“Do You Have God’s Viewpoint on the Guilt of Anger?”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.21-26
Matthew 5. In October of 1980, New York City was undergoing it’s worse year for crime the city had every seen. Murders, robberies, burglaries and automobile theft were each at a 49 year high. Allan Bridge decided to do something about it. He plastered thousands of flyers in the streets. “Attention criminals: You have wronged people. It is to people that you must apologize: Not the church, not the state. Get your misdeeds of your chest. Call apology. When you call you will be alone with a tape recorder.” An anonymous apology hotline! Just record your apology to the newly invented answering machine!
And call they did. For the next decade and a half, serial killers, battered wives, rapists, thieves, men with a new disease called AIDS, shop lifters, drug addicts, soldiers grappling with their actions in VietNam, racists, …, messengers of God, hate criminals, war criminals, and many others poured their confessions and declarations into Allan’s downtown loft apartment.
The confession hotline originally came to Bridge as he struggled with his own feelings of guilt. As an artist, he would shoplift art supplies and afterwards began to feel ashamed. He hoped for a way to repent and figured he wasn’t alone in having crimes to confess.
The original “Apology Line” eventually received enough confessions to begin publishing a magazine called “Apology.” The hotline even became the premise of a 1986 film by the same name, as well as one of the first online communities.
It continued to receive about 100 calls per day until Bridge passed away in 1995.
When you call, it would say…”This is Apology. Apology is not associated with the police or any other organization, rather it is a way for you to tell people what you’ve done wrong and how you feel about it. I know that a one-way conversation with a tape recorder is an intimidating experience, but just relax and take your time.”
A man calls and says: I’m a psychiatrist. I’m admitting people to the hospital and I don’t know what I’m doing.
A man: I’m a mugger of sorts. Ya see I get, I, ah, I beat [a certain kind of person] and I take their money off them. Just sort of . . . Not that I really need the money, I just like to beat [them]. And once in a while they wear gold and I take their gold jewelry too.”
A woman, in a sad, sad, tense murmur, tells the answering machine … “In my life I’ve taken all sorts of drugs and they’ve made me very crazy, so to say. … And I killed a man when I was with my boyfriend robbin’ a drugstore and we killed him but we didn’t mean to and . . . it’s on my mind and it’s a guilty feelin’. . .”
A man says: I am a human being. I think that’s my greatest crime.
Another man: I want to apologize all the time. I feel sorry all the time. I walk down the street and feel sorry. I’m [even] sorry I made this call.
These recordings reveal many things, but for now I’d like to point out what it reveals about the human conscience. The people you talk with on a weekly basis are burdened down with a guilty conscience. They may not have killed anyone, but like that last man, they regret things they’ve done.
Jesus, over the next few weeks in our study of the Sermon on the Mount, is capitalizing on this reality about the human conscience. His teaching is designed to convict our conscience to get us to turn to Him.
There are 6 sections from Matthew 5:21-48.
1. Verse 21 you have heard that the ancients were told… Verse 22, “but [literally] I myself say to you.” Jesus’ authoritative teaching on anger.
2. Verse 27, “you have heard that it was said…v.28, “but I say to you.” This is Jesus authoritative teaching on lust.
3. Verse 31, “it was said”… but v.32, “I say to you.” This is Jesus authoritative teaching on divorce.
4. Verse 33, “again you have heard that the ancients were told”… But verse 34 “I say to you.” This is Jesus authoritative teaching on vows and truthfulness.
5. Verse 38, “you have heard that it was said” … But verse 39 I say to you.” This is Jesus authoritative teaching on demanding your rights.
6. And finally verse 43, “you have heard that it was said” but verse 44, “I say to you”… And this is Jesus teaching on love.
Conviction: Each of these 6 statements is about our relationship with others. When people feel bad, it’s usually that they feel bad about what they’ve done to other people. But of course, all sin against others is sin against God.
