“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” – Matthew 5:21-26
God sees the hearts of man. While our fellow men only see what we do overtly, God can tell what is happening on the inside and He holds us guilty for those sins. The fact that you have never physically killed someone does not mean that you are not a murderer. Jesus call us to live with a clean heart.
In the above text, Jesus talks about a new way of living. He addresses the law which was passed down to the people through Moses and the prophets. This law, the scribes and the Pharisees had abused and perverted for their own selfish reason.
Consequently, Jesus addresses four aspects of the law: murder, adultery, divorce and the law of oaths. However, for the purpose of this article, we will discuss only the first, murder.
The Jewish Rabbis normally explained murder as a physical act which deserved punishment by death. Jesus, instead, explained that the law extends far beyond the Rabbis’ definition. He taught that anger is also murder. It is murder of the heart.
The contemptuous words of “stupid” or “scoundrel” are also worthy of the penalty of murder. The court of God extends it to the secrets of the heart. Murder is not only the physically overt or outward act. It is also that hatred and anger lingering in our hearts.
In fact, many times, in our hearts, we hold malice against people we think wronged us. In that anger and malice, we often wish them dead, which is a sin of murder.
Therefore, we should not let anger reign in our hearts. Anger often demands revenge and that revenge causes us to think of the most grievous misfortunes for our enemies.
I will not say that one should not get angry because we are all sinners, and as a result, sin causes us to harbor grudges and thoughts of revenge. That’s why, even in our anger, we should call upon our Lord to guide us. In Christ, we can learn to control our anger, and instead of hate, we show love for those who wronged us.
All of us are brothers and sisters, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Therefore, to quarrel is wrong. If and when we do, we should cry out to God and ask for His guidance and forgiveness.
“Jesus says if you have a disagreement with your brother, leave your gifts at the altar and go and make peace, then complete your worship. A man is not safe from murder and anger, from contempt and indifference until his daily life is such that on his knees he may cry out with joy, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (Interpreters Bible, Vol. 7: New York, Abington Press @ 1951, pg. 297)
Place your trust and faith in Jesus. Ask him to guide you so that you can live free from hate and malice. He will help you to live a life free of the infractions that make us guilty of murder of the heart. Amen.
• Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at The Lutheran Church of Nassau, 119 John F. Kennedy Drive, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas; or telephone: 426-9084; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.nassaulutheranchurch.org.