In today's study from Matthew 5:21-22, our Lord addressed the sixth commandment and the issue of anger.
The Sixth Commandment
vv.21-22 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: (22) But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. After Jesus said that he had not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it, he began to interpret a couple of the commandments. He is still dealing with the issues of outward righteousness verses inward. In other words, there is a difference between the letter of the Law and the spirit of the Law. He starts with the sixth commandment (killing) and the issue of anger and then proceeds to the seventh commandment (adultery) and the issue of lust.
Hebrew and Latin
It’s interesting here that Jesus starts out with “Ye have heard” and concludes “But I say unto you.” The time in which Jesus lived was very similar to the time of the Dark ages in one respect: language. The priests in Jesus’ day were the only ones who read Hebrew while the common people spoke mostly Aramaic. The Roman Catholic priests during the Dark Ages were the only ones who read Latin while the common people spoke only Greek. Thus the people had to take the religious leaders would for it when it came to reading and interpreting the Bible for them. In the end, they were easily misled. The sad thing today is that people can read the language the priests/teachers are speaking in and they still don’t read it for themselves and are still deceived.
Just for clarification, there is a difference between murder and self-defense and accidental death. The Law recognizes that (cf. Num 35:16-25). On this basis, the Lord gave the interpretation of the commandment not to kill. Again, he is taking the Law from the physical to the spiritual. He said, basically, you’re guilty of murder if you are simply angry with your brother without a cause. John said in 1 John 3:15 “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
Without a Cause
The words “without a cause” in v.22 are important. He also then adds some things that show us that he was talking to a Jewish audience and not to Christians in the Church age. Unfortunately, many modern versions remove the words “without a cause.” Obviously, the fact that the words “without a cause” are there indicate that there is a cause to be angry.
As a matter of fact, Jesus looked on the hypocritical Pharisees with anger. Mark 3:5 “And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.” Jesus got angry, but he had a cause. As a matter of fact, God is angry with the wicked. Ps 7:11 “God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day.” Even Paul agrees that there is a way to be angry and yet not sin. Eph. 4:26-27 “Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” The bottom line is that there can be anger, but it must be justifiable or for a cause. To remove the phrase “without a cause” makes God and Jesus sinners.
Anger without a Cause
You see, anger is that feeling which we have when we are injured. It is sometimes totally appropriate to respond in anger. Quite frankly, there needs to be more of it in the church today. However, the anger that Jesus is condemning here is the anger without a cause. That is anger that is unjustly, rashly, hastily, where no offence has been given or intended. In that case it is evil; and it is a violation of the sixth commandment.
Notice, “whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca…” The word “raca” is a Syriac word that expresses great contempt. It comes from a verb signifying to be empty, vain; and hence, as a word of contempt, denotes senseless, stupid, shallow-brains. One commentator said that the idea translated when calling someone “raca” is "nitwit, blockhead, numbskull, bonehead, brainless idiot." That narrows it down!
Jesus is teaching here that such words are a violation of the spirit of the sixth commandment, and if indulged, may lead to a more open hostility and actual physical infraction of the Law. We need to be careful with our words!
Mat 12:36-37 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
Notice, “whosoever shall say, Thou fool.” One commentator said, “To call someone "Raca" expressed contempt for their intelligence. Calling someone a fool showed contempt for their character. Either one broke the spirit of the law against murder. Now some would say that Jesus and Paul called people fools. Luk 24:25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Gal 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? No. They merely said that they were foolish or unwise.