What Jesus is doing: In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is not redefining Moses’ Law or reinterpreting it, but He’s correcting the people’s misconceptions about God’s requirements of them. People have a preconceived notion about what God expects of them without actually listening to Him.
ILL: In our house, lately, I’ve been emphasizing that just because you heard it, doesn’t mean it’s true. Just because those words are in your head, doesn’t mean that it’s absolute truth.
Regarding our relationship to God, just because it is in your head, doesn’t mean that this is what God expects of you. Jesus is combating misconceptions about what God requires of people… “You have heard that it was said, but I say to you.”
Jesus is thereby giving us His requirements. This passage is bookended with statements that say this is more than you require of yourself…Back up to verse 20 …
Matthew 5:20 20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
So, this passage from vv. 21 to the end of the chapter gives 6 examples of a righteousness that exceeds or surpasses the Pharisees. And you wouldn’t normally require this of yourself, like Jews wouldn’t require themselves to be more righteous than a Pharisee…It’s the same in v. 48…
Matthew 5:48 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
For you to enter into Christ’s kingdom demands a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees.
In fact, you must be perfect. You can’t have any half-hearted obedience to God’s laws. They must all be obeyed with perfection for you to enter into the kingdom of heaven: more righteous than a Pharisee!
And Jesus says this without the qualification that many of us are thinking about! Yes, there is justification and it is by faith alone, but Jesus isn’t teaching that in this chapter! Why not? Because He’s trying to get you lost, convicted, undone, knowing you have no righteousness of your own and that you’ll never measure up! So if you come away from these messages thinking: I’m a sinner and have nothing to offer to God; praise God for Jesus’ righteousness credited to my account…we’ve succeeded!
The first of these statements concerns murder and anger.
Matthew 5:21–26 21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 “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. 23 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25 “Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 “Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.
I’m preaching “Do You Have God’s Viewpoint on the Guilt of Anger?”
What they heard: Murder makes you guilty to the court (v. 21)
Jesus quoting the 10 commandments in Ex. 20…
Matthew 5:21 21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and [then their law…] ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’
ILL: Another apology on the apology line…the man said…
“I want to apologize. I don’t know if even what I did was wrong or right, but when I was in Israel for six months, I killed six Arabs at night with a gang of other Jewish settlers. At the time we thought — I believed — we were fighting for our homeland to keep it from the Arabs. But perhaps now that I’m here in America, I realize that maybe killing is not the right way, and I want to apologize.”
You Shall Not Commit Murder
That is illegal under Jewish Law or any country’s law. He is guilty of murder. And Jesus does use the word for “murder” in v. 21. However, the word can be used to refer to accidental killing, as in Numbers 35. Numbers 35 concerns the cities of refuge for those who accidentally kill someone. But this context is clear: for Jews, whatever this is would be considered liable to the court. Accidental killings and killings committed during war are not liable to the court; therefore, this is speaking of murder, actual intentional private killing.
This is against Seventh Day Adventists, Quakers, and some Mennonite and Brethren traditions that believe, based on this passage, that a Christian should not or may choose not to go to war if the government calls on them. Furthermore, Ecclesiastes 3:8 clearly states that there is “A time for war and a time for peace.”
Clearly, Jesus is speaking about the private, premeditated killing of a human being without justification.
The punishment is that they shall be liable to the court and that is an application of Deuteronomy 16:18. And the punishment for murder in the Old Testament according to Gen. 9:6; Ex. 21:12–14; and Num. 35:16–34 is execution.
If you intentionally killed someone without justificaiton, to convict you would require at least two witnesses according to Numbers 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15.
If there is that clear evidence of guilt against you, no trial is necessary. According to Ex. 21:14 with Numbers 35 and Deut. 19, even if you murdered someone and are at the altar in the temple, you could be taken from there to be executed immediately.
Your life in those moments would be in the hands of the one who is called “the avenger of blood.” He is responsible for your execution and was to show no pity, since blood or murder defiles the land of Israel (Num. 35:33-34).
