with it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth came both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (James 3:8–10). When we curse somebody, we are cursing someone made in the image of God.
By the way, just because someone is not a Christian gives us no right to assault him or her verbally. I recall a politician who made news when he called a senator from New York a “schmuck.” There was a lot of discussion about the Yiddish meaning of schmuck. Is it an obscene term or does it just mean “jerk”? Well, the argument misses the point. Regardless of whether it’s an obscene word, it’s a deriding term. And no matter how unrighteous that senator is, he is still a human being God created.
I’ve been guilty of the very same thing. In some act of righteous indignation I thought I was so right and the other person was so wrong, especially if the person was a non-Christian, that I felt as if I had the right to demean him or her by what I said. No, God says. Whenever you attack another person verbally, you are attacking someone whom God made.
Every person is made in God’s image. After all, think about how God looks at us. Jesus Christ had every reason to question our worth, didn’t He? In the light of our sin, He could have demeaned us. But He didn’t do that. Instead, because of the love He had for us, He looked beyond our faults. He died for us and offered us forgiveness. We are to treat others the same way. Don’t be guilty of murder by words.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Murder He Wrote,” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.