First Mennonite Church
June 1, 2014
Jesus Says: Do Not Murder; Live Free of Hatred
Text: Matthew 5:21-26
21“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.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sisterwill 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.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
25 “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. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
I am sure you have heard the story of the school boy who kept bothering the other students in his classroom. He was always up and away from his desk. The teacher said to him, “Larry, please sit down!” Larry sat for a second but stood up and wandered again. The teacher repeated her command, but Larry would not obey her. She went by him and held him by his shoulders and pushed him down to his chair. The boy gave his teacher an angry look and said, “I am still standing in the inside.”
God’s commandments according to Jesus’ interpretation go deeper than the outer obedience of them. And as we will see today, most everything we do in relationship to God has an outer practice and an internal and much deeper intent. Take for instance worship, prayer, baptism or Christian gathering. We can sing a song with beautiful lyrics about God or as to Him, but the actual praise or worshipping may not be happening. It is easier to bow our head and close our eyes, but the actual communion with God may not be taking place. It is easier to be sprinkled with water or dipped in it in baptism, but may fail to live the new life in Christ. It is easier to give to the church or the needy, yet miss the joy, cheerfulness, gratitude or compassion of giving. It is easier to come and be together in one place, yet be divided and distant from each other in our heart.
When Jesus gave the teachings in Matthew 5-7, which we call “The Sermon of the Mount,” he was not simply reiterating the Mosaic Laws. Jesus was actually going well beyond them. He was bringing out to light the intentions of God in given them. The Ten Commandments were written on tablets of stone and their observance was purely eternal. Thus the commandments emphasized prohibition of certain practices—Thou shalt not…. Thou shalt not…
In verse 21 of Matthew 5, Jesus calls attention to the sixth commandment—Thou shalt not murder (Exodus 20:13). Violation of this commandment would require a person to actually take another person’s life. Murder literally would have to take place for the commandment to be transgressed.
Murder usurps the right of the Creator God.
In Genesis 2, verse 7 reads: Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. The commandment which forbids murder attests to the fact that only God—the Giver of life, has the right over human life. Any violation to this commandment usurps the right reserved to God alone. When someone murders another, the murderer violates not only his condition of creatureliness, but also violates God, the Creator of life. The commandment sought to prohibit the Hebrew people from going beyond the realm of being creatures in the image and likeness of God. But Jesus went beyond the act of murdering. He said, “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.”
The New Testament has clear teachings regarding anger and other attitudes and conduct that go against the fruit of the Spirit of God.
- Ephesians 4:26-27 In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
- Ephesians 4:31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
- Colossians 3:8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
- 1 Timothy 2:8 I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.
- James 1:19-20 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
If murder usurps the right of God, anger leads to name-calling. And name-calling affronts the Creator God.
Anger, prejudice, and fear-of-the-others (homophobia) lead to name calling. We live in a society that is saturated with name-calling. The political discourse which fills the airwaves and TV screens are often than not filled with name-calling. Casual conversation about culture, race, or about other ethnic groups can prove risky to anyone, because name-calling can come by very easily. As followers of Jesus we must take care that our ears do not become numb and accustomed to all the name-calling that goes around us.
Jesus’ warning about what not to call our brother and sister goes beyond just calling them “raca” or “you fool”. Every form of name-calling is an affront to God who made each and every one in his image and likeness. The Aramaic word “raca” meant empty-headed. And fool is a synonym to raca. In every person God imprinted his image and likeness, thus, every form of name-calling offends our Creator God. Every parent knows how painful it is when their child is subject to name-calling by other children.
Jesus highlights not only the dangers regarding murder, but also about anger which leads to affronting God in the same way murder does. Name-calling hurts, therefore, Jesus says: 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.
For Jesus’ listeners this call did not make sense. You see, people included in this warning are those who had traveled for days to come to Jerusalem. How can they at the moment of giving their offering leave and walk four days back to home, repair their relationship and then come back to finish their worship? Jesus’ listeners certainly thought he was going crazy to say such thing.
Here we have the offering plates. Who would like to come and set it aside his or her gift and go to repair his or her broken relationship? The Bible encourages us to give to God in gratitude for all his blessings. However, Jesus says God does not take pleasure in our giving if we have not given the whole of ourselves to him. Jesus says that God is equally interested in our expressions of gratitude as he is in our good standing relationship with our fellow sisters and brothers. When someone is hurting because of our actions and we want to give to God our offering, our worship is hampered. I believe Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy 2:8 applies not only to prayer but also to our offering.
Sometimes we are tempted to reason: “If someone has a problem with me…that is their problem; not mine!” And while we can’t be concerned about every little action and how that makes others feel…we are responsible to make amends for any legitimate claim against us. This passage is clear that the person has a legitimate claim against the person trying to worship. If we have done things that have legitimately caused this anger in others we are responsible to make amends with them before our offering is accepted.
Jesus’ teaching has a high demand, more than just the external forms of worship and obedience. God has given much grace to us, thus his demand from us is great also. God gave us his very Son and comes to dwell in us by his Holy Spirit. God does not want us to give him things, time, or talent if we are not willing to give ourselves fully to Him. To the new people God has made for himself in Jesus, He gave them his Laws written in their heart.
As we consider this passage, I’d like to urge you to do something. Ask God to open your eyes this morning to someone – perhaps a brother or sister in this church family, or perhaps a believer from your wider circle of relations – with whom you are at odds. It may be someone who has offended you or hurt you in some way, and with whom you now refuse to speak or toward whom you are cold. Perhaps it’s someone who has done something that you consider improper or sinful, but whom you have refused to confront. Perhaps it’s someone who has sinned against you in some way, and who has asked your forgiveness, but toward whom you have – so far – withheld that forgiveness. Perhaps it’s someone you resent for some reason – a fellow believer toward whom you are bitter or angry, or who just rubs you the wrong way; and with whom you have not taken the proper steps to be reconciled. If the reason for discord happens to be because someone wronged you, go and be reconciled.
In the passage for today Jesus wants to tell us that if we are the ones who have wronged someone for which they have something against us, we must leave our offering by the altar and go and mend our relationship also. Jesus says, do not murder; do not bear grudge against your brother or sister. Do not call names to anyone for any reason. The Lord accepts our worship when no one has a cry against us. Amen!