The avenger of blood would bring you outside the camp or presumably outside the city and you’d be stoned to death with stones, Leviticus 24:17-23.
Now, our society views this as barbaric. I mean, at least give the guy some time. Whyd do it immediately? But we all know the truth of Ecclesiastes 8:11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.
Now, in Canada, capital punishment, has been illegal since 1976. Our society doesn’t give capital punishment for murder, let alone all the other offences for which the Old Testament prescribes capital punishment.
TRANS: Capital punishment for murder? … “I mean, what if you have the wrong guy?” Or, “the state shouldn’t take people’s lives but protect them” or “who knows if the death penalty is really a deterrent for murderers.” Even if you accept capital punishment for murder, you have to admit it is a little … shall we say… grisly and gruesome.
TRANS: You might say, “Well, great, I haven’t killed anyone, if that’s Jesus requirement, I’m all set!” Not so fast, remember, you have to be more righteous than a Pharisee to enter Christ’s kingdom. What Jesus says next is shocking and it’s this, “An angry spirit and speech makes you guilty enough for the lake of fire.”
What Jesus says: An angry spirit and speech makes you guilty enough for lake of fire. (v.22)
Matthew 5:22 22 “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.
And you think it’s gruesome and grisly to execute for murder, what stoning someone for anger?
Jesus’ righteous anger
Somebody says, “Well, come on, even Jesus got angry.” That He did, but He was angry for a righteous cause that didn’t serve Himself, but was serving His Father. Jesus called the hypocrites “hypocrites,” he drove out from the temple the money exchangers who were defrauding people and turning the temple into a place of business, and He was angry over hard heartedness (Mk. 3:5). But none of it was a selfish anger. He was properly motivated for His Father’s glory and controlled with the proper righteous results in mind.
But your anger is almost if not always not that kind of anger. Your anger is selfish, uncontrolled, self-justifying anger. And Jesus specifically condemns that.
In verse 22, Jesus gives three scenarios that build upon each other. They are meant to climax his point; they aren’t a hierarchy of offences…as if anger gets minor judgment but calling someone a fool lands you in hell. No, they build on each other to form a climax. The multiplicity of the examples makes this point: that anger is worthy of eternal damnation. Any internal spirit of anger “everyone who is angry with his brother” deserves hell as well as angry speech (“whoever says to his brother”)
And you have been angry with your “brother” before. Jesus is speaking to Jews who call each other “brother.” At least some of these brothers aren’t saved. Therefore, “brother” for us refers to any member of humanity, not just those in the church.
The bitterness, seething anger, animosity, hostility, wrath, the yelling, the explosions of anger, resentment, and even irritation and annoyance and frustration…or you’ve been hurt by somebody and so you keep turning that hurt over and over again in your mind and so you grow bitter…or you yell at the broken truck. It’s all anger.
Just like murder, anger like that is a cause for you to be “guilty before the court.”
And if you call somebody a “good for nothing” or literally here an “empty head”, somebody lacking in intelligence, you know… you call him “dumb” or something, you shall be guilty before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court refers to a group of men called the “Sanhedrin.” The Sanhedrin, a group of 70 or so men, during a kind of trial would sit in semicircular rows so that the men could view one another. Two clerks would sit on either in and take notes and record votes. There would be three rows of students who were disciples of the leading scribes.
You the accused stand in the middle facing the elders. You’ve been required to dress in a black robe and wear your hair disheveled. After questioning, you would be dismissed and the vote would proceed by standing from the youngest to the oldest. For you to be acquitted would take a majority, but condemnation with take majority +2.
If it was a capital offence, like murder, once the verdict was given, which may be delayed by a day depending on if that day was a religious holiday, the execution immediately followed.
And you’re angry? Jesus says you are guilty before the supreme court!
And just piling on the scenarios, the third one here gets to Jesus point … He says whoever says “you fool” also has a certain kind of guilt.
