“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger…. By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.” — Proverbs 15:1; 25:15
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:21-26; 18:15-20
Once Jesus establishes that He came to fulfill the law, He goes on to give six examples of how the law has been fulfilled, and compares the fulfillment directly to the law of Moses, which was the current but ineffective standard of righteousness. The examples begin with anger.
To commit murder was a sin, but anger? Christ revealed to His disciples that murder was no longer an external matter—it was, and remains to be, a matter of the heart. When we’re angry at our brother or sister for no reason, the judgment of God falls upon us as though we were murderers.
The progression of judgment in this passage is of significance. The term raca means “empty-headed.” If we regard our brothers as insignificant or unimportant, then, in essence, we’re participating in slander. We’re bringing a sinful, false accusation against someone, and by doing so, placing ourselves in jeopardy of the Council. The Council was also known as the Sanhedrin, and they were given authority to pass the sentence of death by stoning. The term “thou fool” refers to bitter, damning statements directed at another person (Matthew 5:22). Hell fire is probable because this attitude is only present in those who refused or denied the salvation of Christ.
Christ not only discusses the dangers of uncontrolled anger, He then goes on to give us a clear, concise directive. “Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother…”(Matthew 5:23-24). If we’re harboring anger or resentment toward a brother, or know that someone is harboring anger toward us, then we are commanded to attempt reconciliation before we worship the Lord. Our obligation is to ensure no schism is present in the Body of Christ, either in our heart or in the hearts of others.
- Scripture identifies anger as an issue of the heart, and something to be forsaken (Matthew 12:35; 2 Peter 2:14; Ephesians 4:31-32). What practical ways does the Word instruct us to overcome anger? Proverbs 15:1; 3:5-6; Joshua 1:8-9 Ephesians 4:22-24; Philippians 2:3-5; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:17;
Galatians 5:16, 25.
- Is there a time to be angry at our brother? Is anger an excuse for sin? Ephesians 4:26.
- Is Matthew 5:21-22 teaching that those who have no value for their brother or regard him a fool are just as worthy of death as those who murder? What impact should this have on our life?
- The three sinful attitudes in Matthew 5:22 become increasingly more serious, as do the judgements. The first is unwarranted anger, the second is regarding our brother as worthless; and the third is despising our brother as a rebel, possibly accusing him of apostasy. Is it any wonder that Jesus threatened judgement and hell fire for those who hold these attitudes? Matthew 5:22; 7:1-5; Romans 2:1-6.
- We are commanded to reconcile with our brother before we participate in any form of public worship (Matthew 5:23-24). In light of this, how important is reconciliation to God? 1 Corinthians 3:1-7; 12:25-27; Ephesians 4:1-4. What are the consequences of refusing to reconcile with others in the body? 1 Corinthians 3:1-7; 11:26-32; James 5:16; Galatians 2:11-14.
- Examine the principles of Matthew 18:15-20. How can we apply these principles on a regular basis? Discuss whether or not you would disfellowship a brother who refuses to repent, as referenced in Matthew 18:17.
- How can we practically implement the warning of Matthew 5:25-26?
Anger is a problem everyone seems to struggle with in some way or another. Write down 5-10 ways you can practically bless others when you are tempted to get angry, especially with your family members.
The command to reconcile with fellow Christians is too important to take lightly. Commit a strained relationship to the Lord through prayer, fasting, and study, and do what you can to reconcile with those you’re at odds with. If necessary, follow the steps of Matthew 18:15-20.