The Many Levels of Anger
Many people think in terms of “right and wrong” or “black and white.” For them, there is no progression or shades of “right and wrong” or “black and white.” Do you know someone like this? They are rigid and limited in their thinking. No matter how much you try to get them to see the bigger picture, they cannot or will not grasp the whole truth. What they are thinking is not wrong, it is just not the entire truth. It is frustrating and can be dangerous.
The religious leaders of Jesus’s day judged through this limited lens. They taught the letter of the law – the truth. But they had no spiritual wisdom to help the people understand the progressions or levels of the laws they taught.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus brought clarity of and depth to the laws taught by the religious leaders of his day. One topic of these laws concerned murder, but Jesus exposed the root cause of the action. Notice the progression from letter of the law to conditions of the heart.
Religious Leaders’ Two Step Teaching on Murder
“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” (Matthew 5:21). This is what the religious leaders taught. Please understand that they were not wrong, just limited in the levels of the law on murder. You broke this law and here is the punishment.
The law = “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13, Deut. 5:17).
The judgment and why = “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind” (Genesis 9:6, Exodus 21:12-15).
Jesus’s Multi-level Teaching on Murder
Notice that the topic of the law is the act of murder. But Jesus said, “I know what you have been taught about murder but let me take you to the root of this act, to what happens long before the act of murder happens.
Level One (Three Parts)
“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” (Matthew 5:22).
- Anger can lead to verbal accusations, slander, and finally physical abuse. Harbored unresolved anger is a motive for murder and will be subject to judgement.
- “Raca” is an Aramaic word meaning vain, empty-headed, worthless, dummy, nobody, or moron. This constant judgement to someone’s moral or spiritual character can lead to being sued in the courts.
- “You fool” is “a destructive attack on one’s character and identity” (ESV Study Bible). Jesus said this practice will lead to the perpetrator being “in danger of the fire of hell.”
Level Two (Two Parts)
- “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.” (Matt. 5:23). Then Jesus gives steps to follow to stop the progression toward murder and to veer toward reconciliation:
- “First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (verse 24).
“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” (verse 25-26).
Jesus’s teaching is meant to be lived, not just studied, or just theorized. Allow me to share with you Gregory Brown’s life application outline of Matthew 5:21-26:
“How can we maintain peaceful relationships with others?
- To Maintain Peaceful Relationships, We Must Guard Our Hearts from Evil Thoughts – Including Anger.
- To Maintain Peaceful Relationships, We Must Guard Our Tongues from Evil Speech – Including Slander.
- To Maintain Peaceful Relationships, We Must Recognize that Discord Hinders Our Relationship with God.
- To Maintain Peaceful Relationships, We Must Seek to Resolve Conflicts Quickly.”
Please note that Jesus is making it plain that not only is it a sin to murder, but all the actions leading up to the act of murder have detrimental consequences. God will not receive your gift at the altar if you are responsible for conflict with your brothers or sisters. Your offended brothers and sisters will bring you to court or seek other recompense. It is imperative that we Christians guard our hearts, watch our tongues, and quickly resolve conflicts in order not to sin against man and God, and to abort the very possibility of murder.
What are your thoughts about Jesus’s teaching on murder compared to the other religious leaders of his time? When studying Scripture do you only see “right and wrong” or “black and white?” Or do you dig deep to find the many levels of truth about a topic? Join the conversation.
Dr. Dorothy J. Haire
Author & Blogger
Both church planter and pastor of Bread of Life Christian Church for the last 18 years, Dr. Haire is a beloved mother and successful author. Empowered to deliver the word of God to His people, Dr. Haire uses her digital platform to educate and develop Christian communities that are rooted in the word of Christ.