“You fool” is the word moros, or we would say “moron.” And to call someone that not only deserves execution, but Jesus says you deserve what? The fiery hell!
The phrase “fiery hell” at the end of verse 22 is literally the Gehenna of fire.
The word Gehenna originally referred to a valley, the valley of Hinnom, that runs [left hand up and down motion] north and south on the [left hand] west side of Jerusalem and then also ran East and West on the south side. Wicked king Ahaz introduced the wicked religion of Molech in the 6th century B.C. and children were wilfully given up for burning in fire in that valley. But righteous king Josiah put a stop to the practice and the valley then became a dumping ground for garbage to be burned as well as the dead bodies of criminals. The garbage in that valley in Jesus’ day was burning continuously.
And Jesus uses that valley of constantly burning garbage and criminals to illustrate everlasting punishment.
Matthew 5:29 “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna.
[if hell is real, you would expect Jesus to put it in such strong terms like that]
Matthew 10:28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.
Matthew 18:9 “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fire of Gehenna.
Clearly, from those references, Gehenna is a place into which a human body can go. “whole body to be thrown into Gehenna” …and…”destroy both soul and body in Gehenna”.
This then isn’t what we call “hell” which is only for the spirits, the immaterial part of man who has died without Christ. But this is the lake of fire, into which hell itself is thrown in Rev. 20:14.
Let me give the timeline of those without Christ: They whose anger has not been forgiven through the blood of Christ will one day die. If you are outside of Christ and waffle on trusting him or not, one day you will die and your body will decompose but the real you, your spirit, will go to hell, or Hades, Lk. 16:24-25, like the rich man Jesus describes.
Hell is a temporary holding place for those outside of Christ. Before God destroys this universe and makes a new one, if you are outside of Christ, you will depart from hell in order to be reunited with your body and to appear before the Great White Throne Judgment. After your judgment, you will be cast body and spirit into Gehenna, which is also the lake of fire.
So Jesus is saying here that the penalty for anger, whether it is anger in your heart or it is shown on the outside in your speech… Jesus is saying that the penalty for those sins is greater than what you would believe it is in your own religious beliefs!
You’ve heard it said that murder causes you to be guilty before the court; but I say to you that anger causes you to be guilty enough to go into the fires of Gehenna.
That is not what you believed… If you are sitting there that day listening to Jesus preach.
And you here today may cringe at the thought of the death penalty for murder… How much more do you cringe or even think unrighteous of God to throw someone into eternal fiery punishment for the sins of anger!
It seems so cruel, so barbaric of God to do that… Until you realize that all sin is against an eternal God. It’s not the sin itself that is the issue it is who you sin against that is the issue. And you’re sinning against an eternal God.
ILL: I often illustrate it this way. If you are a child in your home and sin against your parents, your parents deal with that. If you, however, sin against a police officer or the sin against the government in some way, you get into deeper trouble. But if you sin against the Prime Minister, which William Benham, 52, of Medicine Hat just pleaded guilty to…threatening Justin Trudeau… you get 30 days in jail.
It’s not the sin, it is who you sin against. That’s the issue.
Now, notch that up an infinite degree. God is eternal. All sin is against God, Psalm 51 teaches. Your sin deserves punishment according to who you sin against. If you sin against an eternal being who created you and who has provided redemption for you and you waffle and never come to trust in Christ, you deserve eternal punishment. Sin against an eternal God; you deserve eternal punishment.
APP: So, the next time you are tempted to be angry, and explode, and say all kinds of nasty things, and you are angry, note this: you are just as guilty as that school shooter in Florida who killed 17 students.
You may not be a mass shooter, but you are an angry person at large. You’re not a serial killer, but are serially angry. And that, too, deserves the fires of Gehenna.
TRANS: Jesus applies this in two ways that we would not expect. First, if God punishes anger like this, we cannot worship him with unsettled conflicts.
Jesus applies with an illustration: Reconciliation before worship (vv.23-24)
Quickly, verses 23-24.
