Ok. Get ready for this next part of the sermon. It gets a lot more intense. Hang in there though…it’s a lot but it’s so so so very important to our daily walk. Again, references in italics, scripture in bold italics.
Matthew 5:21-22 says this:
“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be answerable to the court. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be answerable to the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be answerable to the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”
So, let’s start with the end. The fiery hell that He speaks of here is translated from the Greek word geenna, a reference to the ever-burning trash dump outside the city, used as a symbolic reference to eternal damnation. In Jesus’ day it was a garbage dump where fires burned continually and was an apt symbol of eternal fire.
But’s let’s chat about this first part of verse 22.
Jesus is demonstrating to his listeners how the righteousness of their spiritual leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, is not enough to earn heaven. They superficially obey and teach the law of Moses without any kind of heart-change. Jesus is teaching God’s intent behind the commandments of the law. In particular, Christ is pointing out that unrighteous attitudes and thoughts, while not exactly the same as unrighteous actions, are just as much worthy to be labelled as sins.
That is just so very very convicting. Unrighteous actions is one thing but adding unrighteous thoughts to the mix. Further proof of our need for a Savior.
When He speaks of be answerable to the court for murder, anger and even speaking harshly against someone shall be answerable to the court.
Jesus is saying that an improper attitude—to be unrighteously angry with another person—makes one subject to God’s judgment. Who can honestly claim they have never been angry towards someone else? Or that every unhappy thought was perfectly justified? It’s convicting and even frightening to think that level of perfection is God’s standard for right and wrong.
Jesus escalates this teaching even further. The original phrasing of this verse uses the Greek term mōre, used as a slur like calling someone a “moron,” or an “idiot.” The point is clear: being angry enough to insult another makes a person liable to the “hell of fire.”
Jesus is showing that God cares about actions, but He cares most about the heart. The reason for the command not to murder is given in Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” If being made in the image of God makes it wrong to murder, it also makes it wrong to call a person “worthless.” Guarding the heart, and the mind, is just as much part of obedience to God as good behavior.
Finally, the references state this: Only those with perfect righteousness will be welcomed into eternity with God based on their deeds; Jesus’ examples are quickly demonstrating that no human person can claim perfection.
This again demonstrates our need for a Savior. Jesus is clearly making the point and quickly making the point that we cannot live up to the standards that God sets without an intermediary.
Without Jesus there to state our case and plead on our behalf, we would be lost….