Matthew 5:23–24 23 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
Jesus says, “Reconciliation before worship.” Reconciliation before worship.
As a worshipper under the Old Coveant in the first century, you enter Herod’s temple with your animal sacrifice. You pass through the court of the Gentiles, into the Temple, through the women’s courtyard and through the men’s courtyard into the priests courtyard, in which stands the altar.
With the priest ready to slay your animal while your hand is on it…there, right there, you remember that your brother has something against you, he is angry with you! Knowing what you know about anger, could you dare leave him in that condition? Never! So, you leave your animal there and be reconciled to your brother first… and then come to worship.
What’s interesting is that when the angry murderer was found out in Ex. 21:14, he was forcibly pulled away even from the altar itself and be executed for it.
Here, even when someone is angry with you and you’re at the altar, you are to willingly leave the altar and go to him! So not only are you not allowed to worship after you’ve murdered someone, and not only are you not allowed to worship when you are angry with somebody else [please repent first!], you’re not allowed to worship when somebody else has something against you and you remember it there in the act of worship.
ILL: And just speaking your apologies into an answering machine won’t cut it!
If someone has a justifiable accusation against you and you have not sought to repair that, you must go to that person make it right, and say, “I repent, I’m sorry for _______. Please forgive me!”
Only once you make it right, are you allowed to present your offering, that is, only when you get things right with another human being may you worship the Lord like in a setting this morning. … yes, really!
TRANS: And this is urgent!
Jesus applies with an illustration: urgency (vv.25-26)
Matthew 5:25–26 25 “Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 “Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.
If you are in a legal situation and your opponent could destroy you financially, you had best make friends, or resolve the issue quickly with that opponent while you are on the way to court so that you can avoid that crushing judgment.
And if you are thrown into say a debtor’s prison, you will work in that debtor’s prison until you have paid up the last cent. And if God condemns anger so strongly like he does, you had best be on the peacemaking side of these issues, because anger is damnation worthy.
So you reach an agreement quickly with somebody who has a real reason for being upset with you. If you’ve sought to make amends and they simply won’t receive it, that’s their problem. But if you haven’t attempted to resolve the issue, do so quickly. Never wait! And so you need to resolve the issue, solve the problem, and you need to do so quickly. If you don’t, everyone pays a horrible price, not the least of which is your worship isn’t accepted.
If you are here this morning and you do not know the solution to the guilt of your sin, you need to find out. The one preaching these things, the Lord Jesus Christ, has paid the penalty of hell already for all your anger, so that you don’t have to go to hell. And he raised himself from the dead.
If you simply put your trust in He who rescues you, and turn your back on your sin from which He wants to rescue you, He will break the power and penalty of sin in your life and you will be saved for all eternity and will be found to be in Him.
TRANS: If you are in Christ this morning, these truths don’t let you off the hook in doing right. You must give people the opportunity to have freedom from their anger.
APP: Does someone you know have a good reason for being upset with you? What will you do about it? Will you go to them?
A worshipper’s first priority is resolving conflict between yourself and another. Last week, we discussed how husbands need to lead in doing that.
Beloved, your gifts, offerings, or sacrifices, your good works… don’t compensate for your refusal to make peace between you and another. You can’t send enough flowers to your wife to make up for your blowups. Confess and repent!
Ephesians 4:31–32 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
If you truly know the forgiveness of God in Christ, you won’t harbour that malice toward another and you’ll seek to forgive others.
Does this message describe you in any way? You can’t let this go…you say, “Well, I’m not that angry”…yes you are, or you wouldn’t have even said that. And you avoid the one you’re upset with instead of going to them. You do or don’t come to church b/c of this issue, you avoid that other person because let’s face it, you haven’t settled the matter with them!
Does that describe you and anyone else? You need to get that right before gathering again with God’s people.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.21-26
Christ shows no tolerance for this! Reconcile quickly, before worshipping God, don’t wait. Bow for prayer.
Trust Christ, baptized?
318 though you sins